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Women In Brazil Are Mobilizing Against The Presidential Election Front-Runner


To Brazil now where Brazilians will vote on Sunday in what is considered their most divisive presidential election in decades. Women are mobilizing against the front-runner in unprecedented numbers. He is a far-right congressman with a reputation for misogyny, homophobia and racism. NPR's Philip Reeves has this report.

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD #1: (Chanting) Ele nao. Ele nao.

PHILIP REEVES, BYLINE: This huge crowd is chanting ele nao. That means not him. Him refers to Jair Bolsonaro, a retired army captain whose lead in the polls has been steadily growing.

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD #1: (Chanting in Portuguese).

REEVES: We're in Rio de Janeiro at a demonstration convened by an online movement of women. Luiza Arantes is 18 and a law student who's here.

LUIZA ARANTES: Just to stand up and say that we've had enough with the patriarchalism in our society, especially with male politicians in Brazil who think they can say whatever they want and there are no repercussions.

REEVES: Bolsonaro has a record of making offensive remarks about women, black and indigenous Brazilians and the LGBT community. People from all these groups are here at this protest to try to ensure their next president...


REEVES: ...Is not Bolsonaro, a man who says he admires Brazil's past dictatorship and wants to fill his government with generals. Larissa Uliana is 30 and works in business administration.

LARISSA ULIANA: I think this is global. I think, like - I think the women, gays, black people - they are talking more. They are trying to get their rights.

REEVES: That rally was in Rio on Saturday. There were many others against Bolsonaro that day, including a vast crowd in the city of Sao Paolo. Like the #MeToo movement, the #NotHim hashtag has gone viral. Speaking out isn't easy, says Larissa Uliana.

ULIANA: I work with a lot of people who support Bolsonaro. I have also in my family people who support Bolsonaro. What makes me really sad is that we cannot talk.

CHRISTIAN DUNKER: As a clinician, as a psychoanalyst, I'm seeing for the first time in all my career people discussing politics in everyday life. I mean, families are divided, and old friends from school are not speaking. People are suffering more than common.

REEVES: Christian Dunker is professor of psychology at the University of Sao Paulo. He thinks Brazil's becoming a different place.

DUNKER: This is a kind of new phase in the conscience of the country because our own image around being friendly people, being cordial to each other collapsed.

REEVES: Nearly a month ago, Bolsonaro was stabbed and badly injured at a rally. He left hospital a few days ago. Brazil's political rhetoric cooled down after that attack.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Speaking Portuguese).

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD #2: (Speaking Portuguese).

REEVES: It's back at full volume.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Speaking Portuguese).

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD #2: (Speaking Portuguese).

REEVES: These are some of Bolsonaro's women supporters at a rally on Rio's Copacabana Beach. A poll Thursday showed 35 percent of Brazil's voters overall intend to choose Bolsonaro. It found his support among women is 7 points lower, although this has recently grown significantly. Many women here say they support Bolsonaro wholeheartedly, especially his hard-line approach to Brazil's violent crime epidemic. Others have agonized over whether to back Bolsonaro. Amanda Lemos is 21 and studying psychology.

AMANDA LEMOS: (Through interpreter) I believe he's a male chauvinist and homophobic like other politicians, but he's the only candidate who seems to have a strong plan to begin to lead Brazil out of chaos.

REEVES: The belief that Brazil's in chaos is a big part of this. The country's emerging from its worst-ever recession. A massive corruption investigation has landed top politicians in prison, including former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Bolsonaro's supporters on the right blame Lula and his leftist Workers' Party for these woes. Lula's chosen candidate, Fernando Haddad, is polling second after Bolsonaro. In this feverish climate, Amanda Lemos also finds it tough to talk to people about politics.

LEMOS: (Through interpreter) I'm afraid of telling people I'm a Bolsonaro supporter because of losing friends. I lost a friend this week.

REEVES: If no candidate gets more than 50 percent on Sunday, there'll be a second round on October 28. That'll finally decide if Bolsonaro's to be president. Yet, says psychoanalyst Christian Dunker, it won't heal the painful divisions among Brazilians caused by making that choice.

DUNKER: I'm afraid we will never recover.

REEVES: Philip Reeves, NPR News, Rio de Janeiro.


NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Philip Reeves is an award-winning international correspondent covering South America. Previously, he served as NPR's correspondent covering Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India.
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