By Eduardo Davis
Brasilia, Sep 7 (EFE).- President Jair Bolsonaro on Wednesday used the 200-year anniversary of Brazil’s independence from Portugal to try to mobilize his supporters and inject energy into his long-shot re-election bid.
With just over three weeks remaining until the Oct. 2 first round of balloting, the rightist incumbent finds himself trailing badly in the polls with only 30 percent of voter preference, compared to 45 percent for his bitter rival, ex-President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
Even so, large crowds gathered in Brasilia and Rio de Janeiro, where Bolsonaro headed up official bicentennial ceremonies and military parades, while throngs of people dressed in the green, yellow and blue of the national flag also showed their support for the head of state in Sao Paulo and other cities.
In two campaign speeches Wednesday, Bolsonaro took aim at Lula and his center-left Workers’ Party (PT) and hailed his own movement’s conservative values.
He stressed that Brazil now has a president who believes in God, respects the military, defends the family and opposes abortion.
Bolsonaro’s fusion of patriotic celebration with election campaigning raised some hackles among the opposition, which ceded the street to the president’s supporters to avoid potential incidents or clashes.
Lula said Wednesday it was disappointing that the anniversary was not “a day of love and unity for Brazil” and instead served as a platform for a “message of hate.”
Nevertheless, he expressed hope that following the October election (a potential runoff would take place on Oct. 30) Brazil will “win back its flag, its sovereignty and its democracy.”
Despite the large crowds, the rejection of the rightist president – an apologist for the country’s 1964-1985 military regime and a prominent pandemic denialist – was evident in key absences on Wednesday.
Among those abstaining from ceremonies to mark the independence bicentennial were the presidents of the lower house and Senate – Arthur Lira and Rodrigo Pacheco, respectively – and Supreme Court Chief Justice Luiz Fux.
By contrast, the head of state was accompanied throughout the day by Luciano Hang, a billionaire department store magnate who is under investigation by the Supreme Court for allegedly financing “anti-democratic acts” and “promoting a coup movement.”
Bolsonaro also sparked controversy Wednesday for encouraging the crowd to serenade him with chants of “imbroxavel,” a crude expression that refers to a man’s sexual potency.
The scene was “shameful and pathetic,” said the presidential candidate of a center-right coalition, Simone Tebet.
She added that “on the day of our independence, the president shows his disdain for women with his toxic and childish masculinity.”
The chairwoman of the PT, Gleisi Hoffmann, one of Lula’s campaign coordinators, chimed in by calling Bolsonaro “despicable” and accusing him of hijacking the independence bicentennial. EFE