RIO DE JANEIRO ( Associated Press) — Two Brazil’s presidential candidates on Wednesday sought to bolster the support of their supporters. On the one hand, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva campaigned among the poor at the Alemao Favela in Rio de Janeiro, while the current President Jair Bolsonaro appeared before the parishioners at the sprawling Basilica of Our Lady of Aparecida in the state of So Paulo.
A few days earlier, Lula, the former president who ruled Brazil between 2003 and 2010, received more than 48% of the vote in the first round. Bolsonaro received 43% of the preferences and since none of them received more than 50% of the vote, they would face each other in a second election round on 30 October.
The two seem to have chosen to celebrate the nation’s patron saint, Our Lady of Aparecida, in their comfort zone.
In the Alemao, along with Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes and local community leaders, Lula attacked his rival’s education and public safety policies.
“The state manifests itself in the community only through the police; We have to end this,” declared the Left. “Health, culture and education must come before the police.”
In the outskirts of Brazil’s larger cities, Lula has recounted much of his party’s defeat in recent years, and especially in the 2018 presidential elections.
“This is a great turning point between 2018 and 2022,” said Pedro Abramové, Latin America executive director of the Open Society Foundation. “There was a significant increase in the votes of the Workers’ Party, especially because it had grown so much in the peripheries.”
Many Brazilians were disappointed by Bolsonaro’s handling of the pandemic, which has killed nearly 700,000 Brazilians, one of the highest numbers in the world.
Still, Lula lags behind Bolsonaro in Rio state by more than 10 percent and So Paulo by seven points, two extremely important states.
Bolsonaro has also gained popularity in medium-sized cities, said Abramove, who along with other political analysts are still waiting to see the impact the election will have on poorer areas of current government spending.
Bolsonaro backed Congress last July when he dramatically increased subsidies to expand public aid, cooking gas subsidies and create new cash transfer programs for truck drivers and taxi drivers – the equivalent of about $7.6 billion.
This month the president pushed welfare program payments so that they appear in the bank accounts of millions of families, days before the second election round. It also added nearly 500,000 more families to the program and promised a 13th payout for single mothers.
“I think it’s safe to say that if it weren’t for the help of Oxilio Brasil, Lula would have won the first round,” Abramovie said.
In the Basilica of Aparecida, thousands of pilgrims make their annual pilgrimage, some of them walking for several days to attend one of the many religious services on Wednesdays.
The cathedral can hold up to 35,000 people, and is currently fully open after reducing its services during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bolsonaro is doing particularly well among evangelicals, who make up about a third of the population and welcome his conservative agenda. Many evangelical clergy have used his platform to support presidential candidacy.
Sylvana Alves, 38, a teacher from So Paulo, was not very pleased with the president’s visit. For him, “mixing politics and religion is not very healthy.”
“If they’re here on this day it’s not necessarily Our Lady’s Day, but since we’re in the election phase, they want to win votes, right?” Alves announced.
Associated Press video journalist Tatiana Polastri contributed to this report by Aparecida.