Sao Bernardo do Campo – Front-runner Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva criticized far-right incumbent Jair Bolsonaro on Thursday for implying illiteracy helped the veteran leftist win Brazil’s first-round presidential election, calling his rival a “monster” whose government “doesn’t care about education.”
The latest spat between the heavyweights battling to win Brazil’s October 30 presidential runoff erupted after Bolsonaro highlighted the high illiteracy levels in the impoverished northeast, where Lula won resoundingly in Sunday’s first-round vote.
“Lula won in nine of the 10 states with the highest illiteracy rates. Know where those states are? In the northeast,” Bolsonaro, 67, said on Wednesday night in a live address on Facebook – the far-right president’s preferred communication channel.
“Those states in the northeast have been governed by (Lula’s) Workers’ Party for the past 20 years. Wherever the left goes, it brings illiteracy, lack of education and unemployment.”
Lula, Bolsonaro clash over illiteracy in Brazil https://t.co/3W9XWM1W1a
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Lula, 76, gave a fiery reply at a rally in Sao Bernardo do Campo, the southeastern city where he rose to prominence as a union leader in the 1970s.
“My adversary said I only beat him in the (first-round) election because people in the northeast are illiterate,” said the ex-president, who himself hails from the northeastern state of Pernambuco.
“People aren’t illiterate because they want to be. They’re illiterate because this country never had a government that cared about education… It took a nearly illiterate metalworker to bring universities here,” he added, referring to his own presidency (2003-2010).
“No one with a drop of northeastern blood can vote for that monster running the country, who is in denial.”
Bolsonaro is aggressively chasing votes in the northeast, home to a quarter of Brazil’s 214 million people.
But the region was colored bright red for Lula on Brazil’s electoral map Sunday night, giving him 67 percent of its votes to 27 percent for Bolsonaro.
The nationwide race was far tighter: 48 percent for Lula to 43 percent for Bolsonaro.
Bolsonaro defended himself on Twitter.
“Don’t fall for rhetoric trying to create divisions between us and our brothers in the northeast,” he wrote.
The illiteracy rate in the northeast is 11.6 percent, well above the 7.6 percent nationwide, official data show.
Picture: Pixabay/Gleidicon Rodrigues