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Brazil: Thousands Join Dueling Rallies for, Against Conservative Presidential Frontrunner

Brazilian women rally in force against presidential frontrunner Bolsonaro
AFP Mauro Pimentel
FRANCES MARTEL

Thousands of left-wing protesters took the streets of dozens of cities across the country Saturday to oppose Brazilian presidential frontrunner Jair Bolsonaro, triggering similarly populated rallies in support for the candidate nationwide on Sunday.

Bolsonaro – a hard-line conservative who is campaigning on an anti-corruption, pro-family values platform – has consistently led in the polls for months, but not by enough to avoid a run-off vote against the runner-up. He was released from the hospital on Saturday after nearly a month of recovery following an assassination attempt by a socialist sympathizer at a rally in early September.

The left-wing events on Saturday were organized in at least 62 cities in the country, according to Brazilian newspaper O Globo. Under the slogan “ele nao“, or “not him,” protesters took the streets carrying signs with feminist slogans on them and denouncing Bolsonaro as an anti-woman, anti-LGBT candidate. The feminist left in Brazil was galvanized last week by the revelation in the newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo that Bolsonaro’s ex-wife reportedly sought help at a Brazilian embassy after claiming Bolsonaro threatened to kill her. The diplomatic cable in question, which the author of the cable claimed was legitimate, added that ex-wife Ana Cristina Siqueira Valle was considering seeking political asylum in Norway to get away from her husband.

Valle, now running for a legislative seat and still using the last name “Bolsonaro,” denied that the candidate ever threatened to kill her and extended her full support to his campaign.

The left remains significantly divided in Brazil following the repeated convictions of ex-president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, once the most popular presidential candidate in the current race. Lula was convicted of accepting over one million reais in bribes and sentenced to over 12 years in prison. He did not officially step out of the race until mid-September despite being legally banned from running, leaving his socialist Workers’ Party (PT) little time to find a replacement.

O Globo notes that anti-Bolsonaro protesters did not appear to have a consensus on who to vote for instead, waving flags associated with the PT, the Democratic Workers’ Party (PDT), the Unified Workers’ Socialist Party (PSTU), and the Socialism and Liberty Party (PSOL). Various minor party presidential candidates attended events, most prominently Marina Silva, a left-wing environmentalist candidate, who made an appearance at the Sao Paulo rally.

Leftists internationally also rallied against Bolsonaro.

On Saturday, Bolsonaro’s supporters used social media to organize nationwide rallies in his favor. Among the largest were the ones in Brazil’s biggest cities: Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and Brasilia, among others – a particularly impressive feat given that voters in the larger cities tend to skew leftward.

Local reports indicate that an estimated 3,000 people rallied in Campinas, a suburb of Sao Paulo. In Manaus, a city deep in the country’s Amazonian interior, up to 5,000 people organized to support the candidate. An estimated 25,000 cars participated in a caravan for Bolsonaro in Brasilia. In Rocinha, Brazil’s largest favela, or slum, conservatives also took over the streets on Sunday.

Euardo Bolsonaro, a legislative candidate and one of Jair Bolsonaro’s sons, spoke at the event for his father in Sao Paulo.

“We do not harass anyone. We are going to elect a president of the Republic without breaking any windows. It’s going to be beautiful. It will be like [Donald] Trump in the United States,” the younger Bolsonaro said. “This is the last chance we have to get away once and for all from those policies that for 30 years have been looting from the Brazilian people.”

Bolsonaro himself has not made any public appearances since leaving the Sao Paulo hospital treating him on Saturday, following his stabbing in front of a crowd at a campaign rally in the first week of September. He instead issued a statement reiterating his stance against socialism on Twitter.

“Venezuelans are dying of hunger because of a tyrannical government tied to the Cuban dictatorship,” he wrote on Twitter. “Through our National Bank and other sources, Brazil is one of the largest sponsors of that atrocious socialist agenda. That will change, our focus is Brazil.”

Brazilians go to the polls on October 7. If no candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote, a run-off vote between the top two candidates will occur at a date to be determined.

Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.

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