Brazil front-runner accused of illegal campaign practices

Bolsonaro said Haddad’s campaign was trying to change the subject. (AFP)
Updated 19 October 2018
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Brazil front-runner accused of illegal campaign practices

  • Businessmen linked to Bolsonaro allegedly bankrolled the spread of fake news on the WhatsApp messaging service to benefit his candidacy
  • Bolsonaro said any support of businessmen was voluntary

SAO PAULO: A Brazilian presidential candidate on Thursday accused his far-right adversary of illegal campaign practices for allegedly allowing friendly businessmen to secretly pay to spread slanderous messages.
The accusations by left-leaning Fernando Haddad follow a report published by the newspaper Folha de S.Paulo saying businessmen linked to Congressman Jair Bolsonaro allegedly bankrolled the spread of fake news on the WhatsApp messaging service to benefit his candidacy. The article said a blast message campaign was planned for the week before the Oct. 28 runoff.
In a series of tweets, Bolsonaro, who is the front-runner in opinion polls, said any support of businessmen was voluntary. Gustavo Bebbiano, the chairman of Bolsonaro’s Social Liberal Party, denied receiving illegal donations.
“Every donation made until this day, no matter if it is our party or our candidate’s campaign, comes from resources donated to our platform, accordingly with legislation,” Bebbiano said
Haddad, who was hand-picked by jailed former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, said he has leads for the federal police to follow, but did not reveal names. He later asked Brazil’s top court to start an investigation, and he said he might take the case to the Organization of American States.
“There has been a criminal organization of businessmen which used illegal campaign financing to promote this candidacy and tamper with the election in the first round (on Oct. 7). And they want to do it again in the runoff,” Haddad said. “We estimate that hundreds of thousands of messages, all fake, were sent to voters to suggest they voted for my rival.”
Paying for the blast-messaging, if true, could be a violation of Brazil’s campaign finance laws since companies are barred from giving money to candidates, electoral lawyer Erick Pereira said.
“But there is still need for robust evidence, which is not here at this moment,” Pereira added.
The Folha article mentioned businessman Luciano Hang, who owns the Havan department store, as one of the contributors. It also mentioned a handful of marketing companies that allegedly received money to do the blast messaging.
In an emailed statement, the Havan chain said the newspaper “published fake news with a clear ideological slant,” adding it would sue over the article.
At Yacows, an Internet marketing service mentioned in the article, a person answered the phone and said there would be no comment because the company did not engage in spreading messages.
The other companies mentioned in the article didn’t answer their phones Thursday afternoon.
In his tweet, Bolsonaro said Haddad’s campaign was trying to change the subject.
“The Workers’ Party is not being affected by fake news, it is affected by the truth,” Bolsonaro wrote. “They stole the population’s money, were arrested, confronted the judiciary, disrespected families and made the country sink into violence and chaos.”
On Thursday, a Datafolha poll said Bolsonaro keeps a comfortable advantage over Haddad, with 59 percent support against his adversary’s 41 percent. The polling firm said it interviewed 9,137 voters Wednesday and Thursday and the poll had a margin of error of two percentage points.


India scion Priyanka Gandhi lambasts Modi on home turf

Updated 12 min 4 sec ago
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India scion Priyanka Gandhi lambasts Modi on home turf

  • Priyanka Gandhi wrapped up a pre-election boat tour along the Ganges river on Wednesday, disembarking in Narendra Modi's home constituency

VARANASI, INDIA: The newest star in India's Nehru-Gandhi dynasty wrapped up a pre-election boat tour along the Ganges river on Wednesday, disembarking in Narendra Modi's home constituency to attack the prime minister's record.
Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, sister of Rahul Gandhi who wants to unseat Modi in elections starting on April 11, announced her long-awaited entry into politics in January, bolstering the hopes of the opposition Congress party, which has been dominated by her family for generations.
Their father was Rajiv Gandhi, assassinated in 1991, their grandmother Indira Gandhi, killed by her Sikh bodyguards in 1984, and their great-grandfather Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first prime minister.
Arriving after her three-day cruise in Varanasi, the northern holy city famous for its riverside cremations where Modi stood for election in 2014, Priyanka said people must stand up against his "anti-people" policies.
"You can bring about a change. You must raise your voice for a new government who will make policies for you and understand your problems," the 47-year-old said.
"The farmers of this country are suffering. He is neck-deep in debt and is committing suicide. He does not get seeds and fertilisers on time, he is not getting the right price for his produce," she added.
The opposition has been targeting Modi's right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) over a lack of jobs, slowing growth and the desperate situation of farmers in the lead-up to the gargantuan election which ends May 19.
The centre-left Congress party, which has ruled India for about half a century since the country became independent in 1947, was thrashed by the BJP five years ago, with Modi promising to create jobs, stamp out corruption, and bring "Achhe Din" ("Good Days").
Modi's party however has been boosted after India and arch-rival Pakistan lurched alarmingly close to war last month following a suicide bombing in Kashmir that killed 40 Indian troops.
Priyanka, who for years resisted calls to enter politics, launched her campaign in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh on Monday, hopping on to a motorboat on the Ganges river, which is considered sacred by the country's majority Hindu community.
The state is a part of the Hindi "cow belt" heartland of some 475 million people — nearly as many as the United States, Canada and Mexico combined — where the BJP has its core support base.