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Corruption heats the first debate of the campaign in Brazil

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Sao Paulo, Aug 28 – Accusations of corruption and social assistance to the poor heated up the first debate between the candidates for the presidential elections on October 2 in Brazil.

The televised debate brought together the six main candidates, including President Jair Bolsonaro and former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who lead the voting intention polls and staged the most tense clashes of the night.

Due to the large number of candidates, there were only two direct exchanges between Lula and Bolsonaro, the first about corruption and the second about subsidy programs for the poorest, in addition to a scuffle in the final speeches.

THE CENTRAL ISSUE OF CORRUPTION

From the start of the debate, Bolsonaro brought up the cases of corruption uncovered in the Lula government, which he considered “the most corrupt in the history of Brazil” and, on two occasions, called the opposition leader “ex-victim.”

The president thus recalled the almost two years that Lula spent in prison for two corruption convictions, which were annulled in 2021 due to irregularities in the processes.

Lula said that he is “much cleaner” than Bolsonaro because he was “tried and declared innocent by the Supreme Court and by the UN” and assured that he “was only imprisoned” for political reasons, so that Bolsonaro could win the elections.

Other candidates also recalled the corruption of Lula’s Workers’ Party (PT) and also pointed to alleged irregularities at present, specifically, an attempt to divert public money, in the purchase of vaccines against covid-19.

Candidate Ciro Gomes, who was a minister in Lula’s first government, affirmed that he distanced himself from the PT “because Lula allowed himself to be corrupted.”

THE FIGHT AGAINST HUNGER

The fight against hunger, which affects 33 million people in Brazil, caused another harsh exchange between Lula and Bolsonaro, on account of income distribution programs.

Bolsonaro promised to maintain the subsidies that his government began to deliver to the poor this August, in the middle of the electoral campaign, and Lula accused him of “lying” because the aid does not appear in the general budgets for the year 2023.

Gomes, who is third in the voting intention polls far behind Lula and Bolsonaro, accused the current head of state of being “insensitive” for having denied, last Friday, that there is real hunger in Brazil.

A SEXIST ATTACK

A moment that turned the debate around was a personal attack that Bolsonaro made to a journalist, for a question that she asked another candidate about vaccines against covid-19.

Bolsonaro, known for his macho outbursts, told journalist Vera Magalhaes that she is a “shame for journalism” and suggested that she feels “a passion” for him.

The offenses against the journalist caused the reaction of several rival candidates, who from that moment joined in their reproaches to the leader of the extreme right to ask women for respect.

THE LATIN AMERICAN LEFT

In his final speech, Bolsonaro brought out Lula’s political affinities with other Latin American leftist leaders, affirming that he would apply their same policies in Brazil.

“The ex-convict supported Chávez, he supported Maduro. And he looks at how Venezuela is doing,” said Bolsonaro, who also criticized the economic situation in Argentina’s Alberto Fernández.

He also pointed out that Lula supported Gabriel Boric in Chile, who “set fire to the subway,” Gustavo Petro in Colombia, “who wants to free drugs,” and Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua, “who arrests priests and persecutes nuns.”

Bolsonaro said goodbye with his campaign slogan “God, country, family and freedom”, while Lula alluded to his government experience: “I know what I did, I know what I am going to do and that is why I do not fall for the easy promise” .

All the polls paint a very polarized scenario between Lula, who heads a coalition of ten progressive-leaning parties, and Bolsonaro, leader of the extreme right.

The polls place Lula as the favorite to win the elections, with close to 45% of the intention to vote, compared to 30% for Bolsonaro.

 

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