Two weeks before the second round of the presidential elections in Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva accused each other of lying and attacks were launched, employing terms like “little dictator” and “national shame,” in their first face-to-face debate.
The far-right president and the left-wing leader also accused each other of corruption and exacerbating poverty in Brazil throughout the televised debate, in which for the first time both arch-rivals were seen alone next to each other, even touching each other when Bolsonaro he put a hand on Lula’s shoulder.
(Also read: The controversial statements of Jair Bolsonaro for which they call him a pedophile)
“Lula, stop lying, it’s bad for a man your age,” Bolsonaro, 67, told his 76-year-old opponent.
“You are the king of fake news, the king of stupidity,” replied Lula, who harshly accused Bolsonaro of his “negligence” during the pandemic that killed more than 680,000 people in Brazil.
Bolsonaro called Lula a “national shame.” “You should stay at home, enjoying life, and not wanting to go back to the scene of the crime,” said the far-right president, citing cases of corruption during the Lula government (2003-2010).
The leftist counterattacked and said that Bolsonaro is a “small dictator who wants to occupy the Supreme Court”, referring to a proposal to modify the highest court, although the president promised not to go down that path.
(You can read: Brazil Elections: the keys to the second round between Bolsonaro and Lula)
Both candidates, dressed in dark suits and ties – green for Bolsonaro and the colors of Brazil for Lula -, questioned each other standing next to each other, walking on stage, speaking to the camera and exchanging provocative glances and ironic smiles for moments.
Throughout almost two hours of debate, the proposals for the next four years were conspicuous by their absence.
These were the key topics of the debate:
corruption and pandemic
Lula wore Bolsonaro down mainly with his criticized management of the pandemic, the serious economic situation that the poorest layer of the population is experiencing, or the destruction of the Amazon rainforest.
On the other hand, Bolsonaro embarrassed Lula mainly by bringing up corruption in the governments of the Workers’ Party (PT), between 2003 and 2016.
(Also: Elections in Brazil: why has Bolsonarism gained ground in the country?)
“Petrobras was the biggest corruption scandal in humanity. They looted 90,000 million reais (about 18,000 million dollars). You put the money in your butt and shared it with your friends,” Bolsonaro snapped at Lula in one of the harshest moments of the debate.
Lula acknowledged that there was corruption in the state oil company, but assured that everything was discovered due to the transparency of his government (2003-2010).
The Left in Latin America
The far-right leader took advantage of the final stretch of the debate to bring out Lula’s relationship with Latin American presidents such as Nicaraguan Daniel Ortega, Venezuelan Nicolás Maduro, Colombian Gustavo Petro or Argentine Alberto Fernández, whom he links to communism. .
He spent more time criticizing Ortega, especially for the arrest of priests, the closure of churches and the media.
The former trade unionist said that the political situation in Nicaragua is up to Nicaraguans to resolve, although he left a message for Daniel Ortega.
(Keep reading: Lula da Silva: the strategy he will use to succeed in the second round)
“If someone believes he is essential, a dictator is being born. But if Ortega is making a mistake, let the Nicaraguan people punish him. If Maduro is making a mistake, let the Venezuelan people punish him,” Lula said.
He also brought up Colombian President Gustavo Petro’s speech at the UN to defend the decriminalization of cocaine, linking him to Lula, who has never spoken out in favor of drug legalization.
Insults set the tone for the debate and stood out above the government proposals.
Lula called Bolsonaro a “little dictator”, a “liar” and a “cheek”, while the current head of state called his predecessor “a national disgrace” and a “thief”.
In an ironic tone, Lula snapped at Bolsonaro, a captain in the Army reserve, that when he was a deputy, he “flattered” him and “felt proud” of having him as president, for the treatment he gave the military.
A controversy unleashed this Sunday by some statements by Bolsonaro that caused a stir, in which he used a colloquial phrase that could be understood as that he was attracted to some 14-year-old Venezuelan girls, who were prostituting themselves, also came to light in the debate.
(You can read: Lula and Bolsonaro start an aggressive dispute for the second round in Brazil)
The first to allude to the case was the conservative leader, who complained that the opposition had used those statements to accuse him of being a pederast, touching on “the most sensitive” issue of defending the family.
Lula, later, without referring directly to the case, said that whoever knows him knows what he did, and opined that “he must have a very heavy conscience for what he did” because he got out of bed last midnight to deny the accusations of pederasty.
Hand to hand
In the first round of October 2, Lula prevailed with 48.4% of the votes, against 43.2% for Bolsonaro, who achieved better results than expected in the polls.
The leader of the Workers’ Party (PT) is the favorite for the ballot, with 49% of the voting intentions, over 44% of Bolsonaro, according to data from the Datafolha Institute released on Friday.
93% of those consulted said they had their vote defined, while 6% said they would vote blank or invalid, and 2% said they were undecided.
According to Christopher Mendonca, doctor in Political Science, both candidates had weak points, but “Bolsonaro was better in the debate than Lula.”
(Keep reading: Brazil: What do Bolsonaro and Lula lack to win in the second round?)
“The former president was very nervous,” especially when he was questioned about corruption.
Although the president “also had his negative moments, such as during the discussion on the environment,” when Lula attacked him for having promoted deforestation in the Amazon, Mendonca said.
The debate takes place in the midst of a campaign plagued with disqualifications to win over voters, including accusations of cannibalism or links to organized crime.
*With information from AFP and EFE
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