Bolsonaro locking up farm votes, with boost from ex-minister

Oct 28, 2022, 9:11 AM | Updated: 9:34 am
Agricultural machine works at a soybean plantation at the Passatempo farm, Sidrolandia, Mato Grosso...

Agricultural machine works at a soybean plantation at the Passatempo farm, Sidrolandia, Mato Grosso do Sul state, Brazil, Thursday, Oct. 20, 2022. President Jair Bolsonaro trusts his support among agribusiness leaders to help him win reelection later this month, while frontrunner Brazil's Former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva tries to make inroads with rural voters with a boost from defeated presidential candidate Sen. Simone Tebet, who is from the state of Mato Grosso do Sul. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

(AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

CAMPO GRANDE, Brazil (AP) — Tereza Cristina pours coffee for visitors to her home surrounded by vast soybean plantations in Brazil’s farm country. The guests sitting in wicker chairs on her porch are friends and farmers keen to hear how they can help President Jair Bolsonaro’s re-election bid.

Cristina, Bolsonaro’s former agriculture minister, has become the face of the far-right president in Mato Grosso do Sul state — one of the agribusiness strongholds that is an important part of his effort to overcome leftist former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

The 68-year-old Cristina resigned as minister in March to run for a Senate seat and won a whopping 61% of the Oct. 2 vote. That’s even more than Bolsonaro earned in the first round of the presidential race in the state of 2.8 million people.

But Bolsonaro trailed by a few percentage points in the national tally and the two now are competing in a decisive Sunday runoff. With the race apparently close, the president’s advantage even in sparsely populated rural regions can be crucial.

The state’s economy — like that of Brazil as a whole– had boomed under da Silva from 2003 through 2010. But the state also weathered deep national economic downturns in the years since.

Its per capita GDP grew by more than 10% in real terms since 2012, while that of the nation contracted, according to Sérgio Vale, chief economist at MB Associados.

Cristina focuses on issues such as the regularization of land ownership for hundreds of thousands of farmers under Bolsonaro and says they helped more people than during the export-driven commodities boom under da Silva — who she said had favored big farmers over small ones.

“During these years (as minister) I worked much more for small farmers than for the big ones. The big ones don’t need the government, they need freedom. The small producers need us,” Cristina said Monday during a conversation with ranchers in the state of Minas Gerais — a reference to Bolsonaro’s stance of less intervention in the economy and some support to family agriculture.

Her appeals seem to be helping.

“I’m going to vote for Bolsonaro in large part because of her,” said rancher and warehouse manager João Pedro Bernardy, who identifies as a moderate and has soybean fields in Sidrolandia, outside Campo Grande, the state’s capital.

Bernardy says he sees risks to agribusiness if Bolsonaro is reelected: He said rampant clearing of the Amazon rainforest that critics blame on Bolsonaro could lead to foreign restrictions on Brazilian exports.

But he is also bothered by the history of corruption in da Silva’s Workers’ Party — scandals that led to da Silva himself being imprisoned before his convictions were thrown out by the Supreme Court.

He said Cristina has been effective, recalling that Bolsonaro did not stop rural workers from showing up during the pandemic and paid them welfare money. The president also pushed road and infrastructure projects in the countryside to help get products to market.

“She is an important asset to guarantee exports; she knows that we can’t remain China-dependent,” he said of Cristina’s efforts to diversify Brazil’s export markets.

Mato Grosso do Sul is just one part of Brazil’s sprawling center-western farming belt — where 16 million people live in an area the size of Alaska.

The region’s boom can be seen In Campo Grande, where glitzy restaurants like a Peruvian-Japanese fusion spot are popping up, as well as gated communities with tennis courts and dealerships for Jaguars, Land Rovers and Harley-Davidsons.

Brazilian agribusiness has thrived in recent years — regardless of government, and despite national economic downturns — thanks largely to exports to China that began surging in the early 2000s.

While Bolsonaro is building on his advantage in Mato Grosso do Sul, da Silva and the left are being left behind. There are many roadside billboards supporting Bolsonaro here, but few for da Silva.

That’s a lament of hardcore leftist Militino Domingos de Arruda, 78, a former cattle tender who now collects recyclables to survive. He points to the fact that tens of millions of Brazilians are going hungry as evidence the nation’s agribusiness model is more focused on feeding foreigners.

He complains that da Silva — universally known as Lula — hadn’t effectively surrendered the region as he prioritized stumping in other areas.

“His campaign here is so subdued that I can rarely get stickers, flags and things I need to bring in more voters,” said de Arruda at his home, surrounded by Workers’ Party flags and da Silva posters. “Lula didn’t even come here.”

Da Silva has tried to gain traction in the agribusiness world winning the runoff endorsement of moderate Sen. Simone Tebet. She is also from Mato Grosso do Sul, where her family has vast landholdings in sugarcane and other crops. Tebet, 52, finished a distant third in the first round, then threw her weight behind da Silva.

“It was the toughest decision of my life,” Tebet told The Associated Press by phone in between campaign events. “I saw a very conservative Congress being elected, governors going for Bolsonaro and the democratic center I’m part of basically crumbling. I had never campaigned with the Workers’ Party.”

Tebet believes Brazil’s agribusiness embraced Bolsonaro due to outdated fears of the nation’s Landless Workers Movement which for decades occupied idle land and responded with violence when forcibly expelled. The movement is also a staunch supporter of the Workers’ Party.

Tebet said Bolsonaro’s conservative nationalism also plays well in farm country.

“But this can change if Lula wins. I know my state. I know our agribusiness also fears closing markets abroad due to Bolsonaro’s anti-environment agenda,” Tebet said.

Jaime Verruck, the agriculture secretary of Mato Grosso do Sul’s center-right government, said he saw Cristina as a possible head of Brazil’s Senate.

“Bolsonaro’s administration was saved by Cristina’s Agriculture Ministry. It was the only good thing he had to show in international forums,” he said.

Cristina has resonated with Maria Nelzira, 36, a Black woman who studied pedagogy and now chairs a local farm cooperative. In the past, that profile would make her a da Silva supporter — and indeed she was in the past. But she said she will vote for Bolsonaro because she feels he and Cristina boosted her business with initiatives to regularize land ownership and access loans from state banks.

“They corrected the mess, addressed key bureaucratic problems when they started and that had a big impact for our cooperative,” Nelzira said. “Our income rose, we have more assistance now. Family farming has visibility now, people understand we help feed the country.”

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


              Oxen graze on a farm in a rural area of Sidrolandia, Mato Grosso do Sul state, Brazil, Saturday, Oct. 22, 2022. President Jair Bolsonaro trusts his support among agribusiness leaders to help him win reelection later this month, while frontrunner Brazil's Former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva tries to make inroads with rural voters with a boost from defeated presidential candidate Sen. Simone Tebet, who is from the state of Mato Grosso do Sul.  (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
            
              A campaign flag of Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro flies during his campaign rally in the rural workers' settlement Nova Jerusalem, or New Jerusalem, in Brasilia, Brazil, Monday, Oct. 24, 2022. Bolsonaro is running for reelection in the presidential runoff set for Oct. 30. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
            
              An agricultural machine plant soybeans on a farm in a rural area of Sidrolandia, Mato Grosso do Sul state, Brazil, Saturday, Oct. 22, 2022. President Jair Bolsonaro trusts his support among agribusiness leaders to help him win reelection later this month, while frontrunner Brazil's Former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva tries to make inroads with rural voters with a boost from defeated presidential candidate Sen. Simone Tebet, who is from the state of Mato Grosso do Sul.  (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
            
              Supporters carry flags with the name of Brazil's former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who is running for president again, during a campaign event at a bus station in Brasilia, Brazil, Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2022. Lula is facing President Jair Bolsonaro in a presidential run-off election set for Oct. 30. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
            
              Pedro Ivo Amoroso drives his small tractor to harvest okra at his farm in the Santa Monica settlement, in a rural area of Sidrolandia, Mato Grosso do Sul state, Brazil, Saturday, Oct. 22, 2022. President Jair Bolsonaro trusts his support among agribusiness leaders to help him win reelection later this month, while frontrunner Brazil's Former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva tries to make inroads with rural voters with a boost from defeated presidential candidate Sen. Simone Tebet, who is from the state of Mato Grosso do Sul.  (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
            
              A truck loads soybeans at a storage company in the city of Sidrolandia, Mato Grosso do Sul state, Brazil, Thursday, Oct. 20, 2022. President Jair Bolsonaro trusts his support among agribusiness leaders to help him win reelection later this month, while frontrunner Brazil's Former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva tries to make inroads with rural voters with a boost from defeated presidential candidate Sen. Simone Tebet, who is from the state of Mato Grosso do Sul. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
            
              A photo of Brazil's former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva stands inside a local campaign headquarters during Da Silva's run for president again in Campo Grande, Mato Grosso do Sul state, Brazil, Friday, Oct. 21, 2022. The presidential run-off election is set for Oct. 30. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
            
              Joao Pedro walks in a soybean field at his Passatempo farm, Sidrolandia, Mato Grosso do Sul state, Brazil, Thursday, Oct. 20, 2022. President Jair Bolsonaro trusts his support among agribusiness leaders to help him win reelection later this month, while frontrunner Brazil's Former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva tries to make inroads with rural voters with a boost from defeated presidential candidate Sen. Simone Tebet, who is from the state of Mato Grosso do Sul. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
            
              A sign in support of Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro, who is running for reelection, says in Portuguese: "Bosonaro's house," outside a local campaign headquarters in Campo Grande, Mato Grosso do Sul state, Brazil, Friday, Oct. 21, 2022. The presidential run-off election is set for Oct. 30. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
            
              A Brazilian flag flies at a grain logistics and storage company in Sidrolandia, Mato Grosso do Sul state, Brazil, Thursday, Oct. 20, 2022. President Jair Bolsonaro trusts his support among agribusiness leaders to help him win reelection later this month, while frontrunner Brazil's Former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva tries to make inroads with rural voters with a boost from defeated presidential candidate Sen. Simone Tebet, who is from the state of Mato Grosso do Sul. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
            
              FILE - Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro and former Agriculture Minister Tereza Cristina Dias, attend a ceremony launching a financial plan to promote rural production among small and medium farmers and ranchers, at the Planalto Presidential Palace, in Brasilia, Brazil, June 29, 2022. Cristina has become the face of the far-right president in Mato Grosso do Sul state — one of the agribusiness strongholds that is an important part of his effort to overcome leftist former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres, File)
            
              Agricultural machine works at a soybean plantation at the Passatempo farm, Sidrolandia, Mato Grosso do Sul state, Brazil, Thursday, Oct. 20, 2022. President Jair Bolsonaro trusts his support among agribusiness leaders to help him win reelection later this month, while frontrunner Brazil's Former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva tries to make inroads with rural voters with a boost from defeated presidential candidate Sen. Simone Tebet, who is from the state of Mato Grosso do Sul. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

AP

FILE - The logo of the Organization of the Petroleoum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is seen outside of...
Associated Press

OPEC+ oil producers face uncertainty over Russian sanctions

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — The Saudi-led OPEC oil cartel and allied producing countries, including Russia, are expected to decide how much oil to supply to the global economy amid weakening demand in China and uncertainty about the impact of new Western sanctions against Russia that could take significant amounts of oil off the market. The […]
6 hours ago
Associated Press

Police: Vandalism suspected in North Carolina power outage

MOORE COUNTY, N.C. (AP) — Authorities in North Carolina believe vandalism may have caused a power outage that affected thousands of customers Saturday night. A mass power outage in several communities beginning just after 7 p.m. Saturday “is being investigated as a criminal occurrence,” the Moore County Sheriff’s Office said in a Facebook post. “As […]
6 hours ago
Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland, plays with children who have been d...
Associated Press

US intel chief thinking ‘optimistically’ for Ukraine forces

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — The head of U.S. intelligence says fighting in Russia’s war in Ukraine is running at a “reduced tempo” and suggests Ukrainian forces could have brighter prospects in coming months. Avril Haines alluded to past allegations by some that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s advisers could be shielding him from bad news — […]
6 hours ago
A man wearing a face mask holds his testing tube as masked residents line up for their routine COVI...
Associated Press

China reports 2 new COVID deaths as some restrictions eased

HONG KONG (AP) — China on Sunday reported two additional deaths from COVID-19 as some cities move cautiously to ease anti-pandemic restrictions following increasingly vocal public frustrations. The National Health Commission said one death was reported each in the provinces of Shandong and Sichuan. No information was given about the ages of the victims or […]
6 hours ago
Associated Press

State news: Iran executed 4 people it says spied for Israel

CAIRO (AP) — Iranian authorities executed four people Sunday accused of working for Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency, the state-run IRNA news agency said. Three others received lengthy prison sentences. IRNA said the country’s powerful Revolutionary Guard announced the arrests of a network of people linked to the Israeli agency. It said the members had previous […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Today in History: December 4, the “Million Dollar Quartet”

Today in History Today is Sunday, Dec. 4, the 338th day of 2022. There are 27 days left in the year. Today’s Highlights in History: On Dec. 4, 1956, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins gathered for the first and only time for a jam session at Sun Records in Memphis. […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Quantum Fiber

Stream 4K and more with powerful, high-speed fiber internet

Picking which streaming services to subscribe to are difficult choices, and there is no room for internet that cannot handle increased demands.
...
Children’s Cancer Network

Children’s Cancer Network celebrates cancer-fighting superheroes, raises funds during September’s Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

Jace Hyduchak was like most other kids in his kindergarten class: He loved to play basketball, dress up like his favorite superheroes and jump as high as his pint-sized body would take him on his backyard trampoline.
...
SCHWARTZ LASER EYE CENTER

Key dates for Arizona sports fans to look forward to this fall

Fall brings new beginnings in different ways for Arizona’s professional sports teams like the Cardinals and Coyotes.
Bolsonaro locking up farm votes, with boost from ex-minister