Bolsonaro and Lula trade insults in first debate over Brazil Presidential election

The presidential debate projected onto a building in Rio de Janeiro

Brazil’s right-wing President, Jair Bolsonaro, and leftist leader Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva have taken part in a fiery first television debate ahead of October’s general election.

Mr Bolsonaro accused the former president of having led the most corrupt government in Brazil’s history.

Lula, in turn, said Mr Bolsonaro had destroyed Brazil.

Opinion polls suggest Lula, who served as president from 2003 to 2010 is ahead in the election race. But the gap between the two candidates seems to be narrowing.

On Sunday, the two frontrunners appeared on TV in São Paulo along with four other presidential candidates.

Mr Bolsonaro, 67, wasted no time in targeting Lula, 76. “Your government was the most corrupt in Brazilian history,” he said.

The insult was a reference to Lula being convicted of corruption and jailed in 2018. The corruption scandal came to be known as Operation Car Wash and involved the state-run oil giant Petrobas.

The judgement against Lula was later overturned.

What do you want to come back to power for? To do the same thing to Petrobras again?” Mr Bolsonaro asked.

Lula retaliated, accusing Mr Bolsonaro of spreading lies and trashing his presidential legacy.

He said his government should be remembered for helping to lift tens of millions of people out of poverty. He accused Mr Bolsonaro of “destroying” the country.

The first round of the election will be held on 2 October with a second round scheduled for 30 October if none of the candidates gets 50% of the vote.

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