By Gabriel Araujo and Maria Carolina Marcello
SAO PAULO/BRASILIA (Reuters) – Brazilian prosecutors late on Thursday asked local police to open an investigation against Nelson Piquet after a video on social media showed the former Formula One world champion saying President-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva belongs “in the cemetery”.
Prosecutor Paulo Roberto Galvao de Carvalho wrote in a document seen by Reuters that Piquet, a vocal supporter of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, allegedly incited violence against the newly elected president as well as animosity between the armed forces and the country’s constitutional powers.
Demonstrations erupted on Sunday in support of Bolsonaro after he was narrowly defeated by Lula, who previously governed from 2003 to 2010. Protests included roadblocks staged by truckers and supporters gathering outside army barracks to call for an armed forces intervention.
Carvalho asked Brazil’s federal police to open an official probe on 70-year-old Piquet to “clarify the facts”.
He added that Piquet’s remarks, accompanied by one of Bolsonaro’s best-known slogans, were recorded in a public place during a protest, rather than a private gathering. He said that Piquet, as a public figure, should have been aware that his remarks had the power to reach hundreds of thousands of people.
Representatives for Piquet did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
One of Lula’s closest allies, Senator Humberto Costa, stated earlier this week he was filing a complaint against Piquet with the public prosecutor’s office following his comments.
“We cannot normalize hate and barbarism,” Costa said.
Piquet had already made the news earlier this year after a video emerged of him using a racial slur in Portuguese when referring to seven-times world champion Lewis Hamilton. He later apologised for the “ill thought out” comment but said it had been mistranslated into English.
Piquet, who won his titles in 1981, 1983 and 1987, was one of the largest individual donors to Bolsonaro’s re-election campaign, contributing with a total 501,000 reais ($99,410), according to data provided by Brazil’s electoral court.
He also drove the presidential Rolls-Royce during a ceremony last year.
His latest remarks come just days ahead of the Brazilian Grand Prix, which is set to begin in Sao Paulo on Nov. 13.
($1 = 5.0397 reais)
(Reporting by Gabriel Araujo and Maria Carolina Marcello; Editing by Christian Radnedge)