Brazilian presidential candidate Geraldo Alckmin, a centrist, hammered President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva over corruption allegations in the third televised debate between both of them ahead of an October 29 runoff election.
Lula, who is favored to win the runoff and a second term, responded by saying that his government will continue to investigate every corruption charge levied against it, and that "those guilty, no matter whom they may be, will be punished."
The Brazilian president sidestepped Alckmin’s question about an alleged dirty-tricks campaign against Alckmin’s Social Democratic party – widely believed to have cost Lula a first-round victory.
The so-called "dossier scandal" broke weeks before the election on October 1st, with allegations that Silva’s Workers’ Party tried to pay the equivalent of US$ 770,000 for evidence allegedly linking São Paulo gubernatorial candidate José Serra, of the Social Democratic Party, to graft when he was health minister between 1998 and 2002.
In Monday’s debate, Alckmin pounded at the corruption issue, saying that "accelerated corruption and slow economic growth" are the principal traits of Lula’s government.
He also criticized the economic policies of the president’s administration, saying they were preventing the economy from growing. The former São Paulo governor also said that high interest rates, elevated taxes and an overvalued currency were strangling industries that cannot compete in the international market.
"China’s economy grows at 9% or 10%, the economies of emerging countries grow by 7% and Brazil’s economy grows by just 2%," Alckmin said. "This cannot go on."
Lula, however, remains popular for his programs that have helped lower Brazil’s poverty rate and stabilized inflation.
Alckmin, who is a doctor, got enough votes in the first round to deny Lula an outright win, forcing a runoff vote. Lula took 48.6% of the vote, while Alckmin got about 42%.
A survey released last week by the Public Opinion Research Institute, or Ibope, showed that Lula had widened his lead over Alckmin. The poll indicated Silva would get 62% of the valid votes, compared with 38% for Alckmin.
Ibope interviewed 3,010 voters in 198 cities and towns. The poll had a margin of error of 2 percentage points.