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Fake news abounds in the run up to Brazil's presidential runoff

Workers' Party candidate Haddad says right-wing rival Bolsonaro behind propaganda attacks

WORKERS’ Party (PT) candidate Fernando Haddad laid the blame for a deluge of fake news stories at the feet of his right-wing rival Jair Bolsonaro yesterday.

A fact-checking group found that some of the stories accuse Haddad of planning to close churches and distribute textbooks teaching children to be gay.

The project run by TV Globo also found bizarre allegations aimed at Haddad’s running mate Manuela D’Avila. One claims she wants to cancel Christian holidays in Brazil.

On Monday Haddad asked Bolsonaro to sign a joint commitment against spreading fake news before the October 28 presidential run-off. But Bolsonaro refused, calling Haddad “a scoundrel” on Twitter.

“The lies come from [Bolsonaro], so he will not accept any ethical commitment. He will continue to slander, insult,” Haddad said. His refusal to combat fake news was “proof of his dishonesty,” Haddad said.

Bolsonaro won Sunday’s first round of voting with 46 per cent. Former Sao Paulo mayor Haddad, who was hand-picked by jailed former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, came second with 29 per cent.

Bolsonaro’s campaign has focused its efforts on social media and messaging apps like WhatsApp. In Brazil more than 120 million people use the messaging service, making Latin America’s largest country home to nearly one in 10 users worldwide.

In an interview with TV Band, Bolsonaro expressed regret for the death of a Haddad voter in Salvador at the hands of one of his supporters. The former army captain said he does not condone violence but has no control over what his voters do.

“If someone wears a shirt of mine and is excessive, what do I have to do with it?” he asked.

Meanwhile, the outgoing president Michel Temer is attempting to push through a neoliberal agenda which the new government will have to deal with.

Temer, who rose to the presidency after deposing former PT president Dilma Rousseff, wants to privatise the country’s six remaining state-controlled energy companies, rip apart social security, loosen up restrictions on pesticides and allow Congress to decertify indigenous lands.

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