Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro was rushed to hospital early Monday with abdominal pain that doctors found was caused by an intestinal blockage, and is facing potential surgery nine months out from elections.
Bolsonaro, 66, was on vacation at the beach in the southern state of Santa Catarina when the pain started, leading to a rushed evacuation to Sao Paulo in the presidential plane.
The far-right leader posted a picture of himself in his hospital bed on Twitter, flashing the thumbs-up sign, with a message saying he was facing “possible surgery for an internal blockage in the abdominal region.”
Bolsonaro has had a series of health problems since being stabbed in the abdomen during the 2018 presidential campaign that brought him to power. He has undergone at least four surgeries since.
“I started feeling unwell after lunch Sunday. I arrived at the hospital at 3am today,” he tweeted after being admitted to Vila Nova Star hospital in Sao Paulo.
“They gave me a nasogastric tube,” a device to carry food and medicine to the stomach through the nose.
“They’ll be doing more exams to decide if I need surgery,” he added.
Bolsonaro’s office said he was “doing well.” Brazilian channel TV Globo carried images of him walking unassisted as he disembarked from his plane with his entourage.
Bolsonaro’s medical team said he was suffering from an “intestinal subocclusion,” a partial blockage of the intestinal tract.
“He is stable, undergoing treatment and will be reevaluated throughout the morning,” his doctors said in a statement.
“At the moment, there is no forecast for his release.”
The surgeon who has operated on Bolsonaro in the past, Dr Antonio Luiz Macedo – who was himself on vacation in the Bahamas – will arrive at 3pm (1800 GMT), the president said.
Macedo told news site UOL the president would undergo a battery of tests.
In July, Bolsonaro spent four days receiving treatment for an intestinal obstruction that gave him persistent hiccups – one of a series of medical problems since the knife attack.
He regularly tears up when speaking about his stabbing at a campaign rally in September 2018, perpetrated by a lone assailant who was found to be psychologically unfit for trial.
Doctors said Bolsonaro lost 40% of his blood in the attack.
But he survived and went on to win the presidency that October, fueling supporters’ die-hard faith in the man they call “Mito” – “The Myth.”
Bolsonaro’s aura of invincibility has faded since then, however.
Shunning expert advice on the coronavirus pandemic, defying social distancing recommendations and refusing to be vaccinated, he has presided over one of the world’s worst Covid-19 outbreaks, with nearly 620,000 lives lost.
His polarizing style continues to rile up his far-right base, but he has lost crucial support among the political centre and the business sector as Latin America’s largest economy has sunk into recession.
Bolsonaro’s approval rating is at an all-time low as he prepares to seek re-election this October.
He currently trails far behind his likely top opponent, leftist ex-president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (2003-2010), whom recent polls indicate could win the election in the first round.
Bolsonaro’s beach vacation, which started on Dec 27, triggered controversy in Brazil.
With the northeastern state of Bahia battered by deadly floods, the president ignored calls to interrupt his holiday, instead posting videos on social media of himself soaking up the sun and jet skiing through crowds of cheering supporters.