Brazil: Lula Bets on the People while Bolsonaro Embraces Hate

By Gustavo A Maranges on October 13, 2022

Brazil goes to the 2nd round.

Only fifteen days after the first round of the presidential election in Brazil, the political scenario of the South American giant is becoming increasingly complex. The first election result has undoubtedly encouraged the ultra-conservative and ultra-right forces following Jair Bolsonaro. Meanwhile, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has turned his attention completely to the most disadvantaged sectors of the country.

In this short period, the hatred, racist and violent ultra-right sector speech has increased compared to the first round campaign. Therefore, Bolsonaro now feels freer and supported, up to the point of embracing an extremist speech worthy of the most authentic and reactionary fascism. In this regard, the statements against former candidate Simone Tebet and the first trans representative in Brazil’s history Erika Hilton stand out. The harassment that both have suffered only confirms the deep misogyny and lack of respect for diversity that characterizes the ultra-right forces.

The electoral map of the first round reflected the high level of polarization in the country. The northern and northeastern regions voted for Lula by large majorities, while the south and southeast supported Bolsonaro, although it was a split vote. Beyond any geographical reading, this result speaks of the country’s deep class division. The north is still Brazil’s poorest region and gathers the largest number of workers, while the south holds the biggest strongholds of the oligarchy and the Brazilian upper middle class.

Bolsonaro’s strategy for this month of campaigning seems to be focused on three fundamental elements: keeping his forces active, increasing the attacks against Lula, and strengthening the social assistance programs he neglected for four years of government.

Bolsonaro’s forces remained euphoric after the victory, especially their evangelical followers. Some reports indicate that several pastors have threatened to expel those who vote or express their support for Lula, who has gained a negligible number of followers within this community.

Lula’s response to the extreme polarization of religious discourse has been consistent with his strategy of unity. The Workers’ Party (PT) candidate wrote a letter calling for respect for all religions and denying Bolsonaro’s fake news about the possible segregation of evangelical churches if Lula wins.

This is just one example of the Machiavellianism that characterizes Bolsonaro’s attacks on Lula. Likewise, Bolsonaro’s team has made incredible efforts to label Lula as a communist, which is also false. It is nothing but a technique widely used by far-right movements and has proven to be very effective in highly polarized and politicized societies such as Brazil.

On the other hand, Bolsonaro did not hesitate to use his position and public funds to campaign. Just a few weeks before the first round and willing to improve his image, the president strengthened the social assistance program “Aid Brazil” (Auxilio Brasil). However, it is no coincidence that the last disbursement of this program will come only four days before the runoff. Despite the relief it entails for thousands of families, it is a cynical and manipulative strategy that shows how the right-wing takes advantage of the desperation and misery they have generated.

Despite all this, polls show Lula as the favorite to win the presidency. The former president and PT candidate has successfully managed to strengthen the anti-Bolsonaro front ahead of the ballot. Former candidate Simone Tebet and the Democratic Labour Party’s (PDT) support represents over 8.5 million possible voters, which would lead Lula to a safe victory.

At the same time, he seems very focused on reaching out to those who did not vote in the first round. This group is generally made up of low-income sectors, which offers Lula an important advantage over his rival but we should also take into account political violence and hate speech by the right wing. These two elements inhibit participation and might entangle the effectiveness of Lula’s strategy, just the same way it has done so far.

Another element that has recently come to light is the increase in electoral harassment complaints. After the first round, over 170 complaints of this type have been registered, all against businessmen following Bolsonaro. The case of the agro/industrial company Stora stands out among the rest ate the company threatened to make massive dismissals if Lula won. Meanwhile, another businessman promised US$20 extra to his workers if they did not vote for Lula, and Bolsonaro won.

Bolsonaro and his openly rabid supporters have shown they will stoop to any depth to win the election, through lies, threats, bribes and violence; what is needed to overcome that is solidarity, determination and honest outreach. The election on October 30 is being followed by the eyes of the world.

Source: Resumen Latinoamericano – US