RIO DE JANEIRO- “Liar”, “corrupt”. Former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and current President Jair Bolsonaro, favorites in Sunday’s Brazilian elections, traded insults and accusations in a contentious final debate on Thursday.
The traditional debate on TV Globo, the most anticipated before the elections, was the second televised duel with the presence of the two leaders in the polls and it was anticipated to be electrifying, seen as the last great opportunity to attract the vote of the undecided.
In his first speech, Bolsonaro, 67, accused Lula, 76, of having been the head of a “gang” of thieves, during the governments of his Workers’ Party (PT) (2003-2016), including calling him a “liar” and a “traitor to the country”.
He was referring to the Petrobras scandal, for which the former metalworker was jailed for 18 months in 2018 and 2019, before his conviction was overturned by the supreme court.
Lula, who had been criticized for avoiding accusations of corruption in the first television duel, decided this time to go on the attack.
“If he saw himself in the mirror and knew what was happening in his government, what the vaccine gang was,” the former president launched, accusing his rival of irregularities during the purchase of covid antigens.
The polls even reflect the possibility that Lula wins in the first round on Sunday, according to a survey published Thursday by the Datafolha Institute, which gives the former president a 14-point advantage and 50% of the valid votes.
“On October 2, the people are going to send you home,” the leftist added, lamenting a president who “blatantly lies at all times.”
“There is nothing against my government,” snapped Bolsonaro, who continued to attack with the microphone turned off, which earned him a call to order from the moderator.
The spirits later calmed down, but in the more than three hours of discussions, few concrete proposals were presented by the seven candidates present (of the 11 in contention).
Fires in the Amazon
Attacked by his government’s handling of the covid pandemic, which left more than 680,000 dead in Brazil, Bolsonaro stated that “no country in the world bought vaccines in 2020.”
The AFP fact-check team, however, verified that the statement is false, since millions of vaccines had already been distributed that year, including in countries such as Argentina, Chile and Mexico.
The president also echoed a manipulated video in which Lula supposedly defended that “a cell phone was stolen to buy a beer.”
Singled out for his environmental policy, highly criticized by ecologists, Bolsonaro stated that “this year we have had no news of fires in the Pantanal or in the Amazon jungle, other than those that already occur regularly.”
But official data shows that the fires in the Brazilian Amazon so far this year already exceed those registered in all of 2021.
According to the Datafolha poll, which Bolsonaro immediately discredited, Lula has 48% of the voting intentions compared to 34% for the president, both one point more than last week.
Considering only the valid votes (without blanks or null), Lula gathers 50% of the support, the minimum percentage to obtain a victory in the first round.
If none of the candidates reaches 50% of the votes, there will be a second round on October 30.
Neymar supports Bolsonaro
Bolsonaro is seeking re-election relying mainly on the evangelical and business vote, but has been widely surpassed for months by the leftist former president in the polls, supported above all by the popular classes, youth and women.
On Thursday, he obtained the symbolic support of the PSG star and the ‘Seleção’, Neymar, who published a video for his 8.1 million followers on the Tik Tok network in which he is seen repeating a ‘jingle’ from the president’s campaign.
For Lula, who seeks to return to the Planalto Palace after having governed Brazil between 2003 and 2010, coming out of the debate with flying colors could give him a final push to consecrate himself president on Sunday.
The leftist campaign has called Brazilians to vote “useful” already in the first round, to try to capture votes from other candidates more relegated in the polls, such as the center-leftist Ciro Gomes (6% of the intention to vote) and the senator Simone Tebet (5%).