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Brazil's Bolsonaro campaigns on Independence Day

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By Katy Watson

BBC South America correspondent, Rio de Janeiro

President Jair Bolsonaro greeted by supporters in Rio de Janeiro, 7 September 2022Image source, Reuters

Brazil’s President, Jair Bolsonaro, has used the country’s Independence Day to campaign for his re-election in next month’s presidential vote.

He began the celebrations in the capital, Brasilia, where he took part in a military procession.

He then travelled to Rio de Janeiro, where he flew over tens of thousands of people on Copacabana beach.

Mr Bolsonaro faces a strong challenge in October from leftist ex-president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

He told his supporters in the capital that the polls showing that he was trailing his rival were “a lie”. The latest poll from Datafolha shows Lula with 45% of the votes against Mr Bolsonaro with 32%.

“We know we are facing a battle of good versus evil,” he told the crowd in Brasilia. “The people are on our side – the side of good.”

Ahead of the celebrations marking 200 years since Brazil’s independence from Portugal, the president – and presidential candidate – had called for his fans to come out on to the streets in support of him. Many more thousands gathered in other cities across Brazil.

Supporters started arriving at Copacabana early in the morning. There was an official airshow and a paratroop display and once the official duties were done, Mr Bolsonaro then addressed the crowd once more.

“We needed to wake up from the lethargy, from the lies, the pretty words but also of the cheating of our population,” he said in a direct dig at rival Lula and his Workers’ Party. “I’m not educated, I swear, but I am not a thief.”

The crowd of supporters cheered loudly – a sea of green, yellow and blue. Everyone dressed in the colours of the Brazilian flag, the colours now most associated with Brazil’s far right.

“Bolsonaro is our freedom,” said supporter Tania Moura. “I’m here because for a long time, we haven’t had a democracy.”

On the water, navy ships were in the distance and closer to the shore, dozens of jet skis gathered – many waving the Brazilian flag – in support of the president.

“We are celebrating because we are going to win, democracy is going to win here,” said Henrique Vendrini. “We don’t accept the polls, we believe what we can see here, a lot of people just celebrating Brazil, celebrating democracy, and celebrating the new re-election.”

Lula responded to the personal attacks by Mr Bolsonaro by comparing how he handled Independence Day as leader.

“I never used the national day, the day for the Brazilian people, the most important day because of independence, as a political campaign tool,” he said.

While Bolsonaro supporters gathered on the beach, in the centre of Rio de Janeiro, a smaller crowd came out in protest. A parallel event known as the Cry of the Excluded, designed to give a voice to those often forgotten by the state, this year’s event was particularly pointed.

“We are here to fight for democracy, to get back our colours of our flag,” said Constância Laviola, dressed in a yellow and green T-shirt and hugging a cardboard cut-out of Lula.

“This should be a day of pride, but some of the politicians are trying to kidnap our day, because this is the day of the nation, of the people, and not for a political campaign.”

Brazil’s first round of elections will be held on 2 October. If no candidate wins more than 50% of the vote, a second round will be held at the end of October.

Media caption,

Watch: Brazil’s President Bolsonaro attempts to grab a heckler’s phone

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