Brazil’s Bolsonaro Makes Final Anti-Corruption Push: ‘Our Country Isn’t a Criminal Gang’

Jair Bolsonaro, Brazilian presidential candidate for the Social Liberal Party, attends a meeting with businessmen from the National Confederation of Industry (CNI) in Brasilia on July 4, 2018. - Brazil holds presidential elections on October 7. (Photo by EVARISTO SA / AFP) (Photo credit should read EVARISTO SA/AFP/Getty Images)

Conservative presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro made his final pitch to voters ahead of Brazil’s election on Sunday, vowing an end to the corruption “rampage” occurring under his opponents.

Bolsonaro will face off against socialist Workers’ Party (PT) candidate Fernando Haddad on Sunday. Bolsonaro defeated Haddad and several other candidates in a first round of voting this month, but not by enough to prevent a run-off vote against Haddad only.

In a series of tweets on Friday, Bolsonaro urged people to put an end to the Worker Party’s corruption “rampage” and accused Haddad of faking his religious credentials and lying about his support for Nicolás Maduro’s socialist dictatorship in Venezuela.

“WE WILL MAKE BRAZIL A GREAT NATION!” he wrote. “Let’s put an end to the Worker’s Party’s robbery! Remember: our country is not a criminal gang to be ruled from within prison!”

“Haddad says I’m responsible for the lowest campaign in history,” he continued. “It is he, who is guided by a prisoner, hides the colors of the party, pretends to be religious, throws the Bible in the trash, hides support for the Venezuelan dictatorship and spreads a lot of lying crap about me.”

The mentions of prison are a reference to former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, currently serving a 12-year prison sentence for having spent over $1 million in corrupt profits on a luxury beachfront property. Under Lula, multiple parties’ politicians engaged in what is now known as “Operation Car Wash,” a nationwide scheme to overpay private corporations on government projects, who then kicked back some of the excess taxpayers’ dollars.

Lula was the PT’s presidential candidate until September despite being legally ineligible to run for office. Haddad’s first act following confirmation he would be on the second-round ballot was to visit Lula in prison for guidance on how to finish his campaign.

In his Twitter statement, Bolsonaro went on to claim that Haddad would release Lula.

“Nobody lied more than the PT in this election. They are masters of deception. They changed their government plan several times after we exposed their totalitarian bias,” he said. “Now they say they respect family, democracy, and justice, but we know [Haddad] mission is to let the gang boss out!”

“I represent a threat, yes, to the corrupt, to the bandits, to the rapists, to the schemes that steal from the Brazilian Development Bank, to the murderers and those who want to destroy Brazil!” Bolsonaro continued on Friday. “That’s why they’re desperate! There will be no peace in my Government!”

In response, Haddad said that Brazilians were finally “waking up” to the reality of Bolsonaro, arguing he had failed to honor the Armed Forces of which he was once a member.

“The people are waking up to the shot in the dark that is Bolsonaro,” he wrote. “He calls it a strategy not going to debates. I’ve never seen anyone claiming to be from the military say that it is strategic to hide, to run away. He does not honor even the Armed Forces he claims to belong.”

Bolsonaro’s public presence was limited significantly last month after a socialist fanatic stabbed him in the abdomen, leaving severe wounds that required surgery and forcing him to cancel several campaign stops.

Bolsonaro remains the strong favorite for Sunday’s election. His victory is likely to cause severe upset among Brazil’s left-wing political establishment who have controlled the country for almost 15 years. According to polling data released this week, Bolsonaro retains a 17-point lead over Haddad after falling just short of an overall majority in the first round of voting, despite being largely unable to campaign as a result of near-fatal stabbing by a socialist opponent last month.

The 63-year-old former army captain’s improbable rise has long been compared to that of Donald Trump, for whom he has openly expressed admiration, despite their widely divergent political backgrounds. Should he triumph this weekend, he plans to enact a series of wide-ranging reforms designed to crack down on crime and corruption, as well as embracing a more market-based economy and closer ties with the United States.

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