By Eduardo Davis
Brasilia, Apr 6 (EFE).- Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, the favorite in the upcoming presidential election, this week provoked the ultrarightist backers of President Jair Bolsonaro by defending abortion, sparking the first big controversy of the campaign.
“Poor women are dying trying to have an abortion because it’s prohibited,” but “the ‘madame’ can go to have an abortion in Paris or choose Berlin,” when “the truth is that it should be a question of public health (and) to which everyone has the right,” said Lula on Tuesday.
“That agenda of the family, of values, is very behind the times and is being used by a man who has no morality about that,” Lula said in a clear allusion to Bolsonaro, who is running for re-election in the October vote backed by his religious and ultraconservative base.
The former president’s remarks were not ignored by members of Brazil’s extreme right, who on Wednesday lined up to harshly lambaste Lula, whom they called a “communist” and an “enemy of Christian values.”
Although the current president did not comment about Lula’s remarks, one of the first to react to them was Eduardo Bolsonaro, one of his sons and a serving lawmaker who posted on the social networks a video with the progressive former leader’s comments and an open criticism of him.
“Lula is not thinking about an election in a Christian country, which respects private property,” write the legislator, going on to list Lula’s proposals: “Nationalizing private (firms), confiscating weapons, regulating the media, disturbing lawmakers and their families in their homes and now defending abortion.”
Bolsonaro’s son thus alluded to Lula’s intention to strengthen the role of the state via public firms, removing from circulation the weapons that his father’s government allowed people to buy and adopting policies that regulate and “democratize” the activities of the press.
Also this week, Lula had encouraged leftist supporters to protest in front of the homes of conservative lawmakers.
“If we map the address of each lawmaker and 50 people go to his house, not to insult him but rather to talk with him, with his wife, his kids, and we disturb his tranquility, it could have a greater effect than staging a demonstration in Brasilia,” Lula said.
To that proposal, Bolsonarista legislator Junio Amaral responded with a video on the social networks in which he appears carrying a gun and, after revealing his address, he smiled and brandished his revolver, saying: “You can come, and you’ll be very welcome.”
Many ultraconservatives say that Lula is showing “his true face.”
Damares Alves, for instance, who served as family and human rights minister up until last week and left the cabinet to run for a seat in parliament, said that “Lula’s agenda has always been the culture of death and violence.”
According to Alves, who is also an evangelist pastor, the upcoming elections will be “between protecting life starting at conception,” which Bolsonaro supports, and “the death of innocent children.”
That anticipated campaign controversy comes as Lula is getting ready to announce that his running mate will be liberal Geraldo Alckmin, an old political adversary to whom he has moved closer and who will impart a certain moderation to the ticket that should reassure many voters who might be concerned if Lula were to come out with another progressive as his VP pick.
But although Lula will face off at the polls against the ultraright led by Bolsonaro, in the meantime he must fight against a certain resistance to Alckmin within the Workers Party (PT).
The Socialist Party, which Alckmin recently joined, announced an event for this Friday at which it will officially propose him as Lula’s running mate.
That proposal will be discussed and approved by the PT, and the party’s national leadership will gather on April 24 with that in mind one week before the date on which Lula will be confirmed as its presidential candidate.
So far, the voter surveys continue to reflect a scenario that has been in the works for months putting Lula with the support of 40 percent of Brazilians who say they intend to vote. Bolsonaro, meanwhile, has gained a bit of support, climbing from 25 percent to 30 percent, although six months still remain until the election and – as one might expect – that’s an eternity in politics during which anything can happen.