Brazil’s Lula blasts Bolsonaro for labeling his supporters as illiterates

Sao Paulo, Oct 7 (EFE).- Brazilian former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva responded angrily Friday to comments by right-wing incumbent Jair Bolsonaro – his opponent in the Oct. 30 presidential runoff – suggesting that support for the challenger is concentrated among poorly educated people.

Lula, the candidate of the center-left Workers Party (PT), received 48 percent of the vote in last Sunday’s first round, compared with 43 percent for Bolsonaro, but did not obtain the 50 percent-plus-one needed to avoid a second round.

On Thursday, Bolsonaro noted that Lula outpolled him Sunday in “nine of the 10 states with the highest rates of illiteracy.”

All nine of those states are located in Brazil’s impoverished and overwhelmingly rural Northeast.

“Yesterday the mass murderer made a declaration that the people of the Northeast vote for me because they are illiterate,” Lula said at a rally in the Sao Paulo suburb of Guarulhos.

Over two decades starting in the 1950s, millions of people fled the deprivation in the Northeast to settle in Sao Paulo state, the country’s industrial heartland.

Lula was still a boy when his family migrated from the Northeast to Sao Paulo, where he would grow up to become an autoworker and union leader who battled the 1964-1985 military regime.

Expressing pride in his humble origins, Lula said that the people of the Northeast “are not better educated because the only administration that gave a thought” to the region was the one he led from 2003-2011, which opened schools and universities in those traditionally neglected states.

Bolsonaro said Thursday that the northeastern states fare poorly in measures of educational attainment and economic well-being “because they have spent two decades” governed by the PT.

In reality, no northeastern state has been under PT rule for 20 years and only three of the nine have PT governors at the moment.

Lula, 76, picked up more than 60 percent of the vote in the Northeast last Sunday, while the 67-year-old Bolsonaro had the edge in the wealthier South and Southeast. EFE mp/dr

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