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‘It’s dividing us’: hundreds vote in Brazil’s presidential election in Calgary

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‘It’s dividing us’: hundreds vote in Brazil’s presidential election in Calgary
Hundreds of Brazilians living in western Canada who are eligible to vote cast ballots in Calgary in the country’s runoff presidential election on Sunday. Carolyn Kury de Castillo reports. – Oct 30, 2022

Hundreds of people showed up in Calgary to vote in Brazil’s runoff presidential election on Sunday.

Eder Gambeta was one of those voters. Gambeta moved to Calgary from Brazil to complete his PhD in neuroscience at the University of Calgary.

As a scientist, Gambeta said he’s disheartened by President Jair Bolsonaro’s downplaying of COVID-19.

“Unfortunately, there’s a lot of cutting in investments for science back home. I don’t agree with that,” Gambeta said. “We need to invest way more, so I’m voting for someone who supports that idea.”

According to data released by the World Health Organization, more than 687,000 Brazilians have died from the virus.

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Being a minority, Gambeta said he’s worried about his safety.

“If I were in Brazil right now, I wouldn’t feel safe because I am a part of a minority and the president now, he doesn’t support minorities so I would feel threatened,” he said.

However, to some Alberta voters, Bolsonaro represents a path to prosperity.

“The economy in Brazil is doing very well right now after the pandemic,” said Sandra Pinheiro, who drove from Edmonton to Calgary to vote.

“Bolsonaro is about God, family, and he cares about our country.”

But during Bolsonaro’s tenure, deforestation in the Amazon rainforest rose — which is something some voters in Calgary say impacts the entire planet.

“What I have seen so far was a lot of damage with the people living in the Amazon and Bolsonaro is just clueless about it. He’s very greedy. It’s all about money and power,” said Alice Campello at the voting location on Elbow Drive in southwest Calgary. “Bolsonaro does not respect people from the LGBTQ community and I feel like he’s not educated.”

Read more: Deforestation of Amazon rainforest hits record highs at start of 2022, says Brazil

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Katia Vissers drove from Edmonton to Calgary to vote. She said she’s supporting Bolsonaro’s fighting crime and violence campaign.

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“We want to protect our family,” Vissers said. “I have a grandson. He’s Canadian and I want to see my grandson visit Brazil someday and feel safe.”

She worries about the division facing Brazil right now.

“I think the big issue in Brazil right now is that we are very far apart from each other because of what has happened. The two parties have divided us,” Vissers said. “We need to stay together. We are humans and all this information we have now is dividing us. It’s too much to digest. It’s dividing us and we don’t need to be divided.”

Campello said it was important for her to have a say in the future of her homeland.

“I feel like we are still representing our country. We are all from Brazil and we still feel very passionate about what happens there.”

Young voters like Campello who support former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, know a Lula victory won’t mean the end of Brazil’s problems.

“Of course, I’m not here saying Lula is going to fix all the problems, but at the same time, when it comes to both of them of course I’m not going to vote for Bolsonaro. It’s just not my values,” Campello said.

Read more: Brazil election: Lula defeats Bolsonaro in presidential comeback

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According to the Brazilian Association of Alberta, close to 40,000 voters are registered in Canada to vote in Brazil. In Calgary, there are around 1,800.

Bolsonaro outperformed opinion polls in the first round on Oct. 2 among a field of 11 candidates, but neither Lula da Silva nor Bolsonaro gained over 50 per cent of the votes in the first round, forcing the runoff vote.

A Lula victory would mark a stunning comeback for the leftist leader, who was jailed for 19 months in 2018 on bribery convictions that the Supreme Court overturned last year, clearing the way for him to seek a third presidential term.

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