“Little dictator”, “liar”, “cheeky”, “thief”, “national shame”… Bolsonaro and Lula play dirty in a very tough debate

The current Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, and former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva played dirty in a very tough debate held this Sunday, two weeks before the second round of the Brazilian elections.

The debate, with a very free format, allowed for long dialectical exchanges between the two candidates, which led to constant confrontations, in which there were no shortage of low blows, lies, insults and profanity.

There were also awkward silences and some laughter among the opponents, who debated without a lectern, face to face, even coming into physical contact at one point, when Bolsonaro put his hand on Lula’s shoulder after an irony by the former trade unionist.

Former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and the current president, Jair Bolsonaro, during the first debate ahead of the second round of the Brazilian presidential elections.

Lula da Silva and Bolsonaro, during the debate. SEBASTIÃO MOREIRA / EFE

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.

For his part, Bolsonaro embarrassed Lula by bringing up corruption in the governments of the Workers’ Party (PT), between 2003 and 2016.

“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 Latin American Left

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 . .

Bolsonaro 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. “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 from both sides

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 adolescents, who were prostituting themselves, also came to light in the debate.

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 accusations of pederasty.

Brazilians will return to the polls on October 30 to choose between Lula and Bolsonaro. In the first round of the elections, held on October 2, Lula was the most voted candidate, with 48.4%, compared to 43.2% of the votes received by Bolsonaro.

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