(CNN) — Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva squared off in the country’s first televised debate on Sunday night ahead of October’s presidential election.
Bolsonaro and his main opponent Lula, who were among the six candidates debating Sunday on Band TV, traded attacks on a wide range of issues, including the economy, climate change and Brazil’s handling of the covid-19 pandemic. of the government.
Bolsonaro, who has been criticized for his treatment of women, defended his government’s support for laws in favor of women and stated that “a large part of the women in Brazil love me” because he opposes the legalization of drugs. However, when a journalist asked a question about Brazil’s vaccination rate, she responded with personal insults.
“I think you go to sleep thinking about me. You are in love with me. You are an embarrassment for journalism in Brazil,” Bolsonaro said.
Journalist Vera Magalhães later said that Bolsonaro’s attitude was “absolutely out of control, unnecessary and… harmful to himself.” And she added that the president “doesn’t like to be questioned by women.”
Bolsonaro also defended criticism of his handling of the economy, stating that “the economy is booming,” despite record unemployment under his administration. He has also faced criticism for his administration’s record on climate and handling of the pandemic.
Senator Simone Tebet, of the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, one of two women in the race and a member of the country’s parliamentary commission on covid-19, accused Bolsonaro of delaying vaccines and spreading false news about the virus, an assertion that the president denied.
For his part, former President Lula da Silva, the most popular candidate according to recent polls, denied the accusations of corruption and defended his innocence after being convicted of corruption in 2017 after leaving office. In 2021, the Supreme Court overturned the conviction, allowing him to run for president again.
“I was arrested so you could be elected president, but then I was found not guilty. But I am going to win now to see in one fell swoop what he wants to hide so much!” Lula said in reference to Bolsonaro’s alleged efforts to hide information and weaken transparency since he took office.
In addition to those already mentioned, among the candidates for the presidency are also Soraya Thronicke, from the Union Party of Brazil; former finance minister Ciro Gomes, from the Democratic Labor Party, and political scientist and writer Luis Felipe D’Avila, from the Novo party.
The first round of Brazil’s presidential elections is scheduled for October 2.