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Brazil: Lula and Bolsonaro launch their campaign in symbolic places

Jair Bolsonaro was at midday in Minas Gerais (southeast), in Juiz de Fora "the city where I was born again", he said in the introduction to his speech.

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Brazil: Lula and Bolsonaro launch their campaign in symbolic places

Jair Bolsonaro was at midday in Minas Gerais (southeast), in Juiz de Fora "the city where I was born again", he said in the introduction to his speech.

The former army captain, 67, pushed the symbolism down to the smallest detail by climbing onto a platform installed on the same crossroads where he had been stabbed by an unbalanced man.

Dressed in a black jacket buttoned up to the neck concealing the shapes of a bulletproof vest, Jair Bolsonaro gave a speech loaded with patriotic declarations and allusions to God and the Bible.

He reiterated his pledge to fight double-digit inflation, abortion, drugs and defend 'private property', brandishing 'communist' threat to Brazil if he loses October election to rival Lula .

"Mito, mito, mito" (myth, editor's note), chanted the supporters of the far-right leader gathered around the slogan "God, fatherland, family and freedom", several of whom were dressed in T-shirts in the colors of Brazil.

Jair Bolsonaro then invited "the most important person here" to speak: the First Lady, a fervent evangelical given as much, if not more, an ovation than her husband. Michelle Bolsonaro invited the audience to close their eyes and recite "Our Father".

"It's about our future, (...) the future of the family, of the homeland, most of the people who are here are faithful to God," Marcio Bargiona, a former policeman, told AFP. 55 years old.

"The cleanup started four years ago, I want it to continue, I want the left to be rooted out of the country," said Jaqueline Lopes, a 50-year-old teacher from Rio de Janeiro.

- Symbolism -

Favorite in the polls, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, 76, will also make a campaign entry filled with symbolism: an automobile factory in his stronghold of Sao Bernardo do Campo, near Sao Paulo (southeast), an industrial zone where he was a turner-miller, before becoming a union leader.

"Lula has always gone there during the highlights of his political career, to strengthen his image as a representative of the workers," Adriano Laureno, political analyst at the consultancy firm Prospectiva, told AFP.

"As for Bolsonaro, he wants to present himself as a 'chosen one of God' who survived the attack" of 2018, continues this specialist, for whom this election is "the most polarized since the redemocratization" after the military dictatorship (1964 -1985).

The two favorites have already been crisscrossing the country for several weeks to get in touch with voters, but the official campaign, with meetings and distribution of leaflets, is only authorized from this Tuesday.

The TV spots will only be aired from August 26.

This Tuesday will also be marked in the early evening by the enthronement of Judge Alexandre de Moraes as President of the Superior Electoral Court (TSE).

This magistrate of the Supreme Court is one of the pet peeves of President Bolsonaro, against whom he ordered the opening of an investigation for the dissemination of false information on the electoral system.

The Head of State has constantly questioned the reliability of the electronic ballot boxes used in the country since 1996, citing "fraud" without ever providing evidence. Attacks which raise fears that he will not recognize the result of the ballot in the event of defeat.

Lula and Bolsonaro have both been invited to the investiture of Judge Moraes and could therefore end this first official day of campaigning together at the headquarters of the TSE, in Brasilia.

Monday evening, a poll by the Ipec institute gave a comfortable advantage to the former left-wing president, with 44% of voting intentions in the first round, against 32% for the current head of state.

The gap is closing, however. At the end of July, an opinion poll by the other benchmark institute, Datafolha, reported a larger gap: 47% for Lula, 29% for Bolsonaro.

The Head of State intends to catch up with the social aid recently approved by Parliament during a controversial amendment to the Constitution which exceptionally authorizes new expenditure during the electoral period.

The main concern of Brazilians, according to polls, is the economic situation, marked in recent years by high levels of unemployment and inflation, which have undermined Bolsonaro's popularity.

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