Global City

Brazilians are divided over their political future

Populism on the rise, environment under threat, economy in question – Bolsonaro and Lula stand-off at the upcoming runoff election.

Supporters of former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva gather for a campaign rally in Sao Paulo, Brazil on Saturday, Oct. 29. (Photo courtesy of AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)

The 2022 Brazilian election is set for a runoff. Brazilians in America are hoping their country makes the right decision after years of protest, civil unrest and violence – only that choice seems to be in no way unilateral.

The top two candidates, Lula da Silva and Jair Bolsonaro, advanced to the runoff election on Oct. 30 after they failed to receive more than 50% of the vote in the first round. Lula led the round with 48.4% of the votes, while Bolsonaro received 43.4%.

The political violence in Brazil is nothing new. According to a recent survey by Brazilian polling firm Datafolha, it is estimated that more than 67% of the population says they fear becoming a victim of violence because of their political beliefs.

Nicolle Camara, 29, a Brazilian citizen and cashier at Supermercado in Culver City, is adamant about supporting anyone whose name is not Jair Bolsonaro. “Yeah, I’m just supporting Lula not because I like him, but because he has the best chances against him [Bolsonaro],” Camara said.

Lula da Silva is running for his third term as president of Brazil. He served as president from 2003 to 2011 and is considered to be one of the more popular political figures in the country’s history after lifting millions of Brazilians out of poverty due to an economic boom.

But in 2017, Lula was sentenced to nine and a half years in prison for corruption and money laundering, which was later increased to 12 years. He only served 580 days in prison before his release in 2019 after the Supreme Federal Court deemed defendants are allowed to exert all their appeals. To this day, Lula denies committing any crimes or wrongdoings.

His opponent, incumbent Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, has had his share of controversy. He downplayed COVID-19 calling it a “little flu,” contributed to the deforestation of the Amazon and degraded women and the LGBTQ community.

Though Bolsonaro’s brash personality triggers many, Brazilian citizen and University of Nebraska-Lincoln student Thiago Pereira, 23, is not fazed by it.

“His behavior doesn’t really bother me,” Pereira said.

Pereira has been an avid supporter of Bolsonaro, stating that his economic policies drive his desire to vote for the outspoken president. “His policies are more aligned to the ones that I believe to be the most beneficial for my country. It will provide more freedom to enterprise and also a more free market approach to the Brazilian economy,” Pereira said.

Bryan Pitts, assistant director of UCLA’s Latin American Institute, gave some insight into what would happen if each candidate won.

“If he [Bolsonaro] is reelected, we can see more of the same with the continuing accelerated deforestation of the Amazon, and continuing accelerated levels of police violence,” Pitts said. “If Lula wins, it could be much more difficult for him to implement his domestic agenda in terms of expanding, instead of reducing inequality and expanding opportunity, because he’s going to have a Congress that can be much more resistant to him.”

Pitts, who has a Ph.D. in Latin American history with a focus on Brazilian politics, believes people outside Brazil should care about this election because of the impact it could have on the environment.

“Certainly in global terms, this is the really stark thing, which is that the very survival of our planet could hinge upon who wins this election,” Pitts said.

Brazilians all over the world will be grinding their teeth on Oct. 30th.