RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro sent out a trumpet-playing, banana-throwing impersonator to work a crowd in Brasilia on Wednesday, before joining him for a standup routine in one of the most surreal moments of his unorthodox presidency.
Bolsonaro, a far-right former army captain who has vowed to kick-start Brazil’s economy and end years of crime and graft, dodged questions on weak economic data during the bizarre scene, which was broadcast live on his Facebook page.
The impersonator, who donned a sash with the yellow and green of Brazil and mimicked Bolsonaro’s trademark drawl, was named by local media as comedian Marvio Lucio dos Santos Lourenco. Reuters was unable to confirm his identity.
As the impersonator greeted well-wishers and journalists gathered outside the president’s residence, he struck up a tune on a trumpet and threw bananas into the crowd, an apparent reference to a rude local gesture Bolsonaro has recently used.
When Bolsonaro appeared, journalists attempted to ask about data released on Wednesday showing that Brazil’s economy grew at its slowest pace in three years in the fourth quarter. The president seemed to direct the question to the impersonator, who was part of his official entourage.
The impersonator responded by repeatedly saying the name and nickname of Economy Minister Paulo Guedes - a Chicago-trained economist who has pledged to steady the economy and lower unemployment for the president.
Bolsonaro then proceeded to pat Lourenco on the back before taking selfies with the crowd along the barrier outside his residence. The two then shook hands and parted ways.
The oddball episode was one of the stranger moments of Bolsonaro’s time in office. With his folksy, avuncular style, and willingness to circumvent traditional media in favor of direct communication with his supporters via social media, some have even labeled him the “Trump of the Tropics.”
Reporting by Gabriel Stargardter in Rio de Janeiro and Jake Spring in Brasilia; Editing by Alexander Smith