Bolsonaro faces stiff questioning over Brazilian army’s Viagra purchase

Opponents of the Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, are demanding answers after the revelation that the country’s armed forces had splashed out on tens of thousands of impotence pills.

“We must understand why the Bolsonaro administration is spending public money on buying such large quantities of Viagra,” the lawmaker Elias Vaz declared after Brazilian media reported the seemingly unorthodox acquisitions on Monday.

The navy and air force – which between them had reportedly bought more than 30,000 pills – offered an innocent explanation: the drug was supposedly being used to treat pulmonary hypertension.

However, many were unconvinced. A report in the O Globo newspaper suggested the dosages that had been bought were generally used to treat penises, not blood pressure.

“How do you feel knowing that we’re even paying for Viagra for the armed forces?” the Brazilian singer Zélia Duncan asked her hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers. “I feel impotent,” one replied.

Rio congressman Marcelo Freixo said he would ask the public prosecutor to investigate the erectile “outrage”. “The Bolsonaro administration dallied over buying Covid vaccines but approved the overpriced purchase of 35,000 Viagra pills for the armed forces,” Freixo complained on Twitter.

The president of the Worker’s party (PT), Gleisi Hoffman, slammed the “criminal spending spree” and accused Bolsonaro of destroying the military’s credibility.

Ciro Gomes, a centre-left politician who hopes to challenge Bolsonaro in October’s presidential election, said that while the armed forces deserved respect, their acquisition departments seemed bent on demoralizing the military.

“Unless they’re able to prove they’re developing some kind of secret weapon – capable of revolutionizing the international arms industry – it’ll be tough to justify the purchase of 35,000 units of a erectile dysfunction drug,” Gomes opined.

He added: “It’s no coincidence that these absurdities are taking place during the government of a president … who acts systematically to dishonor the troop.”

Bolsonaro, 67, is a former army captain and paratrooper who has packed his cabinet with military men and repeatedly hinted that he would be prepared to lead a military “intervention” against Brazil’s democratic institutions. Last year Bolsonaro ordered what critics called a “banana republic-style” military parade outside his presidential palace in an apparent attempt to project strength and intimidate foes.

Political observers called the military’s “Viagra binge” an embarrassment to a populist president who frequently boasts about his supposed virility, referring to himself as “imbrochável”. The word roughly translates into English as “unfloppable” or “flaccid-proof”.

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