By Alba Santandreu
Sao Paulo, Aug 30 (EFE).- Former Brazilian President and current presidential candidate Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on Tuesday proposed “resuming” disarming the public if he wins the October election, in contrast to the weapons policy being pushed by ultrarightist President Jair Bolsonaro, who is running for reelection.
The leader of the leftist Workers Party, who is rather heavily favored to win the Oct. 2 vote, met with a group of state governors to discuss some of the main elements of his public safety platform and said that, if he is elected, he “will resume” work in accordance with the Disarmament Law.
The law, approved in 2003 during the first year of Lula’s 2003-2010 mandate, was endorsed in a popular plebiscite in 2005, with its central element not being to prohibit weapons sales to the public in Brazil but rather to restrict the right to bear arms at the same time that it encouraged the public to disarm altogether.
However, the law has been adjusted in recent years by Bolsonaro, who came to power in 2018 with expanding weapons ownership being one of his main campaign promises.
Under the slogan that ” An armed population will not be enslaved,” the president has pushed for greater civilian access to weapons and has promised, if reelected in October, that he will make it even easier to own and carry guns, thus following the US model.
With the increase in flexibility in the weapons statute, which has not been even greater due to restrictions imposed on it by the Brazilian Congress, the number of people who registered guns shot up by 474 percent between 2018 and 2022, according to figures published by the Brazilian Public Safety Forum NGO.
Bolsonaro, a reserve army captain and nostalgic for the country’s military dictatorship, has linked the reduction of 6.5 percent in murders in Brazil in 2021 – to its lowest level in 10 years – to the increase in the number of people carrying weapons, a claim that has been refuted by public safety experts.
During his meeting with the governors, held in a Sao Paulo hotel, Lula also proposed reconstituting the Ministry of Public Security, creating a university specializing in that area, unifying the country’s public safety system and pushing for cooperation with neighboring countries in fighting drug and weapons smuggling.
The former union leader also gave a wink and a nod to the public security forces, one of Bolsonaro’s main electoral bases in 2018, and proposed strengthening the Federal Police, these remarks coming during an interview he gave a few hours earlier to a local radio station in Manaus, the capital of Amazonas state.
“The Federal Police was dismantled. It needs more people, it needs more intelligence to fulfill its exceptional task. It’s necessary for us to deal with our borders,” the progressive leader emphasized as he stands about 15 points ahead of Bolsonaro in the voter surveys with just a little more than a month remaining until the election, according to the latest polls.
Progressive Marcelo Freixo, a candidate for Rio de Janeiro state governor, also commented similarly on the matter given that his state has been one of the hardest hit by violence in Brazil and experiences frequent clashes between police and armed groups.
According to figures published by the Security Observatories Network, over the past two years there have been about 70 massacres in that state which have taken the lives of more than 300 people.
One of the latest mass shootings took place in July, when at least 18 people died when police made an incursion into the Complejo de Alemao, one of Rio de Janeiro’s largest “favelas,” or shantytowns, a move that was condemned by human rights organizations.