The two presidential candidates who will square off in Brazil's runoff this month are calling for an end to politically motivated violence. Numerous cases of violence were reported in the week before the first round of voting on Sunday and have been ongoing since then. The second round of voting is scheduled Oct. 28.
The race has exposed deep divisions in Latin America's largest nation, with the two candidates representing opposing visions for the future and many Brazilians worried by violent incidents in the name of politics.
On the right is front-runner Jair Bolsonaro, a former army captain who speaks approvingly of the country's 1964-1985 dictatorship and has promised a violent crackdown on drug gangs and other criminals. On the left is Fernando Haddad, a former Sao Paulo mayor who promises to return the country to the leftist policies of his
Workers' Party, which governed between 2003 and 2016.
While most of the incidents of violence have been blamed on Bolsonaro supporters, the candidate himself was stabbed while campaigning on Sept. 6, allegedly by a man who told police God had told him to attack. Bolsonaro was discharged from the hospital on Sept. 29.
In a tweet late Wednesday, Bolsonaro said he didn't want the vote of anybody who practices violence against those who didn't vote for me.
In a meeting with members of Congress in Rio on Thursday, Bolsonaro again condemned the violence — with some threats of his own. Even if they are my supporters, I will make them pay if they don't obey the law, he said.
His statements came after days of criticism from Workers' Party supporters who said Bolsonaro was turning a blind eye to attacks by his followers. Runner-up Haddad also called for an end to the brutality, saying parties need to confront the issue together. He has suggested signing a no violence pact with Bolsonaro.
This escalation of violence has to stop, Haddad tweeted late Wednesday night.
Brazil has long struggled to curb violence, a part of daily life in many areas. The country has the dubious distinction of being the world leader in total number of homicides each year; last year, a record 63,880 were slain.
Still, Natalia Viana, one of the directors of Publica, a nonprofit investigative journalism organization that produced a report this week on incidents of political violence, said such attacks are a new phenomenon for Brazil.
Publica found 50 incidents of attacks by Bolsonaro supporters compared to six against them since the beginning of October through Wednesday. The attacks happened all over the country and included beatings, stabbings, death threats and even homicide, according to the group. Viana said there are likely many more than those they were able to document.
One of the most extreme cases was in the northeastern city of Salvador, where a capoeira teacher and supporter of the left-leaning Workers' Party was stabbed to death during a discussion with a supporter of Bolsonaro. Police say the attacker was arrested and confessed the killing was politically motivated.
Also in Salvador, a university professor was arrested for allegedly running over a man who was selling Bolsonaro t-shirts.