Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro was both cheered and jeered as he arrived in a small northern Italian town to receive an honorary citizenship and to visit the home town of one of his ancestors.
Protesters in Anguillara Veneta, a town of around 4,200 near Padua, chanted “No Bolsonaro” and held signs saying “Bolsonaro Out”, “Justice for the Amazon” and “No citizenship for dictators”.
In contrast, jubilant supporters elsewhere wrapped themselves in Brazilian flags and held yellow and green balloons awaiting his arrival.
Anguillara Veneta’s right-wing mayor, Alessandra Buoso, defended the decision to grant Mr Bolsonaro citizenship and condemned vandals who spray-painted “Foro Bolsonaro” (“Bolsonaro Out”) on the town’s city hall last week.
In a Facebook post, Ms Buoso said the city council’s decision to grant Mr Bolsonaro the honour was not a vote on his politics but a recognition of all the Italians who had emigrated to Brazil.
But she said she was assuming the costs of the visit given the debate it had generated.
Antonio Spada, a city councillor, said he had opposed the decision to grant him citizenship even though he said Mr Bolsonaro had every right to visit.
Anguillara Veneta was home to the president’s great-grandfather, Vittorio Bolzonaro.
“But we are opposed, and we do not consider the act of granting him honorary citizenship is appropriate, because an honorary citizenship means using him as a model and an example for the entire community,” he said.
Maris Silva Cabral, a Brazilian living in Italy who came out to support the president, praised Mr Bolsonaro’s dedication to his country.
“He does not put his personal opinion first, he wants to do everything he can for the very best future for Brazil,” she said.
Mr Bolsonaro was in Italy to participate in the G20 summit of the world’s biggest economies, which wrapped up on Sunday in Rome.
He has been criticised for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and his Amazon policies.