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Brazilian leader evaluated for possible emergency surgery

Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro has been hiccupping ’24 hours a day’ for nearly a week. Picture by Raimundo Pacco, AP
Diane Jeantet, Associated Press

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro was admitted to a hospital Wednesday with an intestinal obstruction after 10 straight days of hiccups, but doctors said they would not operate immediately.

Mr Bolsonaro, 66, was admitted to the Armed Forces Hospital in the capital of Brasilia in the morning and was “feeling well”, according to an initial statement that said physicians were examining his persistent hiccups.

But hours later, the president’s office said the surgeon who operated on Mr Bolsonaro after he was stabbed in the abdomen during the 2018 presidential campaign decided to transfer him to Sao Paulo, where he underwent additional tests.

By Wednesday night, the Hospital Nova Star released a statement saying the president would receive “a conservative clinical treatment”, meaning he will not go through surgery for now.

Mr Bolsonaro, who is Catholic and evangelical, posted on his official Twitter account a photo of himself lying on a hospital bed, eyes closed, with several monitoring sensors stuck to his bare torso. At the edge of the photo, a hand reaches out from an unseen person wearing what appears to be a black religious robe and a long chain with a gold cross.

The president’s 2018 stabbing caused intestinal damage and serious internal bleeding and the president has gone through several surgeries since, some unrelated to the attack.

In recent weeks, Mr Bolsonaro has appeared to struggle with speaking on various occasions and said that he suffers from recurring hiccups.

“I apologise to everyone who is listening to me, because I’ve been hiccuping for five days now,” Mr Bolsonaro said in an interview with Radio Guaiba on July 7.

He suggested that some medications prescribed after dental surgery might be the cause. “I have the hiccups 24 hours a day.”

The following day, during his weekly Facebook Live session, Mr Bolsonaro apologised again for not being able to express himself well due to week-long hiccups.

Mr Bolsonaro has been under growing pressure from a congressional inquiry into his administration’s handling of the pandemic and alleged corruption in the acquisition of vaccines against Covid-19, and recent polls have indicated that he could lose in the next 2022 election.

On Tuesday night, in a 20-minute encounter with the president in Brasilia, supporters repeatedly asked him to look after his health.

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