Brazilians will head to the polls on Sunday to choose the next president, vice president, state governors, and members of Congress. Incumbent President Jair Bolsonaro, his top rival former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, and their fellow candidates used the final days before the vote to make their final bids to Brazilians.

Brazil’s seven main presidential candidates gathered together on Thursday evening to hold the third and final debate. Insults and accusations were the main protagonists of the late-night debate, in particular barbs thrown between the top two candidates.

The approximately four-hour debate this week was hosted by Brazil’s TV Globo and included the election’s frontrunners: Bolsonaro and Lula, as well as Orthodox Priest Father Kelmon Souza of the Brazilian Labour Party, Luiz Felipe D’Avila of the New Party, Soraya Thronicke of the Brazil Union Party, Simone Tebet of the Brazilian Democratic Movement, and Ciro Gomez from the Democratic Labour Party.

While defending his economic policies, Bolsonaro accused Lula of being a “liar, former prisoner and traitor to the country.” Bolsonaro also stated that the “future of the nation is at stake” and accused Lula of being a “gang leader,” to which Lula responded by cataloging his rival’s words as an “impudence.”

Bolsonaro’s reference to prison was a reminder of the fact that Lula had been sentenced to, at its peak, a total of 25 years in prison for using public tax dollars to buy a luxury property. The nation’s top court, the Supreme Federal Tribunal (STF), overturned the conviction last year to allow him to run for president again.

“It is insane for a president to come here to say that,” Lula replied. The socialist candidate continued by expressing that, if elected, one of his first acts as president will be to rescind the 100-year secrecy imposed by Bolsonaro administration over the data pertaining the acquisition of Chinese Coronavirus vaccines during the pandemic — a prerogative approved during the government of Lula’s protege, Dilma Rousseff, that allows the imposition of such secrecy when publicity of said information violates a person’s intimacy, privacy, honor, and image.

Bolsonaro continued by calling Brazil under Lula, who was president for most of the 2000s, a “kleptocracy.”

“Lula was the head of a large criminal organization. We cannot continue [to be] the country of theft,” Bolsonaro asserted.

Lula’s conviction was part of a much broader police investigation known as “Operation Car Wash,” in which politicians of many political parties received bribes from private contractors seeking to secure overpriced deals for government infrastructure projects. Most of the actions leading to convictions in “Operation Car Wash” occurred under the tenures of Lula and successor Dilma Rousseff, who served in Lula’s cabinet.

Candidate Felipe D’Avila agreed with Bolsonaro, declaring Lula responsible for the biggest corruption scandal in the history of Brazil. 

“How is it that a person like that has the moral capacity to lead Brazil?” he asked.

Father Kelmon also availed himself of an opportunity to take jabs at Lula da Silva. 

“You are responsible for corruption in Brazil. You were convicted. You should not even be here with the rest of the candidates,” the Orthodox priest said to the former socialist president.

Lula denied any involvement in the corruption cases — that he was already convicted of in the past — by expressing that he had been acquitted of all charges. 

“I was acquitted in 26 trials within Brazil, I was acquitted by the Supreme Court and I was acquitted in two trials at the United Nations,” he responded, while calling the priest of an “impostor” and a “scumbag.”

“I am a Christian, I am married in the church, baptized, confirmed and a churchgoer. But I’m not seeing a church representative in your face,” Lula said. “I’m seeing an imposter. Someone in disguise here in front of me. I just don’t know how he managed to deceive so many people.”

The socialist candidate also had something to say to candidate Ciro Gomes, who was minister of “national integration” between 2003 and 2006 during Lula’s presidency. 

“Ciro, I find you nervous. I’ll tell you something you could say, in fact: you left the government to be a candidate for federal deputy against my will. The second truth is that during my period of government, in the eight years that I was president, you lived through the moment of greatest social conquest of this country,” he claimed.

Gomes responded to Lula, “I participated in the government and I left precisely because of the serious contradictions in the economy, you know that very well, and, even more serious, the moral contradictions.”

The last rounds of polls show that, while Lula appears to count with an ample lead against Bolsonaro, it falls short from the required 50 percent to win the presidency outright. If no candidate in Brazil receives over 50 percent of the vote, a second “runoff” election between the top two candidates will take place on October 30.

Christian K. Caruzo is a Venezuelan writer and documents life under socialism. You can follow him on Twitter here.

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