A leftist victory in Brazil’s election could be the lifeline Cuba, Venezuela need right now

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SAO PAULO, Brazil — While Brazil’s perennial leftist leader Lula da Silva may enjoy support from the majority of Brazil’s artistic community, the incumbent president Jair Bolsonaro pulled off a major coup this week, receiving a public endorsement from the country’s biggest soccer star, Neymar.

In a video posted on Twitter, the goalscoring legend danced and sang along to a Bolsonaro campaign jingle, proclaiming: “Vote, vote and confirm, 22 is Bolsonaro.” The right-wing candidate, whose electoral number to vote is 22, subsequently returned the favor with a visit to the Neymar Foundation in Praia Grande, Sao Paulo. Still, even the support of the great Neymar may not be enough to save Bolsonaro’s limping campaign.

A tense nation gathered around their television screens Thursday night to watch the final presidential debate on the Globo TV channel, which hosts many of Brazil’s most popular soap operas. In fact, the debate began at the odd time at 22.30 and extended to 2 in the morning, directly after Pantanal, a Brazilian soap opera.

The debate featured a unique and engaging format, a bit like a game show, where various permutations of candidates and questions were drawn from glass bowls, and two candidates at a time confronted each other face-to-face in three-minute intervals.

President Jair Bolsonaro speaks during a press conference on the International Day Against Corruption at the Planalto Palace on December 9, 2021 in Brasilia, Brazil.

President Jair Bolsonaro speaks during a press conference on the International Day Against Corruption at the Planalto Palace on December 9, 2021 in Brasilia, Brazil.
(Andressa Anholete/Getty Images)

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Some of the most tense moments occurred when one of the seven presidential candidates, Soraya Thronicke, pointedly asked Bolsonaro if he planned to stage a coup in the event of an election loss.

Bolsonaro dodged the question, saying, “Well, that’s not the point,” before going on to claim that former ally Thronicke owed his Senate seat to his coattails.

The question of Bolsonaro’s potential refusal to accept the election results is the elephant in the room. He has made conflicting statements on the subject, but in widely publicized remarks in mid-September, he appeared to acknowledge the possibility of losing his re-election, which seems more likely if the polls are to be believed.

“If it is God’s will, I will continue … if not, I will pass the (presidential) frame and retire,” Bolsonaro stated in a Christian podcast. “At my age, I have nothing left to do here on Earth if my journey in politics ends on December 31.”

President Jair Bolsonaro on stage at his last campaign rally in Sao Paulo.  Photo: David Unsworth for Fox News Digital.

President Jair Bolsonaro on stage at his last campaign rally in Sao Paulo. Photo: David Unsworth for Fox News Digital.
(Photo: David Unsworth for Fox News Digital.)

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It’s a departure from more aggressive statements he made in late August, when he famously declared: “I have three alternatives for my future: to be arrested, to be killed or to win.”

While a Bolsonaro loss is likely to be met with street protests and accusations of electoral fraud by some of the former army captain’s rabid supporters, it seems highly unlikely that Brazil’s military forces would intervene in some sort of coup attempt to keep Bolsonaro in power.

Nycollas Liberato, president of Brazil Students for Liberty and himself a former cadet at the Agulhas Negras Military Academy (the Brazilian equivalent of West Point), echoes this view, noting: “Both of their groups of supporters (Bolsonaro and Lula) have an extremely aggressive and intolerant politics towards those who disagree with them … nevertheless, I do not think that Brazil is in danger of a democratic breakdown after the elections. The armed forces … behave in an exemplary manner and do not interfere with questionable political statements .”

Brazilian presidential candidate for the leftist Workers' Party (PT) and former president (2003-2010), Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, speaks during an election rally in Manaus, Brazil, on August 31, 2022

Brazilian presidential candidate for the leftist Workers’ Party (PT) and former president (2003-2010), Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, speaks during an election rally in Manaus, Brazil, on August 31, 2022
((Photo by MICHAEL DANTAS/AFP) (Photo by MICHAEL DANTAS/AFP via Getty Images))

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Both camps see the other candidate as a serious threat.

Brazilians generally admit that Lula is corrupt, but they excuse it by claiming that all politicians are corrupt in the country; they see Lula as something of a happy-go-lucky Robin Hood figure who redistributes resources to the poor.

Political analyst Flavio Morgenstern claims, “Lula has a very strong ideological appeal in a country polluted by socialist ideas,” adding, “he is the only character with charisma on the left because of his already mythical past.”

That past worries some. The political analyst Cristian Derosa claims: “If Lula is elected, the result will be the return of the strengthening of the Sao Paulo Forum block, an entity created by Lula and Fidel Castro to maintain power from the left in Latin America.”

Supporters of jailed former president of Brazil Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva place a banner with the image of the former president and text written in Portuguese that reads "Freedom for Lula, "Lula is innocent, Lula is a political prisoner," at a bus station in Brasilia, Brazil, Thursday, Aug. 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

Supporters of jailed former president of Brazil Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva place a banner with the image of the former president and text written in Portuguese that reads “Freedom for Lula, “Lula is innocent, Lula is a political prisoner,” at bus station in Brasilia, Brazil, Thursday, Aug. 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
(AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

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“In this project … Brazil has the role of main financier. Under their administrations, Lula and [ex-president] Dilma carried out many projects in Venezuela and Cuba, such as ports and hydroelectric plants.”

Still, Lula is unlikely to seek major changes that would jeopardize the current US-Brazil relationship.

Derosa claims, “the political forces represented by Lula are anti-American by definition,” but he notes that “Lula is good at negotiations and has always maintained an attitude of dialogue with everyone. He would not make a trade break, but he would certainly prefer multilateral relations … he would hardly break with the United States, even more so while the United States is governed by the Democratic Party.”

Morgenstern adds that “with Biden, Lula would have an ally with some tension … his interest (in the United States) has always been purely economic,” but “Lula’s friends are enemies of even the American left … the communist dictatorships of Latin America, China, Russia, the Palestinian Authority.”

As for why Lula’s close ties to dictatorships have never been turned against him in Brazil, Morgenstern sees a significant difference between parties in Brazil and elsewhere: “The Brazilian ideological left really believes that ‘social inequality’ is the biggest problem in the universe , so it is an avowed fan of dictatorships (Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua), unlike the American left.”

Brazilians go to the polls on October 2 and will have a second round on October 30 if no candidate wins 50%.

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