Take off your gloves as Bolsonaro and Lula launch campaigns

SAO PAULO – Ex-President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and incumbent President Jair Bolsonaro exchanged insults on Tuesday as they kicked off their campaign for Brazil’s October elections in dueling rallies underscoring the deep divisions in the southern giant American.

The two favorites, who have actually been campaigning for months, made it official on opening day with events that also showcased their polar opposite styles.

Bolsonaro, 67, kicked off his campaign with a rally in Juiz de Fora, the small southeastern town where an attacker stabbed and nearly killed him during his 2018 campaign – cementing his image in people’s minds diehard supporters as their “Messiah”, or Messiah, his middle name.

“This is where I was born again… This is where the creator saved my life so I could give my best for our nation as president,” an emotional Bolsonaro said to cheering supporters packed in the street where he was stabbed by a man later found mentally unfit to stand trial.

Hitting hard on the themes of Christianity and family values, Bolsonaro acknowledged Brazil’s “serious problems”. But the former army captain called himself the best candidate to lead the country, warning his opponent’s return would be a “step backwards” and usher in “communism” and “gender ideology”.

Lula meanwhile kicked off his campaign with a visit to a Volkswagen factory in Sao Bernardo do Campo, the industrial heartland of Sao Paulo state where the 76-year-old launched his political career as a labor leader in the 1970s.

“I’m coming back so we can take back our country,” he said in his characteristic gravelly voice, riling up the crowd with a fiery speech.

Denouncing Bolsonaro as a ‘genocidal fake president’, he condemned the ‘lies’ he said the incumbent president’s camp was spreading about him in a bid to win the powerful evangelical vote – around 31% of the 213 million inhabitants of Brazil.

“If anyone is possessed by the devil, it’s Bolsonaro,” he said.

If no candidate wins more than 50% of the valid votes in the October 2 election, a runoff will be held on October 30. AFP

  • Key words: Jair Bolsonaro, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva

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