Brazil before the presidential election: “Real danger of an attack”

Political violence mounts in Brazil ahead of presidential elections. Above all, supporters of the workers’ party PT are attacked.

People wear t-shirts with the likeness of the dead politician Marcelo Arruda

PT boss Gleisi Hoffmann speaks at a memorial service for the politician Marcelo Arruda who was killed Photo: Christian Rizzi/Fotoarena/imago

RIO DE JANEIRO taz | At around 2 p.m. on August 24, left-wing politician Rodrigo Mondego leaves a campaign office in central Rio de Janeiro. Suddenly a car cuts off his way. A man is behind the wheel and opens the window. “He pointed a gun at me and shouted insults,” Mondego told the taz. The human rights lawyer, who wants to get a seat on the city council for the Labor Party PT this year, got off with a fright. The man leaves, Mondego files a complaint.

On October 2nd in Brazil the first round of the presidential election instead of. It’s all heading towards a showdown between far-right incumbent Jair Bolsonaro and ex-President Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva. Brazilian society is extremely polarized, and tension can be felt throughout the country as the election approaches. A recent study by the opinion research institute Datafolha showed that 67.5 percent of Brazilians fear aggression because of their political decisions. And the episode from Rio de Janeiro is not an isolated case.

The case of Marcelo Arruda made particularly big waves. The local politician from the PT Workers’ Party was murdered by a Bolsonaro supporter at his birthday party in mid-July. In the state of Mato Grosso, on September 7, a Bolsonaro supporter killed a supporter of ex-President Lula after a political discussion. According to the police, the perpetrator is said to have tried to behead his victim.

Many blame Bolsonaro for the attacks. The right-wing extremist regularly calls for violence. At a 2018 campaign rally, Bolsonaro grabbed a microphone stand, imitating a gun, and yelled into the microphone, “We’re going to be the Petralhada (derogatory term for supporters of the PT, ed.) shoot him.” The President denies any responsibility for the violence.

Violence could escalate further

High-ranking politicians also report threats. Both left-wing politician Guilherme Boulos and Ciro Gomes, presidential candidate of the centre-left PDT party, were threatened by armed men at campaign rallies. Lula’s safety in particular is a major concern for PT employees.

“There is a real danger of an attack,” says Mondego, who has been a member of the party since 2005 and has supported several election campaigns. After disturbances on the sidelines of election campaign events, the ex-union leader has started wearing a bulletproof vest. He also had to move for security reasons.

Violent episodes already occurred during the election campaign in 2018. Several people died, almost all leftists and supporters of the PT. But Bolsonaro was also the victim of an attack: a man stabbed the then candidate during an election campaign and seriously injured him. However, the police later stated that the perpetrator was mentally disturbed and had no political motivation.

The situation could get even worse this year. Because Bolsonaro has been attacking democratic institutions and has been spreading for months Lie via the electronic voting system. “Only God” could strip him of the presidency.

Bolsonaro also regularly mobilizes his radical voter base. On September 7, the national holiday, went hundreds of thousands rights took to the streets for “their president”. Although violence was expected in advance, the protests remained largely peaceful.

In the last few days, Bolsonaro has surprisingly sounded more moderate and indicated in an interview that he would also accept an election defeat. The more moderate tones are likely to be primarily an election campaign tactic. Bolsonaro is clearly behind Lula, the rejection of him is great and the right-wing radical is dependent on the votes of the political center.

PT politician Mondego believes Bolsonaro will try to stay in power by any means necessary. Is there even a coup d’état, as is currently being discussed in many places? Mondego does not currently consider the likelihood of a coup by security forces to be high. “But unfortunately you can’t rule it out completely.”

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