Brazil president makes Argentina a campaign boogeyman

Oct 29, 2022, 6:33 AM | Updated: Oct 30, 2022, 4:25 am
Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro campaigns at the rural workers' settlement Nova Jerusalem, or New...

Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro campaigns at 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)

(AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — As a Brazilian journalist living in Argentina, Luciana Taddeo says she spends ever-more effort rebutting ever-crazier rumors.

There were claims that Argentina’s presidential palace had been invaded, that people had to leave keys in their cars’ ignitions so the government could use them at any time, that the government had abolished the right to inherit properties.

“Journalists have been forced to dedicate more and more time to say, ‘Look, this isn’t real, this isn’t happening,'” she said.

Many of those rumors have been fanned by the presidential election in neighboring Brazil, where incumbent President Jair Bolsonaro has turned Argentina — already a bitter soccer rival — into a sort of political boogeyman, a warning of the horrors his nation could face if it elects leftist former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

On Wednesday, Bolsonaro’s campaign began its nightly ad slot on national television with a blast at Argentina’s left-leaning leaders, who have been friendly with his election rival.

“In Argentina, the leftist candidate that Lula supports also promised barbecue and beer for everybody,” said a voice as images showed people complaining of rising poverty and soaring inflation under center-left President Alberto Fernández.

Bolsonaro and his allies had long used another leftist neighbor — crisis-wracked Venezuela — as a cautionary tale, but shifted to Argentina after Fernández defeated center-right President Mauricio Macri — whom Bolsonaro favored — in 2019.

“Venezuela was far away and Brazilians didn’t understand it very much; it was a whole other universe,” said Paulo Pereira, 38, coordinator of da Silva’s campaign in Argentina. “Argentina is the country where many Brazilians go on their first international trip.”

While critics focus on Argentina’s persistent high inflation and import controls, its per capita income still outstrips Brazil’s, by World Bank measures at least, and both have relatively low poverty rates by global standards. Brazil’s homicide rate is roughly four times higher than Argentina’s.

They’re roughly equal in their passion for soccer — and have a deep rivalry over it.

“Among Bolsonaro and his allies, there is almost an obsession related to Argentina,” said Andressa Caldas, 46, a Brazilian human rights lawyer who has lived in Argentina for eight years.

The president’s lawmaker son, Eduardo Bolsonaro, used a trip to Argentina this month to take a swipe at Argentina’s rampant inflation. In a video posted on his social media accounts, he is seen counting out dozens of bills to pay for a meal at a restaurant.

“Paying for lunch in Argentina,” he wrote on his Instagram account. “If you don’t want this for Brazil, vote Bolsonaro.”

The political rivalry is also personal. Bolsonaro in 2019 urged Argentines to vote for Macri rather than Fernández — who had ostentatiously visited da Silva in jail before convictions were thrown out by Brazil’s Supreme Court.

“The ties were already poor, but the electoral context has been very bad for the bilateral relationship because it put political differences at the top of the agenda,” said Esteban Actis, an international relations professor at the National University of Rosario.

Brazilians living in Argentina largely agree there’s certainly plenty to criticize: galloping annual inflation of 83%, a stagnant economy and — just as in Brazil — poverty that affects roughly half of the nation’s children.

“The strange thing is that instead of focusing on the real problems that there are already so many of in Argentina, they have to exaggerate even more the situation, which is already serious,” Taddeo said.

Nattascha Dumke, a 30-year-old medical student who has lived in Argentina since 2018, has almost 80,000 followers on Instagram. She’s accustomed to Brazilians asking about life in Argentina, but recently the tone of the questions has turned much more negative.

“People who want to live here, study here, and even the parents of students here are writing me,” Dumke said. “They ask me about violence, if supermarkets don’t have food, if we’re going hungry.”

Dumke became so exasperated by a viral video that claimed Argentina’s supermarkets were filled with empty shelves that she made her own video refuting the claims and showed fully stocked markets.

The woman who helped make the original empty-shelves video, 25-year-old Maria Laura Assis, pushed back against claims she was spreading falsehoods about Argentina to help Bolsonaro’s campaign.

“What I tell them is to go to the supermarkets and see for themselves,” said Assis, a Brazilian who has lived in Argentina for 15 years. “Today Argentina really does have a limit in the number of units of certain products you can buy and is suffering shortages of certain products due to the closure of imports.”

When Dumke published her video showing shelves full of products in several Buenos Aires supermarkets, many accused her of being the one spreading misinformation.

“Even using videos to try to show the reality of the country … they don’t believe it,” Dumke said. “They’re not alarmed by receiving fake news, they only want to share disinformation for political ends.”

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

              Nara Dauri applies a sticker of Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro inside a supporter's car window outside a campaign headquarters where voters who support Bolsonaro's campaign for reelection can get campaign swag for free 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)
              Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro greets supporters during a campaign rally in Belford Roxo, Rio de Janeiro state, Brazil, Thursday, Oct. 27, 2022. Bolsonaro is facing former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in a runoff election set for Oct. 30. (AP Photo/Bruna Prado)
              Supporters show signs with the image of Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro, who is running for reelection, during a campaign event at the bus station in Brasilia, Brazil, Thursday, Oct. 27, 2022. Bolsonaro is facing former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in a presidential run-off election set for Oct. 30. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
              Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro campaigns at 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)


Associated Press

Plane caught in power lines after crash, 2 occupants unhurt

GAITHERSBURG, Md. (AP) — A small plane carrying two people got stuck in live power lines Sunday evening in Maryland, causing widespread power outages in the surrounding county as officials tried to extricate the aircraft. The Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement that the single-engine plane, which had departed White Plains, N.Y., crashed into […]
19 hours ago
This combination of photos provided by the Chesapeake, Va., Police Department shows top row from le...
Associated Press

Walmart shooting claims teen, young woman, father, mother

CHESAPEAKE, Va. (AP) — A 16-year-old helping his family. A custodian and father of two. A mother with wedding plans. A happy-go-lucky guy. A longtime employee. That’s how friends and family described some of the six people killed at a Walmart in Chesapeake, Virginia, when a manager opened fire with a handgun before an employee […]
19 hours ago
FILE - Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. walks on the sideline during a NFL division...
Associated Press

NFL free agent Odell Beckham Jr. taken off plane in Miami

MIAMI (AP) — NFL free agent Odell Beckham Jr. was removed by police from an aircraft before takeoff at Miami International Airport after officials said he failed to respond to requests to buckle his seatbelt and appeared to be unconscious, police and airline officials said Sunday. “Fearing that Mr. Beckham was seriously ill, and that […]
19 hours ago
FILE - Chickens walk in a fenced pasture at an organic farm in Iowa on Oct. 21, 2015. Nebraska agri...
Associated Press

Bird flu prompts slaughter of 1.8M chickens in Nebraska

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska agriculture officials say another 1.8 million chickens must be killed after bird flu was found on a farm in the latest sign that the outbreak that has already prompted the slaughter of more than 50 million birds nationwide continues to spread. The Nebraska Department of Agriculture said Saturday that the […]
19 hours ago
This photo provided by the U.S. Navy shows U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Thomas James in Centur...
Associated Press

Colorado shooting victim ‘wanted to save the family I found’

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — A member of the U.S. Navy who was injured while helping prevent further harm during a shooting at a gay nightclub in Colorado last weekend said Sunday that he “simply wanted to save the family that I found.” Petty Officer 2nd Class Thomas James made his first public comments on […]
19 hours ago
FILE - Director Quentin Tarantino, left, poses with Friars Club Dean Freddie Roman at the Quentin T...
Associated Press

Borscht Belt comedian Freddie Roman dies at age 85

Comedian Freddie Roman, the former dean of The Friars Club and a staple of the Catskills comedy scene, has died. He was 85. Roman died Saturday afternoon at Bethesda Hospital in Boynton Beach, Florida, his booking agent and friend Alison Chaplin said Sunday. His daughter told the entertainment trade Deadline that he suffered a heart […]
19 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

(Photo via MLB's Arizona Fall League / Twitter)...
Arizona Fall League

Top prospects to watch at this year’s Arizona Fall League

One of the most exciting elements of the MLB offseason is the Arizona Fall League, which began its 30th season Monday.
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Here are 4 signs the HVAC unit needs to be replaced

Pool renovations and kitchen upgrades may seem enticing, but at the forefront of these investments arguably should be what residents use the most. In a state where summertime is sweltering, access to a functioning HVAC unit can be critical.
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Ways to prevent clogged drains and what to do if you’re too late

While there are a variety of ways to prevent clogged drains, it's equally as important to know what to do when you're already too late.
Brazil president makes Argentina a campaign boogeyman