FLORIANOPOLIS, Brazil, Sept 27 (Reuters) – The day after a Workers Party (PT) official was shot dead by a supporter of far-right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro in July, the Federal Police guarding his leftist campaign rival sent a classified memo to senior colleagues across Brazil.
They were calling for backup.
In the document seen by Reuters, the officers warned that former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s safety was threatened by “radicalized opponents,” increasingly armed with deadly weapons due to Bolsonaro’s loosening of gun controls. They asked the top Federal Police officers in each state to reinforce Lula campaign events with bulletproof cars, tactical teams, drones and intelligence reports.
“The current scenario is unprecedented in the history of Brazilian democracy and increases the challenge of guaranteeing the physical safety of the candidate,” they wrote.
The memo is part of a series of red alerts about political violence in the run-up to the Oct. 2 election, Brazil’s most fraught since the end of military rule in 1985. Its warnings about an armed and angry resistance to the PT also offer a glimpse of the lingering challenges Lula may face if, as polls suggest, he beats Bolsonaro next month.
The nationalist former soldier has demonized Lula and his allies as criminal “communists.” He has sought military backing for his unfounded claims of voter fraud, which are undermining faith in Brazil’s voting system. And he has urged his followers to arm themselves to guard against any electoral chicanery.
Some of them have responded by stockpiling guns and lashing out at leftists during a tense campaign marred by high-profile cases of violence.