Bolsonaro on the defensive in Brazil after ‘depraved’ statement on Venezuelan prostitutes – The Irish Times

For a presidential campaign struggling to raise funds, rushing to buy online ads to deny your candidate is a pedophile just two weeks before voting can hardly be considered ideal.

But that’s what far-right Brazilian leader Jair Bolsonaro was forced to do this weekend after giving an interview in which he spoke of a “sexual vibe” that developed when he met “three or four very pretty girls aged 14 or 15”. “Venezuelan prostitutes in Rio de Janeiro last year. He had tried to warn of the risks to societies embracing socialism, but his words were echoed by opposition leaders, with one calling them “depraved”.

Having forged a career from outrageous claims, the story of his encounter with underage prostitutes is just the latest example of Bolsonaro’s own words leaving him on the defensive in a contest in which every poll shows him trailing behind his leftist rival, former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. The pair face off in a runoff on October 30 after Lula failed to claim outright victory in a first round of voting earlier this month.

Bolsonaro received a timely boost ahead of Sunday night’s primetime televised debate against Lula when the head of the country’s electoral tribunal banned Lula’s campaign from using a video clip of the president’s interview on venezuelan girls. Lula showed up to the debate wearing a brooch in support of the country’s campaign against sexual violence against children and adolescents.

The election decision followed a previous one that ordered Lula’s campaign to stop using an excerpt from a 2016 interview in which Bolsonaro said he would eat human flesh, “no problem”, telling a trip to an indigenous community that he said was preparing to eat a deceased member. The tribe in question has denounced the president’s allegation of cannibalism as completely false.

Although banned by the campaign’s electoral tribunal, the clips have gone viral on Brazilian social media, helping Lula’s efforts to undermine his opponent’s attempts to present himself as a defender of traditional values, which has been particularly effective. among evangelical voters. Many of them had previously criticized the president after another Workers’ Party resurrected video of Lula circulated of Bolsonaro speaking in 2017 at a Masonic lodge. Many Brazilian evangelicals associate Masons with Satanism.

The Lula campaign’s use of clips of his rival’s more polemical statements is an attempt to tackle a glut of fake news that has attempted to link him to Satanism among other false allegations as the Bolsonaro campaign tries to repeat the disinformation strategy that helped catapult the former army captain to the presidency in 2018. Brazil’s electoral court has so far ruled more than 40 times in favor of Lula, ordering the removal of fake news spread by Bolsonaro’s campaign or his supporters, against just six decisions in favor of the president.

Despite the increasingly personal attacks, Sunday night’s debate was relatively subdued, with most observers saying there was no clear winner. Lula’s best moments came when he attacked the president’s mishandling of the Covid pandemic and his administration’s failed vaccine rollout. Later that night, Bolsonaro managed to anger Lula by focusing on the corruption scandal at oil giant Petrobras during his Workers’ Party’s 13 years in power. Lula also dismissed his response to an attack on his friendship with leftist dictatorships in Venezuela and Nicaragua.

But the tensest moment of the night came when Lula vowed to rescind a series of presidential decrees issued by Bolsonaro that seal many details related to his 100-year tenure. Among the executive orders is one relating to the president’s vaccine history, fueling speculation that he took a Covid shot even though he was one of the world’s most prominent anti-vaccination figures in the world. the height of the pandemic. Asked by Lula what he was hiding with the decrees, Bolsonaro remained silent and smiled at his opponent before approaching him and putting a hand on his shoulder, which Lula quickly ignored.

Although most observers called it a draw, it was the president who entered the debate needing to catch up. On Friday, the widely watched polling agency Datafolha gave Lula 53% of valid votes to 47% for the president. After pollsters underestimated Bolsonaro’s vote in the first round, his supporters in Congress sought to pass a bill that would expose polling company executives to 10 years in prison for failing to accurately predict the results. election results.

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