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More violence is feared as Brazil works for the far-right presidency



SAO PAULO (Reuters) – After a presidential campaign in which political violence overshadows the political debate, many Brazilians fear that the attacks will continue after the foreseeable election on Sunday of right-wing extremist right-wing candidate Jair Bolsonaro.

FILE PHOTO: Federal deputy Jair Bolsonaro, a candidate for the presidential elections in Brazil, shows a doll of himself during a rally in Curitiba, Brazil on March 29, 201

8. REUTERS / Rodolfo Buhrer / File photo

Bolsonaro's supporters in The past few weeks have threatened to hurt Supreme Court judges and physically attack journalists and opposition voters.

Violence was also attributed to the supporters of Bolsonaro's opponent Fernando Haddad of the Workers' Party (PT), albeit to a much lesser extent.

Brazil's tense political climate has been compared by some in the US with divisions where several prominent opponents of President Donald Trump received pipe bombs in the post this week.

But the situation in Brazil is far more dangerous, say analysts, because they already suffer from extreme violence, often without consequences for the perpetrators.

Nearly 64,000 murders were registered last year, but less than 10 percent of homicides are charged according to government sources.

Bolsonaro, who holds double-digit leadership in all polls, suffered a near-fatal attack during an election campaign last month.

He is still recovering, but the episode only reinforced his aggressive rhetoric by linking verbal attacks on political opponents with vows to forcefully fight crime and prosecute graft cases against opponents.

"Your PT team, you will have the civil and military police with legal support to back the law," he said in a video broadcast to Supporters at demonstrations last Sunday. "These criminal reds will be banished from our homeland."

He says he does not approve of his supporters' violence, but analysts say his daily rumors about social media platforms are taking a toll.

"Bolsonaro has opened Pandora's box of political violence in an already extremely violent country because of his rhetoric of supporting violence and the aggressive nature with which he fought," said Rafael Alcadipani, public safety expert Getulio Vargas Foundation University in São Paulo.

"If people thought that Brazil has extremely high levels of violence in normal times, imagine how it will be under a president who aggressively drives violence between police and political opponents?"

TARGET JOURNALISTS

Bolsonaro's Attacks In the media about the aggressive reporting he calls the "Fake News," newsrooms have cooled down, dealing with an increase in threats and physical violence.

Abraji, the Brazilian investigative journalism group, has since January said 64 reporters covering the campaign have been physically attacked and another 82 have been targeted in online hate campaigns.

By comparison, according to the US Press Freedom Tracker database, which is run by more than two dozen press freedom groups, 40 US journalists who dealt with all issues were physically attacked during this period.

Bolsonaro supporters were blamed for most of the attacks in Brazil, Abraji said, while PT supporters were responsible for a smaller portion.

Folha de S.Paulo, Brazil's largest newspaper, was flooded with threats, including the reporter's six-year-old son, who revealed alleged illegality in the use of WhatsApp by the Bolsonaro campaign to spread misinformation.

The federal police investigate a retired army colonel who has repeatedly threatened the Supreme Court judges with widespread video threats, warning them against Bolsonaro. The man now wears an electronic ankle strap so the authorities can monitor his whereabouts.

Carmen Lucia, the judge of the Supreme Court, said the attacks are a threat to democracy. They said this week that "aggression aimed at justice is an attack on the entire court as an institution"

ROUGH RHETORIC

Bolsonaro, 63 Former former army captain is a fervent supporter of the 1964-85 Brazilian military regime and quotes one of the most notorious torturers of the day, Colonel Carlos Ustra, as a personal hero.

As president, he says he would encourage the police to kill suspected criminals with devotion. He wants to loosen weapons controls so that civilians can defend themselves, and sometimes he means that violence can also solve Brazil's political problems.

In an election campaign, he reached for the cameraman's tripod, shouldered it like a rifle and shouted into a microphone, "we're going to beat up all supporters of the Labor Party!"

His campaign says his rhetoric is simply about politically incorrect jokes that should irritate his leftist rival Fernando Haddad.

Bolsonaro, with his riotous anti-establishment stance, has won over ten million Brazilian voters, citizens who are tired of being the target of rampant street crime and endemic political corruption he swears.

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Matheus Ferreira, an 18-year-old snack vendor from Sao Paulo who comes out of a violent slum, said the tense situation filled him with fear, but not much beyond standing every day at the door.

"I will vote for Bolsonaro," he said this week. "If he could make Brazil safer, he would have been worth the risk."

(For a graph on Brazilian elections, click on tmsnrt.rs/2Ixe0NI)

Brad Brooks coverage; Edited by Clive McKeef and Joseph Radford

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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