By Maria Angelica Troncoso
Juiz de Fora, Brazil, Aug 16 (EFE).- Brazil’s ultrarightist president, Jair Bolsonaro, on Tuesday officially launched his reelection campaign in Juiz de Fora, the city where four years ago he was stabbed at a campaign rally, an attack that catapulted him into the presidency.
Meanwhile, leftist former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who is favored in the voter surveys to win the October vote, possibly even in the first round, also kicked off his presidential campaign in Sao Bernardo do Campo calling Bolsonaro “possessed by the devil,” and adding that his “lies” will not keep him in office.
The ultrarightist leader returned to the town in the state of Minas Gerais to “pay tribute” to the spot where he claimed to have been “reborn” thanks to the “hand of God” after being nearly fatally stabbed in the abdomen by a mentally ill man while being carried on the shoulders of an ecstatic throng of supporters.
The stabbing enabled Bolsonaro to capture the attention of the media during the final phase of the campaign, which contributed to pushing him up precipitously in the polls, his support skyrocketing from just 20 percent to 55 percent and sending him to the presidential palace in Brasilia in the runoff election.
Bolsonaro arrived at the rally about midday on a motorcycle after a short vehicle procession from the airport, where he had held an initial meeting with religious leaders.
He delayed a bit in mounting the stage while greeting a number of his supporters, who had been anxiously awaiting his arrival since early in the day.
Hundreds of people came to the precise spot where he had been attacked four years ago wearing green and yellow, the colors of Brazil’s flag, and chanting pro-Bolsonaro slogans, and the president – wearing a bullet-proof vest and surrounded by a large group of bodyguards and with elite snipers deployed strategically on nearby rooftops – was accompanied by his wife Michelle, his son Flavio and his vice presidential running mate Gen. Walter Braga Netto.
He adopted a religious tone in his remarks to the crowd, just as he has done on numerous prior occasions, thanking God and the doctors for saving his life and declaring that “good triumphed over evil.”
He spoke for about 20 minutes, highlighting what he said were the achievements of his administration, criticizing the governments that preceded his and emphasizing that his administration had been an “example of patriotism and honesty.”
“Brazil is a great nation, a great country,” he said, “but up until recently it was stolen by the left that had been in power. This country doesn’t want any more corruption.”
During his remarks, Bolsonaro did not mention his challenger, Da Silva, who governed from 2003-2010 and is presently the decisive favorite to win the upcoming vote with 45 percent support to the current president’s 30 percent.
The fired-up crowd, meanwhile, chanted anti-Lula slogans, including “Lula the thief, his place is in prison.”
Bolsonaro was attacked on Sept. 6, 2018, at a time when the polls showed him leading the presidential race, although he had only 20 percent support.
Meanwhile, at his own campaign launch rally, Lula – who heads the Workers Party (PT) – said that “If anyone is possessed by the devil, it’s Bolsonaro,” addressing a huge crowd at the doors of the Volkswagen factory in Sao Bernardo do Campo, his political bastion and where during the 1970s he became well-known as a union leader.
He accused the Bolsonaro administration of “not concerning itself with jobs” and lacking an “economic policy” for the country, which is suffering from 10 percent inflation and has some 10 million people, about 9.3 percent of the labor force, looking for employment.
Surrounded by hundreds of metalworkers and union representatives, the former machinist called Bolsonaro a “hypocrite,” a “Pharisee” and a “genocidal” leader.
Lula said that Bolsonaro was “lying to … (and) manipulating the good faith of people who go to church,” even as Bolsonaro supporters are claiming that the leftist will close all of Brazil’s churches if he returns to power.
The leftist leader promised that if he’s elected “there will be no more kids begging on the street,” adding that “We don’t want a government that distributes guns, we want books. We don’t want a government of hate, we want one of love.”