Brazil’s presidential campaign begins amid fears of violence

JUIZ DE FORA, Brazil –

Brazil’s presidential election campaign officially kicked off on Tuesday with former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva leading all polls against incumbent Jair Bolsonaro amid growing concerns about political violence. governance and threats to democracy.

Da Silva, who served two terms as president from 2003 to 2010, wore a bulletproof vest for public appearances. He was scheduled to speak at an engine factory Tuesday morning, but federal police officers asked him to cancel the event due to security concerns, according to his campaign. Instead, the leftist conducted his seventh bid for the presidency at a Volkswagen plant in Sao Bernardo do Campo, a manufacturing city outside Sao Paulo, where he is best known as the a union leader in the 1970s.

Bolsonaro revisited the site in the city of Juiz de Fora, where he was stabbed by a mentally ill man on the campaign trail in 2018. He arrived on a motorcycle surrounded by personnel. security officer and wore a bulletproof vest, unlike in 2018 when he rushed into the crowd without crowd protection.

Creomar de Souza, founder of political risk consulting firm Dharma Politics, told The Associated Press that da Silva’s visit to an auto factory is typical of Brazilian symbolism, evoking nostalgia for times his first presidential run in 1989 and alluded to his legacy. De Souza added that he expected the candidates to attack each other rather than the current plans for voters.

“I want this election to end as soon as possible with Lula winning, so there is less risk of violence and more talk about the future,” said Vanderlei Claudio, a 32-year-old metalworker. at this event.

Mauricio Santoro, a professor of political science at Rio de Janeiro State University, said Bolsonaro’s return to the stabbing site was an attempt to invoke the same outsider record that helped the seven-term lawmaker won in 2018, said Mauricio Santoro, a political science professor at Rio de Janeiro State University.

“For Bolsonaro, this is an image of him as a rebel candidate, against the system and the attack on his life is at the heart of that story,” Santoro said. “For him and his supporters, the person who stabbed him was not a lone wolf, but part of a political elite plot against Bolsonaro.”

The race in Latin America’s largest democracy is a clash of giants, with all the other candidates falling behind. Both have openly rallied supporters for months, even though they were not authorized by the election authority to request ballots or advertise in the air. So far, there has been no debate between da Silva and Bolsonaro.

“It’s impossible not to be emotional to be back in this city,” Bolsonaro told the crowd in Juiz de Fora, where people were patted before being allowed to break through a metal fence to access the president’s stage. “The memory I carry is of a rebirth. My life has been forgiven by our creator.”

After his speech, Bolsonaro was able to get out quickly standing on the bed of a truck, waving to the crowd while being tightly surrounded by security officers.

Despite the 2018 attempt to target Bolsonaro’s life, recent events have raised greater concern than his supporters may have been involved in the attacks. Earlier this year, Bolsonaro supporters surrounded da Silva’s car to curse, and in July one of them killed a local official of the da Silva Workers’ Party in the city of Foz de Iguacu.

Da Silva supporters have also been targeted; At one protest in June, a drone sprayed a crowd with a fever-causing liquid, and at another protest last month, a man detonated a homemade explosive containing feces. . The attackers in both cases were Bolsonaro supporters, according to social media posts reviewed by the AP.

“Lula canceled her first event due to a security risk, and that took over all the camps. I don’t think Bolsonaro has the same risk, but he was stabbed last time,” Carlos Melo, a political science professor said. at Insper University in Sao Paulo. “These terrible events are now part of the Brazilian elections, and that’s very important.”

Bolsonaro is a staunch gun advocate and has eased restrictions, allowing his supporters to stockpile guns and ammunition. At his candidacy launch on July 24, he asked supporters to swear they would give their lives for freedom and has repeatedly described the race as a battle of good and evil. At that event, his wife, Michelle, said that the presidential palace had been consecrated to the devil before her husband took office.

In Sao Bernardo do Campo, da Silva unmasks the failures of Bolsonaro’s administration during the COVID-19 pandemic – which a Senate investigation found contributed to the world’s second-highest death toll – then said, “If anyone is possessed, it’s Bolsonaro.”

Bolsonaro supporters frequently cite da Silva’s 580 days in prison after he was found guilty of corruption and money laundering. Those beliefs pushed Da Silva out of the 2018 race and cleared the way for Bolsonaro; they were first set aside by the Supreme Court on procedural grounds, which later ruled the judge was biased and colluded with the prosecutors.

Sticking in the polls, the former army captain has raised concerns that he could reject the results if he loses the vote in October. The far-right leader has raised unfounded suspicions about the outcome. The nation’s electronic voting system has been in use since 1996, especially during a meeting he called with foreign diplomats. His insistence sparked a reaction last week from hundreds of companies, and more than a million Brazilians signed a pair of letters demanding that the nation’s democratic institutions be respected.

When Bolsonaro’s candidacy was confirmed, he urged supporters to flood the streets to celebrate independence day on September 7. On that day last year, he announced in front of tens of thousands of people. who advocated that only God could remove him from power. Analysts have repeatedly expressed concern that he is setting the stage to follow in the footsteps of former US President Donald Trump and try to cling to power.

Human Rights Watch said Monday that the campaign “has the potential to be an important test of democracy and the rule of law in this country and in Latin America.”

“Candidates should condemn political violence and urge their supporters to respect the right of Brazilians to elect their representatives peacefully and to run without fear,” it said.


Savarese reports from Sao Bernardo do Campo. AP writer David Biller contributed from Rio de Janeiro.

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