Brazilian prosecutors demand investigation into ex-F1 champ’s president-elect jibes
Nelson Piquet said that Lula da Silva belongs “in the cemetery”
Brazilian prosecutors have requested that local police open an investigation against three-time Formula One world champion Nelson Piquet after he was seen in a social media video saying that the country’s President-elect Luiz Inacio ‘Lula’ da Silva belongs “in the cemetery.”
Piquet has been a prominent supporter of Lula’s adversary, Jair Bolsonaro, who at the turn of 2023 will hand over power to the Workers’ Party head after losing a run-off vote in the general election on Sunday.
Driving the presidential Rolls-Royce in 2021, Piquet was one of the largest individual donors to Bolsonaro’s failed campaign for re-election, having contributed 501,000 reals ($99,410) in total, according to data from Brazil's electoral court.
In a document seen by Reuters, prosecutor Paulo Roberto Galvao de Carvalho accused Piquet of allegedly inciting violence against Lula and animosity between the armed forces and constitutional powers in South America’s largest country.
Carvalho asked Brazilian federal police to open an official investigation into Piquet, 70, in order to “clarify the facts.”
The prosecutor added that Piquet was recorded in a public place during a protest against Lula and not a private gathering, amid roadblocks staged by truckers and Bolsonaro supporters requesting military intervention since Sunday’s result was announced.
As a well-known public figure, Piquet should be aware that his comments have the power to reach and be followed by hundreds of thousands of Brazilians, Carvalho insisted.
Senator Humberto Costa, who is a close ally of Lula’s, has also stated that he was filing a complaint against Piquet following his comments.
“We cannot normalize hate and barbarism,” said Costa, who has taken his concerns to the public prosecutor's office.
The controversy is the second time that Piquet has made headlines this year after being perceived as using a racial slur against seven-time British F1 world champion Lewis Hamilton.
Piquet used to term “neguinho” to refer to mixed-race Hamilton, which can literally be translated as “little black” from Portuguese but is often used as a term of endearment among family and friends.
After a racism row erupted, however, Piquet apologized for making an “ill thought out” comment but protested that the word had been mistranslated.
His comments on this occasion come on the eve of the Brazilian Grand Prix in Sao Paulo, which is set to start on November 13.