With the fight for votes in this final stretch of the presidential race, the campaign of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (PT) has shown knowledge that there is no way to despise the evangelical electorate (something like
million people or 31% of the population , according to data from Datafolha of 2020). If, in the past, Lula easily moved between great Protestant leaders, such as Edir Macedo and Silas Malafaia, in recent years he has seen this support migrate to Bolsonaro. To get around the situation, in addition to approaching evangelical parliamentarians and softening the discourse on controversial topics, such as abortion, the PT campaign has invested in an online strategy simulating organic protestant movements, which can violate electoral norms, according to jurists heard by the report.
In 2018, Malafaia, who is leader of the Vitória em Cristo Assembly of God, declared that Bolsonaro “is the only one who directly defends the ideology of the right”, embodying “the values most dear to our people in terms of customs”. In other words, the speech implies that evangelicals tend to be more inflexible to changes in the customs guidelines proposed by left-wing militancy, such as abortion, gender ideology and drug legalization. The fact that the first lady, Michelle Bolsonaro, is evangelical is also an asset of Bolsonaro’s campaign and has turned the Protestant milieu into a barrier to PT plans.
To break the ice with this public, Lula has approached evangelical parliamentarians, such as senator Eliziane Guerra (Cidadania-MA), who is evangelical and the daughter of a pastor. PT also bets on a softer speech, even manifesting in the letter to evangelicals, released this month, that he is not in favor of abortion, contrary to what he said six months ago, during an event promoted by the Perseu Abramo Foundation, when he defended the legalization of abortion. practice.
“Here in Brazil, for example, poor women, they die trying to have an abortion, because it is forbidden, abortion is illegal. So, the poor woman, she keeps poking her uterus with a crochet hook, she drinks tea from anything (…) When madam can have an abortion in Paris, she can choose Berlin, go to Berlin, look for a good clinic, and have an abortion. she doesn’t do it because it’s prohibited, when in fact it should be turned into a public health issue and everyone has the right and not be ashamed”, said Lula, at the time.
The effect, however, was has been limited, leaving the PT with the support of isolated progressive evangelical communities, such as the independent Igreja Batista do Caminho, by Pastor Henrique Vieira, recently elected federal deputy (PSOL-RJ).
In a more aggressive strategy to capture the Christian electorate, PT militancy has made use of fake news to distance evangelicals from their adversary — with smear campaigns associating Bolsonaro with Freemasonry, Satanism and even pedophilia. Another Lula tactic is the promotion of a covert campaign to attract evangelicals, creating websites and profiles on social networks that simulate organic evangelical movements. The platforms, therefore, stage spontaneous support from evangelicals to Lula, but have the PT campaign behind it.
According to jurists, the practice can be framed as a violation of various electoral principles and norms, and have as a punishment from the removal of content and a fine to a declaration of ineligibility of the candidate.
Who accesses the Restitui Brasil website and its networks If you don’t look closely, you don’t realize that the platform belongs to Lula’s campaign as a means of winning the sympathy of the evangelical electorate. The first message that appears when accessing the page is a biblical verse and, just below, there is a space to register, including name, e-mail, telephone, state and church.
Support for Lula appears here and there on the site, turning to the evangelical public: the PT’s battle cries against the “elites” are exchanged for messages of peace and calls for unity, Marxist clichés give way to biblical messages — but that always focus on “social justice; Lula trade unionist is replaced by “Lula pastor”, making prayers.
In another space on the site — which has a blue-yellow color palette, totally different from the red tones characteristic of past campaigns of the PT — it is requested that prayers be made for Brazil, for Lula and for Alckmin, adding the biblical text: “When the righteous govern, the people rejoice”, but omitting the second part of the famous proverb: “but when the wicked rule, the people groan” (Proverbs 29:2). An attitude similar to that of Lula in his Letter to Evangelicals, where he mentioned that he always thought of the biblical passage that says: “True religion is taking care of orphans and widows in their difficulties. (James 1: 20)”, but again cut and omitted the end of this verse, which was not favorable to him, which adds: “and to keep oneself from the corruption of the world”.
In the “about us” section of the site, it is not informed who is the author or owner, but there is a text that says that they are “evangelicals, followers of Jesus, members of different churches, in different Brazilian states, committed to Democracy and life in abundance”. These, saying they are worried about the future of the nation, believe that the election of Lula and Alckmin is “the immediate and urgent alternative to stop the evils that our country is facing” and to “restore everything that was stolen from us”.
Only in the last sections of the site, entitled “O Brasil da Esperança” and “O Que Quero”, it is clear that it belongs to Lula’s campaign — although these sections have only been added to the site recently, as shown by the records made in August on the Archive Web system, which keeps copies of websites and pages on the internet at a given time. Another confirmation of ownership is the fact that the link to Restitui Brasil is on the TSE’s transparency portal alongside several other sites belonging to PT.
Evangélicos com Lula
Another covert campaign in support of Lula is found on the Instagram profile Evangelicals with Lula, which brings several publications extolling the religiosity of the PT candidate. One of them, made in August of this year, bears the caption “We will not live in a government of darkness! It is time to cry out for the restitution of Brazil”. A video, published on the last day , had the caption “how to be a true Christian?”, with images of Lula hugging the elderly and testimonies of Protestants in favor of the candidate.
Beside the profile there is a repository of files for the militancy, which also belongs to Restitui Brasil and brings several biblical messages to the campaign from Lula. There are messages of support from pastors, such as Azoil Zerbinato, from the Methodist Church of Rio de Janeiro, who says: “The opportunity has come to put an end to hunger and unemployment, to crimes against women and to unite the Brazilian people to make a Big Brazil again”, a phrase similar to the one used by Donald Trump in his campaign for the presidency in the United States, in 2016.
Evangélicos com Lula It also has a Facebook page. In its “about” section, it is not informed that it is a profile belonging to Lula’s campaign, but it says: “Welcome to the page created to support evangelicals for Lula’s candidacy. It is managed by a group of evangelicals for Lula”. However, through its library of ads — which are mainly aimed at the public in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Minas Gerais, places where Lula is seeking to turn votes — it can be seen that the profile belongs to Lula’s candidacy, since the social network requires that election announcements have the name of the politician who sponsored the publication public.
Verdade na Rede
Similar situation occurred at the end September, when the Superior Electoral Court (TSE) ordered Lula’s campaign to remove the Verdade na Rede website from the air, under penalty of a fine in the amount of R$ 1997 thousand, after Bolsonaro’s campaign had filed representation arguing that the site was impersonating an independent checking agency to disseminate electoral propaganda in favor of Lula and against the candidate for reelection.
Upon granting a request for urgent relief, Minister Maria Claudia Bucchianeri observed that users of the Verdade na Rede website, when register to receive content, they would be led to believe that this was a politically neutral vehicle and “without clear indication that the data provided in good faith would be directed to an electoral campaign”. Another point highlighted by her is the fact that this site has different colors from all the others belonging to Lula.
“A person needs to know that they are submitting to an advertisement to know if they want to consume this advertisement electoral or not. The organization of the site as a verification agency seemed serious to me,” said the magistrate.
Master in Constitutional Law, Caio Guerra, who is a lawyer and university professor, recalls that, as the Evangelicals with Lula page and the Restitui Brasil website are linked to the electoral campaign data of the candidate Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva along with the TSE website, they present the feasibility of electoral propaganda on the internet, according to the Elections Law (9.504/1997).
“Therefore, the website and the Facebook page, for not being expressly labeled as electoral propaganda and not identifying themselves as produced according to the interests of the alliance that launched the candidacy of former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, violate several electoral principles and norms, highlighting the ‘principle of mandatory transparency’”, explains Guerra.
He also cites a violation of the article 242 of the Có I say Electoral, which establishes that electoral propaganda must always mention the party legend, and must not “employ advertising means designed to artificially create mental, emotional or passionate states in public opinion.”
Already for Miguel Vidigal, a lawyer specializing in Civil Law and director of the Union of Catholic Jurists of São Paulo (Ujucasp), saying what irregularities are present in the case of the Evangelicals with Lula campaign is even difficult, given the times the country is going through. He exemplifies with the removal of a documentary produced by Brasil Paralelo from the internet that, even without bringing any fake news, according to the TSE’s own decision, would contain an “informational disorder” capable of confusing the “ordinary voter”. Vidigal emphasizes that the quotation marks are from Minister Ricardo Lewandowski himself, when judging the request.
“I cannot understand a decision that guides its prohibition by a concept that does not exist in our legal system. But if that documentary made this mistake, it seems to me that the cases indicated above clearly also violated the innovative principle created by the minister and followed by most of his peers”, adds the jurist.
Vidigal recalls that the resolution 20.242 /2019 of the TSE determines that “the use, in electoral propaganda, of any type of content, including transmitted by third parties, presupposes that the candidate, the candidate, the party , the federation or coalition has verified the presence of elements that allow for the conclusion, with reasonable certainty, of the reliability of the information, subjecting the responsible persons to the provisions of the article 58 of the Law on Elections Law, without prejudice to possible criminal liability.”
The lawyer also recalls the controversial resolution 23.714 of the TSE, issued last Thursday (20) by M Minister Alexandre de Moraes, establishing that, “under the terms of the Electoral Code, the disclosure or sharing of facts known to be untrue or seriously decontextualized that affect the integrity of the electoral process, including the processes of voting, counting and counting of votes” is prohibited.
Pursuant to article 96 of the Law on Elections, “claims or representations ” for irregular electoral propaganda can be made by any political party, coalition, candidate and the electoral Public Ministry, and must “report facts, indicating evidence, indications and circumstances”.
The lawyer and legal advisor Silvio Kuroda, a specialist in Public Law and former advisor to the Minister of the Superior Court, reinforces that freedom of expression and thought, guarantees provided for in Article 5 of the Federal Constitution, are legal assets directly linked to the expression of will. In this sense, the practice to reach evangelicals can be treated as a systemic and continuous behavior of inducing the most vulnerable population, mainly elderly and adolescent voters, what Civil Law calls addiction to consent (supporting itself on a false idea of real situation of things, the person supposes something that, in fact, it is not).
“In the criminal sphere, inducing someone to error, by fraudulent means, with the purpose of obtaining an unlawful advantage from any nature, also characterizes the crime of embezzlement, provided for in article 65 of the Penal Code, in addition to electoral offenses and even an act of administrative improbity if you are a public agent, as the case may be. For the investigation, it is up to the Electoral Public Prosecutor’s Office or the Electoral Judge to initiate an Electoral Judicial Investigation Action”, says Kuroda. The lawyer explains that, in case of proof of illegality, the penalties can be varied, such as the declaration of ineligibility, the cancellation of candidacy or mandate, the removal of advertisements and fines.
A Gazeta do Povo contacted Lula’s advisors, but did not receive a response until the end of the report.
Content edited by:Bruna Komarchesqui