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Conservative Brazilians praise Elon Musk during a rally in support of ex-president Bolsonaro

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Conservative Brazilians praised Elon Musk on Sunday at a rally in support of far-right former President Jair Bolsonaro, whose legal troubles are mounting along with the billionaire entrepreneur’s feud with the South American nation’s Supreme Court.

“Brazil, thank you Elon Musk,” read a giant sign in English at the rally along Copacabana Beach in the seaside resort of Rio de Janeiro. Thousands of die-hard Bolsonaro supporters were present.

Musk, a self-declared free speech absolutist, is the target of an ongoing investigation into the spread of fake news by Bolsonaro supporters. Musk said social platform X would not comply with a high court order to remove certain accounts accused of spreading disinformation.

Musk, the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX who took over Twitter – now X – at the end of 2022, accused judge Alexandre de Moraes of suppressing freedom of expression and violating Brazil’s constitution. He noted on X that users could try to bypass the shutdown of social media platforms by using VPNs or virtual private networks.

This prompted De Moraes to involve Musk in an ongoing investigation into so-called digital militias and to open a new investigation into obstruction, sedition and criminal conspiracy.

Several speakers praised Musk at Sunday’s meeting.

“What you see here are people who love freedom, who will not give up and will not kneel before dictators, people who are willing to give their lives for freedom,” said Gustavo Gayer, a pro-Bolsonaro congressman.

For his part, the former president praised Musk for showing “courage” in the face of what he called censorship by De Moraes.

“He is the man who truly preserves true freedom for all of us,” said Bolsonaro, who is himself under investigation for a plethora of crimes, ranging from aiding an effort to overturn the 2022 election results to plotting a coup against his left-wing party. successor Luiz. Inacio Lula da Silva.

Brazil is an important market for social media companies. According to market research group Emarketer, about 40 million Brazilians, or about 18% of the population, access X at least once a month.