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Security fears about Bolsonaro, Lula in the tense election campaign

#Security #fears #Bolsonaro #Lula #tense #election #campaign

Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro and his left-wing rival Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva both wear bulletproof vests to campaign rallies ahead of October’s elections, with the safety of candidates a top concern in an atmosphere of deep political polarization.

The assassination of Japanese ex-Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at a campaign rally last Friday sparked a wave of concern on social media in Brazil that conditions at home were ripe for a similar crime.

Then on Sunday, a Lula partisan was shot dead at a political party event by a police officer shouting pro-Bolsonaro slogans.

Lula blamed the death on “hate speech encouraged by an irresponsible president,” while Bolsonaro countered that violent people should “join the left, which has an undeniable history of violent episodes.”

The president himself was stabbed in the abdomen during his previous presidential campaign in 2018 by a man who was later declared mentally unfit to stand trial.

“Political violence in Brazil has a long history,” political scientist Oliver Stuenkel of the Getulio Vargas Foundation in Sao Paolo told AFP.

“It has largely been confined to the municipal level, (but) we are now seeing it reaching the federal level, in part because of the radical, extreme polarization” of politics.

Historically, dozens of candidates are shot dead in every municipal election in Brazil.

Bolsonaro is trailing Lula in opinion polls ahead of the first round of the presidential election on October 2.

A runoff will be held on October 30 if no candidate receives 50 percent of the votes in the first ballot.

– “Clearly Concerned” –

Bolsonaro, 67, has upped his protections as president but doesn’t avoid crowds during the campaign.

Lula, 76, has hired a team of private security guards to reinforce the team of 35 police officers who political commentator Lauro Jardim told CBN radio are already looking after him.

The ex-president has been more reserved in his public appearances.

From the official start of the election campaign on August 16, a pool of around 300 federal police officers who are dedicated to election protection will be available to him and all of Bolsonaro’s other opponents.

According to the Federal Police, this “unprecedented” operation could be intensified if the risk calculation changed.

Lula and Bolsonaro, who lead the rest of the candidate pack, “both can be targeted by extremist individuals, so it’s good to see them taking their security more seriously,” said Silvio Cascione, Brazil director of consultancy Eurasia Group.

“Lula’s staff are clearly concerned about the risk … Lula will prioritize indoor events with strict safety protocols, while open-air events are “occurring much less frequently than previous campaigns,” he added.

Last week, a man threw a small explosive device into the crowd at a Lula campaign rally in a large public square in Rio de Janeiro.

No one was injured, but the attack raised concern as it took place despite restricted access to the event and the use of metal detectors to screen attendees.

– ‘violent language’ –

According to the University of Rio de Janeiro’s Observatory on Political and Electoral Violence, 214 incidents of violence against politicians, ranging from threats to killings, have been recorded since January this year.

About 40 were homicides – many of the victims candidates or ex-candidates for mayor or local council.

The total represents a 32 percent increase from the first half of 2020, when the country held local elections.

Observers say the political climate in Brazil has become highly polarized since Bolsonaro took office in 2019.

Left and right accuse each other of fueling violence.

Stuenkel points to the use of “violent language, particularly in pro-Bolsonaro groups or by the candidate himself”.

Bolsonaro has repeatedly tried to cast doubt on the credibility of the electoral system, and there are fears that if he loses, he could reject the result and even foment violence, similar to that in the United States.

“They are trying to turn the campaign into a war to instill fear in Brazilian society,” Lula accused Tuesday.

Experts have also raised concerns about a 474 percent explosion in private gun ownership under the Bolsonaro government.

Despite the growing nervousness, observers doubt that the candidates will significantly limit their public relations work.

“It’s hugely important[for her]to promote a narrative of broad, popular support for her candidacy,” Stuenkel said.

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#Security #fears #Bolsonaro #Lula #tense #election #campaign

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