Brazil’s main presidential candidates clashed on Sunday with accusations of corruption and threats to democracy in their first electoral debate for presidential elections scheduled for October.
Far-right President Jair Bolsonaro has accused left-wing opponent Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of massive corruption, who in turn blamed the “destruction of Brazil” on the incumbent president.
“Your government was the most corrupt in the history of Brazil,” Bolsonaro said, lashing out at Lula over a huge scandal centered on oil giant Petrobras.
The investigation landed the 76-year-old ex-president in jail from 2018 to 2019 on controversial corruption charges, which were overturned by the country’s Supreme Court in 2021.
“It was a kleptocracy, a government based on theft… Why do you want to come back to power? To do the same thing to Petrobras?” Bolsonaro said in his fiery attack.
How did Lula react?
Lula, who held the presidential post from 2003 to 2010, responded with a swift attack and accused Bolsonaro of spreading “untruths”.
He said his government should be remembered for its legacy of economic growth and the steps it has taken to reduce poverty.
“The country I left is a country that people miss, it’s the country of jobs, where people had the right to live with dignity, with their heads held high,” Lula said. “This is the country the current president is destroying.”
Sunday’s debate in Sao Paulo brought together six of the Latin American nation’s 12 presidential candidates.
However, the spotlight is on popular but tarnished Lula and Bolsnaro, who have been dubbed the “Tropical Trump”.
Who is leading in the opinion polls?
Projections show a double-digit advantage for Lula over Bolsonaro, who is aiming for a win from behind.
The latest opinion polls by the Datafolha institute show 47% of votes for Lula and 32% for Bolsanaro.
If no candidate manages to collect more than 50% of the valid votes in the first round on October 2, the election will take place in the second round on October 30.
Bolsonaro has also repeatedly attacked Brazil’s electronic voting system, raising fears he could challenge the result if he suffers a loss.
dvv/sri (AFP, Reuters)