Bolsonaro, Lula Trade Barbs on the Eve of Presidential Elections

Brazilians will head to the polls on Sunday to choose the next president, vice president, state governors and members of Congress. Incumbent Jair Bolsonaro, his main rival, former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, and their running mates used the final days before the vote to make their final offers to Brazilians.

Brazil’s seven main presidential candidates gathered Thursday afternoon to hold their third and final debate. Insults and accusations were the main ones main characters of the late-night talk, especially the barbadians thrown away between the first two candidates.

The roughly four-hour debate this week was hosted by Brazil’s TV Globo and included the election’s front-runners: Bolsonaro and Lula, as well as Orthodox priest Father Kelmon Souza of Brazil’s Workers’ Party, Luiz Felipe D’Ávila of the New Party, Soraya Thronique of of the Brazilian Union Party, Simone Tebet of the Brazilian Democratic Movement and Ciro Gomez of the Democratic Labor Party.

While defending his economic policies, Bolsonaro accused Lula of being a “liar, ex-prisoner and traitor to the country.” Bolsonaro also declared that “the future of the nation is at stake” and accused Lula of being a “gang leader”, to which Lula responded by labeling his opponent’s words as “arrogance”.

The reference to Bolsonaro in prison was a reminder of the fact that Lula was was convicted at its peak, a total of 25 years in prison for using public tax dollars to buy luxury real estate. The nation’s highest court, the Supreme Federal Court (STF), overturned the conviction last year to allow him to run for president again.

“It’s crazy that a president is coming here to say that,” Lula replied. The socialist candidate went on to say that, if elected, one of his first acts as president would be to lift 100 years of secrecy was imposed by the Bolsonaro administration on data related to the acquisition of Chinese coronavirus vaccines during the pandemic — a privilege granted by the government of Lula’s protégé Dilma Rousseff that allows such secrecy to be enforced when the information becomes public because of information violates intimacy, privacy, a person’s honor, and image.

Bolsonaro went on to call Brazil under Lula, who was president for most of the 2000s, a “kleptocracy.”

“Lula was the head of a large criminal organization. We can’t go on [to be] the country of theft,” Bolsonaro asserted.

Lula’s conviction was part of a much broader police investigation known as “Operation Car Wash,” in which politicians of several political parties took bribes from private contractors trying to secure overpriced deals for government infrastructure projects. Most of the actions that led to convictions in “Operation Car Wash” took place under Lula and successor Dilma Rousseff, who served in Lula’s cabinet.

Candidate Felipe D’Avila agreed with Bolsonaro, declaring Lula responsible for the maximum corruption scandal in Brazilian history.

“How does such a man have the moral capacity to lead Brazil?” asked.

Father Kelmon also took the opportunity to take jabs at Lula da Silva.

“You are responsible for the corruption in Brazil. You have been convicted. You shouldn’t even be here with the other candidates,” the Orthodox priest told the former socialist president.

Lula denied any involvement in corruption cases — for which he had already been convicted in the past — saying he had been acquitted of all charges.

“I was acquitted in 26 trials in Brazil, I was acquitted by the Supreme Court and I was acquitted in two trials at the United Nations,” he replied, while call the priest of a “con” and a “con.”

“I am a Christian, I am married in the church, baptized, confirmed and a member of the church. But I don’t see a representative of the church in your face,” said Lula. “I see an impostor. Someone in disguise here in front of me. I just don’t know how he managed to fool so many people.”

The socialist candidate also had something to say to candidate Ciro Gomes, who was minister of “national integration” between 2003 and 2006 during the Lula presidency.

“Ciro, I find you nervous. I’ll tell you something you might actually say: you left the government to run for federal parliament against my will. The second truth is that during the period of my administration, in the eight years that I was president, you lived the moment of the greatest social conquest of this country,” he asserted.

Gomes replied to Lula: “I joined the government and left precisely because of the serious contradictions in the economy, you know very well, and, even more seriously, the moral contradictions.”

The last rounds of polls projection that while Lula appears to be counting with a large lead over Bolsonaro, he falls short of the 50 percent required to win the presidency outright. If no candidate in Brazil receives more than 50 percent of the vote, a second “run-off” election between the top two candidates will be held on October 30.

Christian K. Caruzo is a writer from Venezuela documenting life under socialism. You can follow him on Twitter here.

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