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Brazil Billionaire Alleges Censorship Over ‘Coup Plot’

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Brazilian billionaire Luciano Hang said he was being censored as authorities blocked his social media accounts after he and other prominent businessmen were accused of plotting a coup if President Jair Bolsonaro is not reelected.

Hang, the majority owner of department store chain Havan, was targeted by police raids Tuesday after a media report said he and other pro-Bolsonaro businessmen had discussed a potential coup if the far-right president does not win reelection in October.

Hang, who has millions of social media followers, has had his Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and TikTok accounts blocked, he said late Thursday.

“They can take away my social networks, but they’ll never shut me up!” said Hang, who has an estimated fortune of $4.8 billion, according to Forbes, built on an empire of department stores known for displaying giant replicas of the Statue of Liberty.

“Say no to censorship! You could be next,” he posted on his Twitter account — which was blocked in Brazil, with the message “@LucianoHangBr’s account has been withheld in Brazil in response to a legal demand.”

News site Metropoles reported last week that a WhatsApp messenger group including Hang and other business leaders had “openly defended a coup” if Bolsonaro loses to leftist ex-president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of the Workers’ Party (PT), who leads in the polls.

The report cited leaked messages in which group members said they “prefer a coup to the return of the PT” and that “the victims’ blood will become the blood of heroes.”

Supreme Court justice Alexandre de Moraes, the new head of Brazil’s top electoral tribunal and a frequent target of Bolsonaro’s attacks, directed federal police to carry out search warrants reportedly targeting at least five of the businessmen.

Moraes also reportedly ordered their social networks and bank accounts blocked.

Hang, 59, confirmed he had been targeted.

Other targets reportedly included Meyer Joseph Nigri, chairman and former CEO of property developer Tecnisa; Jose Isaac Peres, founder of shopping mall company Multiplan; and Afranio Barreira Filho, owner of restaurant chain Coco Bambu.

Several of those accused, including Hang, denied attacking democracy.

“I never plotted any kind of coup. I defend freedom and democracy,” Hang said in a statement released by his company.

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Agence France-Presse (AFP) is a French international news agency headquartered in Paris, France. Founded in 1835 as Havas, it is the world's oldest news agency.

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