The left-wing favorite to become Brazil’s next president has called far-right incumbent Jair Bolsonaro a ‘tiny little dictator’ and ‘the king of fake news and stupidity’ in a televised debate that will help define the political future of one of the countries of the world. larger democracies.
Former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who nearly beat Bolsonaro in the first round of the presidential election in September, chastised his opponent for his handling of Covid and soaring deforestation in the Amazon during the fiery two-hour encounter.
“The fact is, your negligence caused 680,000 people to die – more than half of whom could have been saved,” Lula told Bolsonaro, whose sabotage of coronavirus containment measures and vaccination efforts caused the global outrage.
“Never before in history has there been a government that had fun with a pandemic or with death like you did,” Lula, 76, said of Bolsonaro, who called Covid of “little flu” and claims he has not been vaccinated.
Lula, who polls give a five or six point lead over Bolsonaro ahead of the Oct. 30 second round, also attacked his rival’s attack on the environment. “You showed no respect for the Amazon – none at all,” Lula said, promising to create a ministry for indigenous peoples if elected.
“We are going to win these elections so that we can take care of the Amazon and ban the invasion of indigenous lands and illegal mining.”
Bolsonaro counterattacked in what was the first face-to-face debate between the two politicians during this year’s bitter power struggle.
The far-right radical, who was elected in 2018 after Lula was jailed on corruption charges which were later overturned, has chastised his opponent for corruption scandals that marred his 14 years in power Workers’ Party (PT), 2003-2016. “You are a national embarrassment,” Bolsonaro said during the debate in Brazil’s largest city, São Paulo.
Bolsonaro has accused Lula of getting close to leftist autocrats, including the leaders of Nicaragua and Venezuela, Daniel Ortega and Nicolás Maduro. But Lula dismissed those accusations, saying it was Bolsonaro – a former soldier known for celebrating dictators such as Chilean General Augusto Pinochet – who posed a threat to Brazil’s young democracy.
“My opponent is basically the most shameless liar there is,” Lula said. “I am the defender of democracy and freedom – much more than this tiny little dictator… I want to govern this country democratically as I have done twice before,” said the former labor leader, who has ruled from 2003 to 2010.
Progressive Brazilians had hoped Lula would score an emphatic victory over Bolsonaro in the first round of the election – but the Donald Trump-admiring populist fared better than most polls had predicted, winning 43% of the vote to 48 % for Lula. Polls had predicted that Bolsonaro would receive no more than 37%.
Lula is still the favorite to win, but Bolsonaro’s better-than-expected performance means the election is likely to remain difficult until the results are announced.
In recent days, the two candidates have embarked on a blitz campaign in the three southeastern states that are expected to decide the outcome, Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. Together, they are home to nearly 64 million of Brazil’s 156 million voters.
Last week, Lula visited one of Rio’s biggest favelas, the Complexo do Alemão, in a bid to win over working-class voters.
Bolsonaro risked alienating hundreds of thousands of favela residents during Sunday’s debate by suggesting Lula had been in the community to socialize with criminals. “There were no police around you, just drug dealers,” Bolsonaro said, prompting outrage from favela activists.
“Bolsonaro doesn’t like poor people. Bolsonaro doesn’t like black people. Bolsonaro doesn’t like those in the favela,” tweeted Rene Silva, the Complexo do Alemão media activist who organized Lula’s visit to the city. favela.