Brazil rivals resort to backbiting in presidential debate – The Irish Times


Brazil’s presidential rivals resort to backbiting ahead of second-round vote

President Jair Bolsonaro went on the offensive in the first one-on-one debate with election candidate Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva on Sunday, accusing the former left-wing leader of corruption and emphasizing his friendly relations with the strong governments of Latin America.

The Brazilians will go to the polls on October 30 to decide between Mr. Lula and Mr. Bolsonaro, after an inconclusive first round this month.

The incumbent jumped on Mr. Lula’s mismanagement of the time allocated by Mr. Lula in the last part of the debate to launch a nearly six-minute monologue that highlighted the links between Mr. Lula’s Workers’ Party and authoritarian regimes in Nicaragua and Venezuela.

“Lula is in love with [Nicaragua president Daniel] Ortega, with [Venezuela president Nicolás] Maduro, along with the late Fidel Castro – among other dictators,” the far-right leader said.

Mr. Lula’s failure to condemn the abuses of leftist regimes has become one of the former president’s weak points and has undermined his campaign’s attempt to position him as a centrist.

Pushed by Mr. Bolsonaro to condemn Mr. Ortega, Mr. Lula opposed, saying it was up to the Nicaraguan people to punish their president if he did not agree with their government.

In 2019, Gleisi Hoffmann, president of the Workers’ Party and a close ally of Lula, attended the inauguration of Mr Maduro for a second term. The ceremony in Caracas followed an election boycotted by the opposition and marred by allegations of fraud.

Polls suggest Mr Lula has a 5 percentage point lead over Mr Bolsonaro, although many are skeptical of the research on voting intentions after polls before the first round underestimated support for the populist outgoing.

Mr Bolsonaro’s allies have also won important gubernatorial races this month, meaning they will be able to muster support for him in important constituencies ahead of the second round.

As Mr. Bolsonaro dominated the latter part of the debate on Sunday, Mr. Lula dealt blows in his opening moments, bringing his fire to bear on the president’s ruthless attitude to the Covid-19 pandemic, in which nearly 700,000 Brazilians are dead.

“You didn’t want to understand the suffering of the public,” Mr. Lula said, accusing Mr. Bolsonaro of mocking the victims and refusing to go to hospitals.

As with much of the wider campaign, the debate has been fraught with slander and short on policy or project proposals. Both men dwelt on past accomplishments without offering any ideas for the future. They also repeatedly accused each other of lying.

In his closing remarks, Mr. Lula positioned himself as the candidate to protect Brazilian democracy, calling Mr. Bolsonaro a “little dictator”. Mr Bolsonaro appealed to his conservative base, stressing his opposition to abortion, unisex toilets and drugs.

“We are Christians. We say yes to private property. We respect the men who work in the field. We believe in the right to self-defense. This is the country we want, not a country of theft,” he said, referring to the corruption scandals that occurred under previous Workers’ Party governments. —Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2022

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