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Election in Brazil: Bolsonaro-Lula vote escalates violence

RIO DE JANEIRO — Marcelo Arruda wore a black t-shirt emblazoned with his hero, presidential favorite Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, on the day he was killed.

On July 9, prosecutors say, Jorge Jose da Rocha Guaranho, went to Lula d’Arruda’s themed birthday party, blasting the song praising President Jair Bolsonaro so loudly that guests could hear the refrain: “The myth came and Brazil woke up.”

Guaranho, prison guard, and Arruda, policeman, exchanged insults in what prosecutors said was a political squabble. Guaranho left, came back and shot Arruda, prosecutors say.

Guaranho has been charged with capital homicide and is expected to testify this week. His lawyer, Luciano Santoro, told the Washington Post he was badly beaten in the head and did not remember the incident.

Analysts now consider Arruda’s murder in the southern city of Foz do Iguaçu the first in a series of incidents in an unusually deadly election campaign..

Of the revolutions and revolts of the first half of the From the 20th century to the brutal military dictatorship of the second, Brazil suffered a long history of political violence. But since the dictatorship was toppled in 1985, Latin America’s largest country has enjoyed relative calm at election time. Attacks have largely been limited to municipal candidates and politicians, often involving political rivals or criminal gangs.

This campaign was different. Sunday’s first-round favorites — Bolsonaro, the right-wing incumbent, and Lula, the left-wing former president — are the most polarizing figures in Brazilian politics. The vote was presented as an existential contest between authoritarianism and democracy. Now it is the candidates’ supporters who are attacking each other, creating a new atmosphere of fear.

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A man was shot dead inside an evangelical church in Goiânia last month after he disagreed with the distribution of pamphlets urging worshipers not to vote for the left parties. Weeks later, police say, a Bolsonaro supporter near Confresa stabbed a colleague to death after the man defended Lula during an argument.

On Saturday, witnesses told police that a man walked into a bar in Cascavel, 85 miles from Foz do Iguaçu, and asked who was planning to vote for Lula, the O Povo newspaper reported. When a 39-year-old man said he had done it, he too was stabbed to death. Police said on Monday they arrested a 59-year-old man in what appeared to be a politically motivated attack.

There have been several reports of Lula supporters beating Bolsonarians at public rallies.

One in five voters here consider the use of violence when an opponent wins justified at least to some degree, according to a recent poll by Quaest for the University of São Paulo. About half of them think that the violence is “very justified”. There are few differences between Lula supporters and Bolsonaro supporters.

Voters say they are afraid to voice their opinions ahead of Sunday’s election.

“I’ve never felt this kind of fear,” said Sonia Campello, a 68-year-old retired teacher in Brasilia, the capital.

Campello remembers the days when she, her mother and her sisters wore red scarves around their necks on election days in support of the left-wing Workers’ Party.

“Since the last election, the joy of the election period has been replaced by fear,” she said. She always wears T-shirts with portraits of her candidates, she said, but avoids going places where she thinks she might be harassed or assaulted by Bolsonaro supporters.

Lula and Bolsonaro swap religious barbs in battle for evangelical vote

Lula condemned the violence and denounced a “climate of hatred in the electoral process which is completely abnormal”.

Bolsonaro initially refused to condemn Arruda’s murder, saying he would wait for the investigation to establish a motive. But after the second murder by a self-proclaimed bolsonarist, he told Noticias R7 that he “regrets any politically motivated death”.

“There’s no point blaming me for the actions,” he said during a presidential debate on Saturday.

But analysts say Bolsonaro’s belligerent rhetoric has fueled resentment. Four years ago, he urged his supporters to “shoot the ‘petralhada’”, an insult against supporters of the Workers’ Party. As a congressman, he suggested the military should have killed more people during the dictatorship, and said only a “civil war” would bring real change to Brazil.

Bolsonaro was himself stabbed during the election campaign in 2018. Authorities identified the assailant as Adélio Bispo de Oliveira, a former member of the Party of Socialism and Freedom who claimed he was on a “mission to God”. A court ruled that he was mentally ill and could not be held responsible for his actions.

Marcos Nobre, president of the Brazilian Center for Analysis and Planning, a think tank, said Brazilians at both ends of the political spectrum have become less tolerant. But he argued that the violence of right-wing bolsonarists and that of Lula’s Petistas are different.

“It’s not two polar sides,” he said. “They are playing two different games. We play by democratic rules. The other is not.

Regardless of ideology, the common ground that many Brazilians now seem to share is fear.

Two out of three Brazilians now fear being victims of political violence themselves, according to a recent poll by the Brazilian Public Security Forum.

Fabiano dos Santos, 42, a convenience store worker in São Paulo, said he would vote for Lula as he always has. But this year, he says, he won’t wearing a red T-shirt.

“Am I afraid of reprisals? Of course I am,” he said. “You can’t even put a sticker on your car anymore – you would have scratched your car.”

Dos Santos said another friend was harassed at a train station while wearing a t-shirt with the Brazilian flag, often worn by Bolsonaro loyalists.

“They thought he was a Bolsonarist,” he said.It all makes no sense, and there was nothing like it before. Now it’s like Corinthians and Palmeiras”, rival football teams in São Paulo.

Trailing in the polls, Brazil’s Bolsonaro is courting a surprising new demographic: the poor

For leaders too, the race has become more deadly.

The Observatory of Political and Electoral Violence in Brazil has documented at least 214 cases of politically motivated violence this year, including 45 suspected homicides, targeting elected officials, candidates and civil servants, up 23% from 2020.

Political scientist Felipe Borba, who coordinated the observatory’s report, linked the increase to Bolsonaro’s use of threats as an election tactic.

“Brazilian elections have always been polarized, but there has always been a mutual respect that no candidate has ever dared to cross.” he said. “Bolsonaro is the first to openly use the discourse of violence against his adversary.”

But the historian Lilia Schwarcz, lecturer in anthropology at the University of São Paulo, sees a historical precedent.

“Bolsonaro represents the continuation of authoritarianism and like-minded people, who shared a love for military dictatorship and were unhappy with democratization,” she said. “Now they are emboldened to voice those views.”

Pablo Ortellado, professor of public policy at the University of São Paulo, sees growing intolerance on both sides.

“What concerns me is that civil society is divided and increasing its intolerance towards others,” he said. said.

Lula’s campaign missteps beg the question: Has he lost his touch?

Ortellado warned that there is no data to prove widespread violence among citizens. But other data, he said, shows growing polarization dating back a decade, when Brazil endured years of turmoil, corruption scandals, the arrest of dozens of government officials and the dismissal of the president. former President Dilma Rousseff.

The environment has caused concern among military commanders, who, in a meeting last month, discussed plans in case of unrest on election day, according to the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper.

The Ministry of Defense did not respond to a request for clarification.

Gabriela Sá Pessoa in São Paulo contributed to this report.

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