In Brazil, correspondent Tom Phillips says the mood isn’t so much downbeat as downright violent. Bolsonaro appears likely to lose to veteran former president Luiz Inacio da Silva (nickname Lula, which means ‘squid’ in Portuguese) and his running mate Geraldo Alckmin (known as Chuchu, which is a sort of squash). The ‘Trump of the tropics’ is not giving in without a fight.
“Fact 1 – Bolsonaro doesn’t look like he can win this now,” Tom says, pointing to support ratings of little more than 30%. “Fact 2 – he’s desperate to stay in power because he fears prosecution for mishandling Covid, and for the various corruption allegations that have enveloped his family. So one would imagine he will fight tooth and nail to stay in power.”
That has led to an ugly atmosphere in which political violence is rife. Tom says life is very different for foreign correspondents in Rio these days.
“When I was first posted here in 2005, foreign correspondents didn’t receive hate mail, insults, threats of physical violence on social media,” he says. “I’d never heard of a foreign correspondent being attacked. But now it’s different – and worse for Brazilian journalists and even worse for female Brazilian journalists – with whom Bolsonaro has deliberately clashed.”
He says the murder this year of colleague Dom Phillips is just part of that wretched tendency. “The rhetoric has become so violent and so much hostility has been stirred up against environmental activists and mainstream media journalists that everyone feels on edge.”
Can Lula undo all the damage that Bolsonaro has done in four years? Tom feels it’s a tall order.
“He is not a miracle worker. He would represent a change of direction, away from Amazon destruction and growing authoritarianism though.
“Lula told me recently that he would stop illegal gold mines, tackle deforestation, and set up a ministry for indigenous people. But he will face huge challenges, there’ll be an economic crisis, and you don’t just reverse these things overnight.”