Lula da Silva and Jair Bolsonaro, in the presidential debate this Sunday in Brazil.REUTERS/Carla Carniel
Brazilian voters have been able to see this Sunday, in the first televised debate of the campaign, the first heads-up between the two favorites to preside over Brazil, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Jair Bolsonaro. The leftist and the current president, from the extreme right, have clashed over, above all, the corruption scandals surrounding Petrobras and pay for the poorest.
Both have accused the other of lying. Along with the duo, there were four other candidates who have less than 8% of the voting intention. The first round will be held within 35 days.
The debate, organized by various media and divided into three blocks, was governed by baroque rules. One of the consequences of the rules is that candidates could ask one of their peers. And Bolsonaro has chosen to ask Lula.
The case? Corruption in the Petrobras company, the multimillion-dollar bribery scandal that landed dozens of businessmen and politicians in jail, including Lula, whose convictions were overturned.
Lula, who governed between 2003 and 2010, responded defensively. He affirmed that “there was no president of the Republic who did more to investigate corruption” than him and listed a battery of measures approved at the time to combat corruption.
Only when the debate was much more advanced, did the leftist bring dirty laundry to Bolsonaro, specifically, corruption scandals that have affected his Cabinet. The current president has called him “ex-prisoner” several times.
The current and former presidents have also gotten into a fight over social aid for the poorest Brazilians. Bolsonaro has reproached Lula for the fact that the Bolsa Família program, which was the great symbol of progressive governments, was three times less than the current monthly payment, called Auxilio Brasil, which is 600 reais.
Lula has replied that, despite the president’s promises, the amount is only guaranteed until the end of the year. That pay is Bolsonaro’s big bet to attract votes among the most needy Brazilians.
Bolsonaro has had no hesitation in lying when saying that Brazilian inflation is below that of the United States, when the accumulated rate in the last 12 months is 11.8%, while in the northern neighbor it is 8.5% .
The debate was won by a woman
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The winner of the debate was Senator Simone Tebet, who is center-right, has around 2% of voting intentions and is the best placed woman in the race. She has been the one who has harshly criticized and called President Bolsonaro to account. She has reminded him that during the pandemic “at no time did she take her motorcycle to go to a hospital to hug a mother who had lost her son.” She has also blamed the delay in the purchase of vaccines, the corruption scandals and the systematic dissemination of fake news from the Government.
Tebet has reformulated the motto of the evangelicals – “brother votes for brother” – to say that “woman votes for woman”. After declaring herself a feminist, the senator asked Bolsonaro “what is the reason for this anger towards women?” He has slipped away, bragged about passing women’s laws and praised the first lady.
Earlier, he had verbally attacked a journalist who had asked him a question, accusing him of “being a disgrace to journalism.” None of the four male candidates has shown solidarity with the reporter at first, only the two women who aspire to preside over Brazil.
The most popular presidential candidates in Brazil participate in a television debate on the way to the elections.Andre Penner (AP)
Although the majority of Brazilians are mestizo or black, the word racism was not uttered and both the candidates and the moderators and the journalists who asked questions were white. Nor was the word Amaoznia mentioned or there was any reference to the indigenous.
During the journalists’ question time to the candidates, it was the occasion for Ciro Gomes, from the center-left, the only one who has managed to show his head between the two favorites and who has 8% in the polls, was asked about if he would support Lula in the second round.
Gomes, who had a similar number of votes four years ago, went to Paris to avoid supporting the PT in the final duel against Bolsonaro, who won with a 10% advantage. Although they are ideologically in tune, Gomes’ reproach is that “Lula allowed himself to be corrupted”
An example of how heated the spirits are in the face of the most polarized election in recent years is the threat of a fight that occurred in the guest room following the debate broadcast by the Band channel.
A former Bolsonaro minister, Ricardo Salles, and a former presidential candidate who has joined Lula’s campaign, André Janones, almost came to blows while the presidential candidates debated. Several of those present have had to separate them, as shown by the video that has triumphed on the networks.
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