Brazilian President Bolsonaro personally attacked a journalist during an election debate with rival Lula

“I think you fall asleep thinking of me. You are in love with me,” Bolsonaro told Vera Magalhães after she asked him about the Covid-19 vaccination rate in Brazil. “You are a disgrace to journalism in Brazil,” he said.

Magalhães later said that Bolsonaro’s attitude was “absolutely out of control, unnecessary and … harmful to himself.” She said that she thought Bolsonaro “doesn’t like being interrogated by women”.

Bolsonaro’s insulting comments about Magalhain came after he faced criticism for his treatment of women. The far-right leader defended the government’s support for pro-women’s laws and claimed that “most of the women in Brazil love me” because he opposes drug legalization.

Bolsonaro and former President Lula joined four other candidates in the first televised debate ahead of the October presidential election. The debate focused on a range of issues, including the economy, climate change and the government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, but was peppered with personal attacks.

Bolsonaro has been forced to take a defensive stance due to the way he has handled the economy, the climate crisis and the pandemic. The president said the Brazilian economy is “thriving” despite record unemployment under his administration.

Meanwhile, Lula, the most popular candidate in recent opinion polls, has denied allegations of corruption and has maintained his innocence.

Lula was convicted of corruption in 2017 and turned himself in to federal authorities in April 2018 to begin serving a 12-year prison sentence. However, in 2021, the Supreme Court overturned the verdict, allowing him to run for president again.

“I was arrested so that you could be elected president, but then I was found not guilty. But I’m going to win now so I can see in one fell swoop what you so badly want to hide!” Lula said in regards to Bolsonaro’s alleged efforts to cover up information and weaken transparency since he took office.

Senator Simona Tebet of Brazil’s Democratic Movement Party and member of the country’s parliamentary commission on Covid-19 accused Bolsonaro of delaying Covid-19 vaccines and spreading fake news about the virus, which the president denied.

Three other candidates who took part in the debate were Soraya Tronicke of Brazil’s Union Party, former finance minister Ciro Gomes of the Democratic Labor Party, and political scientist and writer Luis Felipe D’Avila of the Novo party.

This will be Lula’s sixth run for the presidency of the Brazilian Workers’ Party (PT). He held the position from 2003 to 2011 and left office with a 90% approval rating after lifting millions of Brazilians out of poverty during his time in office.

However, his luck did not last long. After surviving throat cancer in 2011, da Silva was convicted of corruption and money laundering six years later. The charges came as a result of a massive investigation into the state oil company Petrobras.

The first round of Brazil’s presidential election is scheduled for October 2, and officials have warned that a highly competitive election could spark unrest.

Brazil could face
Minister for the country’s highest electoral court, Edson Fachin, said in June that risk of unrest “more serious” than the January 6, 2021 uprising at the US Capitol.

Bolsonaro, who is behind Lula in the polls, has repeatedly questioned the country’s electoral process and criticized, in particular, the use of electronic ballots, a system in place in 2000. He also called on the military to hold a parallel “public” vote count.

Fashin said the electoral authorities would not allow interference from the federal government or the military, and added that the Organization of American States (OAS) had agreed to be an observer in the Brazilian elections.

Camilo Rocha and Marcia Reverdosa of CNN reported from Sao Paulo, while Ivana Kottasova wrote from London.

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