Brazil candidate laments lack of probe into election-fraud allegations

    19 de octubre de 2018

    Rio de Janeiro, Oct 19 (efe-epa).- Fernando Haddad, candidate of the center-left Workers' Party (PT) in Brazil's presidential runoff, on Friday said authorities were taking no legal action in response to serious electoral-fraud allegations leveled against right-wing rival Jair Bolsonaro.

    "To my surprise, the Superior Electoral Court, which had threatened to annul the elections if they were marred by the spread of fake news on social media, is now remaining completely silent," Haddad said during a meeting with engineers in Rio de Janeiro.

    The former education minister was referring to an article published Thursday by leading Brazilian daily Folha de Sao Paulo, which reported that a group of pro-Bolsonaro business leaders was illegally funding a smear campaign on WhatsApp to benefit the Social Liberal Party (PSL) candidate.

    Bolsonaro, a former army officer who has been dubbed the "Tropical Trump," is popular among many in Brazil because of his Catholic, pro-traditional family values stance and pledge to crack down on crime and corruption.

    He won 46 percent of the ballots in the first round and has a big 59 percent-41 percent lead over Haddad in polls leading up to the Oct. 28 runoff despite a history of misogynist, racist and homophobic remarks and praise for Brazil's 1964-1985 military dictatorship.

    Haddad, who replaced Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva as the PT's standard-bearer when the now-imprisoned former president was barred from running, added that even though the media had initially reported that Bolsonaro and his supporters were engaging in dirty tricks it now is downplaying the issue.

    "The reporter who made the allegations is being threatened because my opponent doesn't deal very well with a free press. And we don't even have a free press because" media ownership in Brazil is concentrated among just four families, Haddad said.

    Folha de Sao Paulo reported that some pro-Bolsonaro business leaders were purchasing data packages to spread false messages about the PT to millions of users of WhatsApp, a widely popular smartphone-based messaging service.

    The paper said the packages cost up to 12 million reais (around $3.2 million) and that the companies implicated in the alleged criminal group include Brazilian retailer Havan.

    Jurists say that practice amounts to corporate campaign donations, which are prohibited under Brazilian law, and that Bolsonaro could be barred from competing in the runoff if the allegations are proven to be accurate.

    On Thursday, the PT and the anti-capitalist Socialism and Liberty Party urged the Superior Electoral Court to investigate the allegations and bar Bolsonaro from running for public office for eight years if they are true.

    The left-wing Democratic Labor Party (PDT), whose candidate, Ciro Gomes, came in third in the first round of the presidential balloting, said Bolsonaro had secured a plurality by fraud and that that vote should be annulled.