Sao Paulo (EFE).- New cases of political violence have heightened tension in the home stretch of Brazil’s election campaign, highly polarized between progressive former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and far-right President Jair Bolsonaro.
Authorities are investigating the killings of at least four people after alleged political discussions, including two over the weekend, among other attacks on activists and candidates since the start of the campaign.
The tense atmosphere forced Lula, the poll favorite ahead of Sunday’s election, and Bolsonaro, who was stabbed by a mental patient during the 2018 campaign, to attend some of his rallies wearing bulletproof vests.
Both are also surrounded by an important security device, which at least in the case of the leader of the Workers’ Party (PT) has been reinforced in the face of the escalation of threats against him.
In the last known, justice intervened with the seizure of the mobile phone of a suspect who in an e-mail communicated to the PT his intention to assassinate the former union leader of Sao Paulo: “The knife is already sharp”.
The tension has crossed borders and worries some countries.
This Tuesday, the United States, through White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre, condemned the latest violent incidents in the campaign and said they hoped the elections would be held “in a fair, transparent and credible”. “
The situation could get worse on election day. A São Paulo military police official told Efe, on condition of anonymity, that “he does not rule out altercations” in the streets, in the event of Lula’s victory in the first round, a scenario drawn by several surveys.
Shooting and stabbing murders
The first serious case of alleged political violence occurred in July, in Foz de Iguazú.
There, a prison guard, an outspoken supporter of Bolsonaro, shot dead one of the local PT leaders as he celebrated his birthday with a Lula-themed party.
On September 7, another supporter of the retired army captain stabbed a fellow Lula admirer to death during a political discussion in a rural area of Mato Grosso state.
The last two took place last weekend, with political motivation being one of the open lines of inquiry.
In Ceará, a suspect walked into a bar, asked who a Lula voter was and stabbed a man, who died shortly afterwards in hospital, according to testimonies collected by local media.
In Santa Catarina, police are investigating the death, also stabbed, of a fellow Bolsonaro in another bar fight.
“No investigative leads are ruled out in relation to the motivation for the crime,” Commissioner Juliano Tumitan said in a note, with the main hypotheses being a political or family dispute.
To these cases, we must add various attacks between Bolsonarists and lulistas in the middle of the electoral campaign, as well as episodes of violence against journalists.
In this context, a survey by the Brazilian Public Security Forum and the Political Action Network for Sustainability (RAPS) indicated that seven out of ten Brazilians admit to being afraid of being physically attacked when expressing their political opinions.
Political scientist Mônica Sodré, director of RAPS, a platform that encourages dialogue between politicians from different ideological spectrums, explains that there are two possible factors behind this data.
The first is Bolsonaro’s “openly pro-gun and pro-violence” rhetoric and the second is the policy of easing access to firearms sponsored by his government.
“It has consequences because when the main leader of the Republic encourages people to be violent, they feel authorized to behave in this way,” he told Efe.
What are Lula and Bolsonaro saying?
Bolsonaro, nostalgic for the military dictatorship (1964-1985), has repeatedly complained of being held responsible for the dissemination of “hate speech” which he attributes to the left and claimed to want a Brazil in peace”.
For his part, Lula criticized the Bolsonaro government on Tuesday for having created a climate of “fear” among the population, “motivated by hatred and fascism”.
And he issued a warning for the future: “We will beat Bolsonaro, but Bolsonarism will continue to exist and we must defeat it in the political debate.”
Web editor: Natalia Vargas