Brazil can­di­dates call for calm

Ex­perts fear rise of po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated vi­o­lence across coun­try

Weekend Herald - - World - Peter Prenga­man

The two pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates who will square off in Brazil’s runoff this month are call­ing for an end to po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated vi­o­lence — an is­sue emerg­ing as a cen­tral theme of the elec­tions.

Nu­mer­ous cases of vi­o­lence were re­ported in the week be­fore the first round of vot­ing on Sun­day and have been on­go­ing since then. The sec­ond round of vot­ing is sched­uled for Oc­to­ber 28.

The race has exposed deep di­vi­sions in Latin Amer­ica’s largest na­tion, with the two can­di­dates rep­re­sent­ing op­pos­ing vi­sions for the fu­ture and many Brazil­ians wor­ried by vi­o­lent in­ci­dents in the name of pol­i­tics.

“What is go­ing on is ex­tremely wor­ri­some,” said Ser­gio Praca, a po­lit­i­cal sci­ence pro­fes­sor at the Ge­tulio Var­gas Foun­da­tion, a think­tank and univer­sity in Rio de Janeiro. “We need to fig­ure out how to get out of this sit­u­a­tion.”

On the right is fron­trun­ner Jair Bol­sonaro, a former army cap­tain who speaks ap­prov­ingly of the coun­try’s 1964-1985 dic­ta­tor­ship and has promised a vi­o­lent crack­down on drug gangs and other crim­i­nals. On the left is Fer­nando Had­dad, a former Sao Paulo mayor who prom­ises to re­turn the coun­try to the left­ist poli­cies of his Work­ers’ Party, which gov­erned be­tween 2003 and 2016.

Rock star Roger Wa­ters this week threw him­self into the cam­paign dur­ing a con­cert in Sao Paulo when the worlds “Re­sist neo-fas­cism” ap­peared on a screen be­hind the stage and then it dis­played a list of names — in­clud­ing that of Bol­sonaro. The former Pink Floyd mem­ber was cheered and booed by the crowd. Wa­ters also dis­played “Ele nao”, or “Not him”, the slo­gan of a move­ment against Bol­sonaro.

While most of the in­ci­dents of vi­o­lence have been blamed on Bol­sonaro sup­port­ers, the can­di­date him­self was stabbed while cam­paign­ing on Septem­ber 7, al­legedly by a man who told po­lice God had told him to at­tack. Bol­sonaro was dis­charged from the hos­pi­tal on Septem­ber 30.

In a tweet on Thurs­day, Bol­sonaro said he didn’t want the vote “of any­body who prac­tises vi­o­lence against those who didn’t vote for me”. In a meet­ing with mem­bers of Congress in Rio yes­ter­day, Bol­sonaro again con­demned the vi­o­lence — with some threats of his own.

“Even if they are my sup­port­ers, I will make them pay if they don’t obey the law,” he said.

His state­ments came af­ter days of crit­i­cism from Work­ers’ Party sup­port­ers who said Bol­sonaro was turn­ing a blind eye to at­tacks by his fol­low­ers.

Run­ner-up Had­dad also called for an end to the bru­tal­ity, say­ing par­ties need to con­front the is­sue to­gether. He has sug­gested sign­ing a “no vi­o­lence” pact with Bol­sonaro. “This es­ca­la­tion of vi­o­lence has to stop,” Had­dad tweeted.

Bol­sonaro won Sun­day’s first round, get­ting 46 per cent com­pared to 29 for Had­dad. In a poll re­leased on Thurs­day, he main­tained a wide lead with 58 per cent com­pared to 42 for Had­dad. The Datafolha poll in­ter­viewed 3235 peo­ple on Thurs­day and had a 2 per­cent­age point mar­gin of er­ror.

Brazil has long strug­gled to curb vi­o­lence, a part of daily life in many ar­eas. The coun­try has the du­bi­ous dis­tinc­tion of be­ing the world leader in to­tal num­ber of homi­cides each year; last year, a record 63,880 were slain.

Still, Natalia Viana, one of the direc­tors of Publica, a non­profit in­ves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ism or­gan­i­sa­tion that pro­duced a re­port this week on in­ci­dents of po­lit­i­cal vi­o­lence, said such at­tacks were a new phe­nom­e­non for Brazil.

Publica found 50 in­ci­dents of at­tacks by Bol­sonaro sup­port­ers com­pared to six against them since the begin­ning of Oc­to­ber through to Thurs­day.

The at­tacks hap­pened all over the coun­try and in­cluded beat­ings, stab­bings, death threats and even homi­cide, ac­cord­ing to the group.

Viana said there are likely many more than those they were able to doc­u­ment.

While Bol­sonaro has con­demned at­tacks by his sup­port­ers, he has in the past praised tor­ture and cer­tain kinds of vi­o­lence, and he has also ac­cused the me­dia of blow­ing the re­cent in­ci­dents out of pro­por­tion.

Viana said if Bol­sonaro doesn’t take a stronger stand, “it’s go­ing to grow”. “It’s dif­fer­ent than in the US be­cause Brazil­ian so­ci­ety is much more vi­o­lent . . . it’s much more un­equal, and this is just go­ing to be an­other type of vi­o­lence that’s go­ing to spread,” she said.

One of the most ex­treme cases was in the north­east­ern city of Sal­vador, where a capoeira teacher and sup­porter of the left-lean­ing Work­ers’ Party was stabbed to death dur­ing a dis­cus­sion with a sup­porter of Bol­sonaro. Po­lice say the at­tacker was ar­rested and con­fessed the killing was po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated.

Also in Sal­vador, a univer­sity pro­fes­sor was ar­rested for al­legedly run­ning over a man who was sell­ing Bol­sonaro T-shirts. AP

Photo / AP

Jair Bol­sonaro re­ceived a boost on the cam­paign trail yes­ter­day by poll re­sults that showed him with a healthy lead.

Roger Wa­ters had a po­lit­i­cal mes­sage for his fans in Sao Paulo this week.

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