In the church of Copacabana, Catholic voters argue about the elections in Brazil

In the church of Copacabana, Catholic voters argue about the elections in Brazil


“A True Christian Chooses Lula!” A supporter of the ex-president yells at a voter for far-right President Jair Bolsonaro at a Catholic church that also serves as a polling station in Rio de Janeiro.

The atmosphere is high after Sunday’s mass at this Copacabana church as the country holds a cliffhanger vote between depraved left-wing hero Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and his far-right nemesis.

Joana d’Arco Perina, a member of Lula’s Labor Party (PT) and ardent Catholic, is red-faced with anger as she listens to Elizabeth de Souza defend Bolsonaro, who Perina believes “destroyed everything”.

“Lula made a deal with the devil! Bolsonaro was sent by God to save us,” replies De Souza, who is wearing a bright yellow and green shirt, the colors of Brazil’s flag, which many believe was hijacked by the president’s supporters.

Her shirt bears the slogan: “My party is Brazil.”

The 69-year-old retiree is also a staunch Catholic and believes the election is a “battle between good and evil,” an argument made by first lady Michelle Bolsonaro, a devoted evangelical.

Religion has been at the center of a highly polarized election campaign in the nation of 215 million people, most of whom are Catholic but a third belong to burgeoning evangelical churches.

In the final Datafolha Institute poll on Saturday, Lula, 77, led among Catholics with 56 percent of the vote, while Bolsonaro was the evangelical Christian favorite with 65 percent.

Both parties stepped up efforts to win votes among these groups in the campaign ahead of Sunday’s runoff.

– abortion, family –

Religion and traditional values ??have become a battleground, with Bolsonaro accusing Lula of trying to close churches and allow abortions, a sensitive issue in the conservative country.

“Family is sacred to me,” Lula said last week while meeting with evangelical leaders. He has also denied plans to make abortion legal.

His recent attempts to woo the faithful failed to convince Edval Maximo, 41, who came to vote for Bolsonaro in the church’s converted annex.

“I’ve never heard Lula mention the word of God. He’s only bringing it up now that he’s campaigning,” said the green-eyed doorman at a Rio apartment building.

“The left and the communists hate religion,” he added, echoing an oft-repeated comment by Bolsonaro.

Nearly 60 percent of those surveyed by Datafolha said religion was a key factor in choosing their candidate.

“I am against abortion. I choose the person who defends the family: the ‘legend’,” said 67-year-old Magali Zimmermann, a nickname for Bolsonaro.

However, religion is not the only factor in their choice.

“I love Copacabana, but I’m afraid to go out on the streets because of thieves,” says the resident of the affluent tourist district, which is home to many retirees.

“Bolsonaro is not perfect but he will bring us security,” added the widow, who never misses Mass.

– God of the left? –

At the back of the church, Eduardo Jorge swings from side to side with his hands raised in praise of God. He is one of several believers wearing a red t-shirt, the color of the PT. However, there are more people who wear green and yellow.

“I believe in a God who gives,” says the Lula supporter after the mass.

“Bolsonaristas use their faith to defend their interests, not the poor. We need a Brazil that offers new opportunities and doesn’t exclude people,” said the 53-year-old social worker.

Esther Ferreira wears earrings in the shape of the Brazilian flag in a show of support for Bolsonaro. She says she votes for him “without hesitation” and hates the left.

“I’m Catholic, but he could be an atheist or a Jew and I would still vote for him,” she told AFP.

Wilson Rodrigues Santos has a colorful tattoo of Jesus on his forearm. The Lula voter, however, said religion played no role in his voting decision.

“Everything was catastrophic under Bolsonaro. Lula needs to come back for education, health, public service…everything.”

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