Brazil's presidential rivals lock horns in final TV debate

The final television debate between Brazil’s presidential candidates was marked by heated exchanges focused on corruption allegations.

Brazil's presidential rivals lock horns in final TV debate

World Bulletin/News Desk

The final televised debate between Brazil’s two presidential candidates ahead of Sunday's runoff vote was held Friday night with heated exchanges between the rivals.

Where the economy had been central to previous debates, corruption allegations was the focus of Friday's clash, which was broadcast on the country's most-watched Rede Globo network.

Sen. Aécio Neves opened by asking President Dilma Rousseff to respond to allegations in two Brazilian magazines regarding her knowledge of corruption schemes in which the ruling Workers' Party (PT), for which she is the candidate, had been embroiled.

A report in Veja magazine contends that a black-market money dealer involved in an alleged kickback scheme at the heart of state-run oil giant Petrobras told investigators that Rousseff and her predecessor, former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, were aware of money had been diverted.

Rousseff refuted the claims and accused the publications of "slander," electoral "terrorism" and of "clearly" taking sides.

She also stressed that her government was the first to hand prison sentences to corrupt politicians, and went on to list scandals in which Neves' own Social Democracy Party (PSDB) had been implicated, accusing it of not investigating corrupt members who, she said, were "still at large."

Neves also said voters would be heading to the polls Sunday without knowing what Rousseff truly thought about the Lula administration’s "mensalão" vote-buying scheme where lawmakers allegedly received money in return for congressional support.

The economy was also central to the head-to-head sections of the debate, with Neves, the market favorite, accusing Rousseff of allow the economy to sink and inflation to rise. 

Rousseff tried to score points off the severe water shortage in São Paulo state, whose governor is from Neves' party and where she performed poorly in the first round of the election. She cited a "lack of planning" as the culprit for the shortage, adding that country’s drought, including the northeast where she has performed well, had not resulted in water rationing.

Friday’s debate also featured questions from undecided voters, which recent polls suggest still make up at least 5 percent of the electorate, allowing a broader range of issues to be brought to the fore.

Addressing the voters personally, the candidates outlined their proposals to deal with issues such as nemployment for older workers; drug abuse among the youth; gangs and high crime rates; and a lack of sanitation in poorer communities.

In her final remarks, the president said her government changed Brazil and asked voters not to allow her rival to squander the gains it had made. "We are building a Brazil of love, hope and opportunities ... which values its workers," she said, adding that her government allowed "everyone to grow ... including women, blacks and young people."

Ending the debate, Neves vowed that he was the "candidate of change" and urged his "friends from across the country" to allow him to bring a "new confidence, determination and generosity" to the Planalto. "I am also victorious from the campaign of good faith I have led," he said.

Brazilians across the continent-sized country will head to the polls Sunday, three weeks after the first round in which neither candidate took more than 50 percent of the vote. Polls released Thursday put Rousseff ahead of Neves for the first time.

Some 142.8 million Brazilians are eligible to vote in the compulsory election, and 13 states and the Federal District will also vote in second-round governor elections.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 25 Ekim 2014, 11:48

Muhammed Öylek