The international community must signal that it will not tolerate “the untimely death of Brazilian democracy,” one of Jair Bolsonaro’s main rivals said after Brazil’s far-right president stepped up attacks on the electoral system from the South American country.
Speaking to the Guardian, center-left politician Ciro Gomes – who plans to challenge Bolsonaro in next year’s presidential election – called the outgoing president a “moral and human outgrowth” whose undemocratic rhetoric risked to trigger violence in the run-up to the vote. .
Bolsonaro, who is being treated in hospital for a bowel obstruction, has repeatedly attacked Brazil’s electronic voting system in recent weeks in what some see as an attempt to distract from a coronavirus corruption scandal who bludgeoned his ratings and fueled calls for his dismissal and street protests.
At one point, the right-wing populist, whom others fear will try to cling to power if he loses the 2022 election, hinted that the election could be called off due to his unproven claims. that electronic voting machines were used to rig past contests. “Either we have clean elections or we won’t have elections,” said Bolsonaro, whose tactics echo the baseless allegations of electoral fraud by Donald Trump and right-wing Peruvian presidential candidate Keiko Fujimori.
Gomes, a 63-year-old lawyer famous for his eloquent and pugnacious broadsides, said he doubted senior military personnel would support Bolsonaro’s “coup delusions” if he made a Trumpian offer to stay beyond the end of his four years. term. These fears intensified in March after the sudden dismissal of the defense minister and heads of the three branches of the armed forces.
But Gomes feared that widespread support for Bolsonaro’s radical ideas among the military police base would mean mutinies and “spasmodic episodes of violence” would occur ahead of next year’s elections. Gomes’ senator brother was shot twice in the chest last year during one of those police rebellions, led by a pro-Bolsonaro sergeant.
Gomes urged foreign governments to send a “strong and explicit” message that any democratic regression would be unacceptable to a nation that only emerged from two decades of military dictatorship in 1985. “We really need the world to turn around. towards us because [this is] one of the key factors that can make this route of collective madness and tragedy to Brazil appear to be heading [is stopped], ” he said.
Polls place Gomes third in next year’s race, behind left-wing leader and former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Bolsonaro, a former paratrooper known for his admiration for the generals who ruled Brazil between 1964 and 1985. Gomes, a former finance minister who has done three previous races, offered a scathing criticism of the “outlier” that currently rules Brazil.
“Whichever angle you choose to look at, Brazil is going through the worst government in its history. And that [realization] has now spread through the Brazilian population because Bolsonaro is fundamentally a fraud, ”said Gomes who believes a congressional televised investigation into Bolsonaro’s catastrophic response to Covid is largely to blame.
Gomes said the investigation, which began in April, revealed the denial and incompetence that contributed to the deaths of more than half a million Brazilians from a disease Bolsonaro called a “little flu.” “.
“People look at him like a soap opera or Big Brother,” Gomes said of the almost daily sessions of the inquiry, saying most citizens had come to view Bolsonaro as “a clumsy troublemaker” unable to solve the complex problems of Brazil.
In recent weeks, allegations of explosive corruption involving the purchase of Covid vaccines have also surfaced during hearings, which Gomes said revealed the level of “institutional decay” underway.
Gomes also had harsh words for his left-wing rival Lula, in whose first administration he served as a minister. Once close allies and friends, the two fell out during the 2018 presidential campaign with Gomes accusing Lula of facilitating Bolsonaro’s victory by supposedly insisting he was the Labor Party candidate (PT ) when he knew it would be impossible due to his recently overturned convictions. for corruption.
“Lula lied to the Brazilian people by claiming he was a candidate… and I told him it was a dangerous deception that would end up electing Bolsonaro. He ignored everything I said, ”said Gomes, who claimed he could have defeated Bolsonaro with the support of PT voters and Lula.
In the event, Lula’s little-known last-minute replacement Fernando Haddad was severely beaten by a right-wing radical Gomes claimed to be “a tropical Hitler”.
Gomes has been widely criticized by progressive Brazilians for failing to publicly defend Haddad in the second round against Bolsonaro and fly to Paris. He defended himself, saying he had “the personal and political right … not to campaign for a group that I consider to be a cause of the Bolsonaro tragedy”.
“I thought it would be a huge disaster but I could never have imagined that this disaster would number in the hundreds of thousands of deaths,” Gomes said of Bolsonaro’s government. ” [The pandemic] raised my worst expectations to the nth degree.