Bolsonaro tags Lula a ‘thief’

SAO PAULO, Brazil (AFP) — Sparks flew Sunday as far-right President Jair Bolsonaro accused leftist rival Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of massive corruption — and drew accusations of “destroying Brazil” in return — as they faced off in their first election debate.

The two front-runners, who waited until the last minute to confirm they would attend the first televised debate ahead of October’s elections, wasted no time in attacking each other.

Bolsonaro called Lula a “thief” in his opening salvo of the three-hour clash, pummeling the 76-year-old ex-president over the massive “Car Wash” corruption scandal centered on state-run oil giant Petrobras.

The investigation landed Lula in prison from 2018 to 2019 on controversial corruption charges — annulled by the Supreme Court last year.

“Your government was the most corrupt in Brazilian history,” Bolsonaro, 67, said, rattling off figures from the scandal in a rapid-fire attack.

“It was a kleptocracy, a government based on robbery…. What do you want to come back to power for? To do the same thing to Petrobras again?”

Lula fired back that Bolsonaro was spreading “untruths” — one of several exchanges in which they accused each other of lying. He in turn accused the incumbent of trashing his legacy of economic growth and anti-poverty initiatives.

“This country has been destroyed,” Lula said in his trademark gravelly voice, attacking Bolsonaro over increased poverty and hunger, soaring prices and a surge in destruction in the Amazon rainforest.

Lula fired back that Bolsonaro was spreading ‘untruths.’

Lula leads Bolsonaro by 47 percent to 32 percent, according to the latest poll from the Datafolha institute.

If no candidate wins more than 50 percent of valid votes in the first round on 2 October, the election will go to a run-off on 30 October.

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