‘Stop Lying, It’s Bad for a Man Your Age’: Sparks Fly at Bolsonaro-Lula Brazil Presidential Debate

Brazil's former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who is running for office again, left
AP Photo/Marcelo Chello

Incumbent President Jair Bolsonaro and former socialist president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva faced off on Sunday in the first of the several scheduled debates towards the October 30 presidential runoff election between both candidates.

The runoff election between Bolsonaro and Lula da Silva that will determine who will be the next president of Brazil for the next four years will be held on Sunday October 30. Lula was allowed to run in the race after the Brazilian Supreme Court Justice — in a controversial decision — overturned his corruption conviction and prison sentence, both resulting from being found guilty of using tax dollars to buy luxury real estate during his first two terms as president.

While the debate had a more respectful tone between both candidates than the debate held on September 30 at the eve of the first round of the election, both Bolsonaro and Lula accused each other of being liars, corrupt, and criminals. Unlike Lula, Bolsonaro has never been convicted and sentenced to over two decades in prison for corruption.

Bolsonaro began the debate by stating that he had gone through the “worst 24 hours of his life,” in reference to accusations of pedophilia carried out by Lula da Silva’s campaign team. The Lula campaign had published videos that accused Bolsonaro of being a pedophile, citing alleged comments made about a group of Venezuelan teenage migrants living in Brasilia. 

Brazil’s Supreme Electoral Court ordered Lula’s campaign remove the videos “known to be untrue, with serious decontextualization and apparent purpose of linking the candidate to the commission of a sexual crime.”


Former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (L), and President Jair Bolsonaro (R) gesture during a televised debate ahead of Brazil’s runoff election in two weeks. (AFP)

The outlandish accusation followed Lula’s campaign attempting to brand Bolsonaro a cannibal last week — based on Bolsonaro commenting on his military service in a 2016 interview — and a campaign from the right to associate Lula to satanists. Lula’s campaign issued a public statement denying that the candidate had ever engaged “in a conversation with” Satan.

The Associated Press

Brazil’s former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who is running for office again, left, faces Jair Bolsonaro in a presidential debate at Bandeirantes Television in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Sunday, Oct. 16, 2022. The presidential runoff election is set for October 30. (AP Photo/Marcelo Chello)

Most of Lula da Silva’s attacks against Bolsonaro during the debate involved Bolsonaro’s handling of the Chinese coronavirus pandemic in Brazil. Lula accused Bolsonaro of negligence in the handling of the pandemic, reminding him that he had once described the coronavirus as a “small flu.”

Lula also questioned Bolsonaro over his perceived mishandling of Chinese coronavirus vaccines. Bolsonaro rebutted by claiming that “Brazil has been an example of vaccination.” 

Both candidates accused each other of lying, with Bolsonaro cataloging his opponent as “a national shame.”

“Lula, stop lying, it’s bad for a man your age,” Bolsonaro advised his rival, who responded by saying that Bolsonaro is “the king of fake news, the king of stupidity.”

“You should be staying at home, enjoying life, and not wanting to go back to the crime scene,” Bolsonaro said to Lula, referring to the corruption charges.

Lula admitted that there were indeed cases of corruption in the state-owned Petrobras oil company during his 2003-2010 presidential term. 

“There was corruption, the thief who stole was captured and finished,” Lula da Silva limited himself to state. “If he was arrested, it is because there was an investigation. There was no secret. Everything was transparent,” he added.

Bolsonaro also attacked Lula for his ties to the authoritarian regimes of Nicaragua and Venezuela, and friendly relationship with Colombia’s new far-left president, Gustavo Petro.

“Lula campaigned for them,” Bolsonaro said in reference to Lula’s support for Venezuela’s socialist regime, first led by Hugo Chávez and now by Nicolás Maduro. Bolsonaro also reminded his adversary of the fierce persecution campaign carried out by dictator Daniel Ortega against the Catholic Church in Nicaragua.

Lula, who has avoided commenting on both the Maduro and Ortega regimes throughout his presidential campaign, responded to Bolsonaro by saying, “it is the peoples who must punish the mistakes of their leaders.” 

The socialist candidate also claimed that he “felt great pride on June 19, 1980 when I participated in the commemoration of the anniversary of the Sandinista revolution.”

“If Ortega is making a mistake, let the people of Nicaragua punish him. If Maduro is making a mistake, let the people of Venezuela punish him,” Lula added, refusing to condemn either for their well-documented human rights abuses.

The latest rounds of polls show that Lula da Silva still maintains a short 5 percent lead on Bolsonaro. The polls for the first round of the election had Lula da Silva with a comfortable lead of up to 14 points in some scenarios. Some polls indicated that Lula da Silva counted with over 50 percent of the vote, which would have allowed him to win without having to go through a runoff election. Bolsonaro outperformed polling forecasts and narrowed down the distance between him and Lula da Silva during the results of the first round of elections.

Bolsonaro, in his closing remarks, stated, “I want a free country, where freedom of speech is respected, where private property is respected, where you can go home safely, go to work, go to school. We want a country without drugs, Lula will release the drugs. We respect life, not abortion, and respect for religions.”

Lula da Silva stated in his closing remarks, “it is me who defends democracy. I want to govern the country democratically, as I did in two opportunities.”

Christian K. Caruzo is a Venezuelan writer and documents life under socialism. You can follow him on Twitter here.


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