The social media accounts of recently reelected pro-Bolsonaro Brazilian lawmaker Carla Zambelli were suspended this week following an incident in which she pointed a gun, allegedly in self-defense, at a man she claimed was attacking her.
Brazil’s Supreme Federal Tribunal (STF) and Superior Electoral Tribunal (TSE) leader Alexandre de Moraes, one of the country’s most powerful people, gave the order to banish her from social media. De Moraes has notoriously led the persecution of pro-Bolsonaro lawmakers, online commentators, and even comedians and civilians for alleged “fake news” propagation.
The incident occurred on October 29 on the eve of Brazil’s presidential runoff election in a street of the upscale Jardim Paulista district located in the western area of the city of São Paulo.
Zambelli has claimed that a group of supporters of the far-left Workers’ Party (PT) approached her as she was leaving a restaurant. The PT is the political party of the recently elected convicted felon and former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.
“Several men approached and a woman in a red shirt stood on the other side providing cover. They threw me on the floor, they even hurt me here [in the leg], they threw me on the floor, they called me a daughter of a whore, a prostitute, they told me to get fucked in the ass and he spat on me several times,” Zambelli said on a video posted on her Instagram account at the time of the incident. “When he pushed me, I fell.”
Zambelli stated that she was pushed by the men and fell to the ground, to which she responded by saying that she would call the police. After the men ran away, she began to chase them with her firearm in hand into a local business. The lawmaker also mentioned that she took the license plate of the man she was chasing and passed down all information to the police on her report of the incident.
URGENTE! Carla Zambelli saca arma e aponta no meio da rua para pessoa na rua. Incidente ocorreu agora na travessa da Joaquim Eugênio Lima com a Lorena. Divulguem pic.twitter.com/NC1FQUnaE8
— Antonio Neto (@antonionetopdt) October 29, 2022
A different video circulating online shows Zambelli chasing her alleged assailant alongside another unidentified armed man, and a gunshot is heard.
Zambelli published a video on her Instagram account that appeared to show her assailant yelling at her that Lula would win the election.
After the incident, Alexandre de Moraes, the head of both Brazil’s top judiciary and electoral courts, stated on Sunday that Zambelli’s actions could not be framed as an electoral crime.
“What happened yesterday is not the responsibility of the Superior Electoral Tribunal. the case goes to the Supreme Federal Court, since, as a parliamentarian, she has the prerogative of forum,” de Moraes explained. In either case, the issue would land on the same judge’s desk.
The Brazilian newspaper O Globo reported on Monday that by order of de Moraes, Zambelli’s access to her YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Telegram, TikTok, and LinkedIn accounts had been suspended and could not be viewed within Brazil. While the ruling is deemed confidential, O Globo reports that the suspension of Zambelli’s accounts was based on a resolution passed by Brazil’s top court that allows for the quick removal of “fake news” from social media.
By carrying a firearm on Saturday, Zambelli was in violation of a Superior Electoral Tribunal resolution that prohibits Brazilian citizens from carrying firearms and ammunition 24 hours before and after an election. Zambelli stated on Saturday that she had “consciously” ignored the resolution. “I was consciously ignoring the resolution and I will continue to ignore the legislation of Mr. Alexandre de Moraes, because he is not a legislator. He is simply the president of the TSE and a member of the STF. He cannot at any time make a law, this is judicial activism,” she stated.
As of the time of publication, the lawmaker has not been charged for having violated the TSE’s firearm prohibition resolution.
Alexandre de Moraes has been cataloged as Brazil’s top anti-“fake news” crusader. During Brazil’s latest presidential campaign, de Moraes prompted the country’s electoral court to censor and ban Jair Bolsonaro’s campaign from calling president-elect Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva “corrupt” or a “thief” despite Lula having been sentenced to 25 years for corruption crimes before the STF — under de Moraes — voted in favor of overturning the sentence last year, which allowed him to run again for president. The STF did not contest the facts of the case or in any way exonerate Lula, concluding instead that a technicality – a jurisdictional issue – was enough to strip him of the label of convicted criminal.
The reported restrictions on Zambelli’s social media accounts appear to be geo-located and her accounts can still be accessed from outside Brazil at press time.
Zambelli circumvented the restriction imposed on her accounts by making new ones, prompting her sympathizers to follow her on the new accounts.
Eduardo and Flávio Bolsonaro, sons of president Jair Bolsonaro and a congressman and senator respectively, had announced their support of Zambelli following Saturday’s incident.
“No woman deserves to be attacked, let alone for her opinions. All support for Zambelli,” Eduardo Bolsonaro wrote on his Twitter account.
“Carla was physically attacked, pushed to the ground, spat on and cursed by a group of PT members. That’s how PT treats women. Maybe if she’d had a book and not a gun, she would have been murdered. That’s what weapons are for, good citizens to defend themselves against bandits,” Flavio Bolsonaro tweeted.
Zambelli was reelected in the October 2 general elections to serve as lawmaker for the district of São Paulo with 946,244 votes.
On Wednesday, the Socialism and Liberty Party (PSL) filed a complaint in the Ethics Chamber of Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies asking for the impeachment of Zambelli for her actions. The PSL cited the Vienna Declaration and the World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Intolerance as the basis for their request.
Brazilian lawmaker André Janones of the centrist Avante party claimed via Twitter on Thursday that Zambelli had fled from Brazil, with hearsay rumors on social media claiming that she had fled to the United States.
Janones is currently suing Zambelli after Zambelli called Janones a “harasser of minors” and “friend of a pedophile” through her social media accounts — an offshoot incident of president-elect Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s pedophilia accusations against Jair Bolsonaro regarding a visit made by Bolsonaro to Brasilia in which he encountered a group of Venezuelan teens. Lula described Bolsonaro as exhibiting “pedophile behavior” without evidence, a claim de Moraes did not censor.
Prior to her suspension, Zambelli had deleted the messages against Janones.
Zambelli responded on Thursday afternoon by denying that she had fled from Brazil and that she had traveled to the United States for personal reasons, apparently confirming she was not in the country.
“I didn’t publicize the trip to the United States simply because I don’t have a place to publish it, that’s why!” Zambelli claimed. “The decision that censored all my communication channels, including WhatsApp, aims to control the flow of information and contain one of the biggest conservative voices on the internet with more than 9,520,000 followers on seven social networks.”
“I am fulfilling personal agendas and I will take the opportunity to study ways to ensure and restore freedom of expression in Brazil with U.S. authorities,” she continued.
Christian K. Caruzo is a Venezuelan writer and documents life under socialism. You can follow him on Twitter here.