Brazilian journalist Solange Freitas survived a shooting attack on Wednesday while campaigning for the elections in which Brazilians vote for mayors and councilors across the country, more than 5,000 municipalities, this Sunday. In two weeks there will be a second round. The candidate of the Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB) for the São Vicente City Council (São Paulo), claims to have received two death threats in the campaign before the attack that almost killed her along with several collaborators. A man on a motorcycle fired five shots at the car they were in. As it was armored, the projectiles did not pass through the glass and no one was injured. Apart from Freitas, there were three advisers and the candidate for vice mayor.
The candidate is one more victim of the escalation of political violence in the Brazilian municipal elections, which already has 82 candidates or militants killed. The Police are still investigating who were the perpetrators, material and intellectual, of the attack suffered by politics. “It still has to be investigated, but, for me, there was a political motive. When it happened I was shocked, I cried non-stop and felt anger and indignation. Knowing that people do that for power. But, later, that gives you even more strength to continue, ”says the candidate for EL PAÍS.
Brazil faces its most unusual election since the return to democracy in 1985. This Sunday’s elections were postponed due to the pandemic in this country that has the second highest number of deaths from covid-19 in the world (with more than 165,000 deaths ). In the state of Macapá, the vote was postponed due to a gigantic blackout that is still raging. Fear of the pandemic can have a detrimental effect on democracy. If, on the one hand, the number of registered voters increased by 2.6% compared to 2016 municipalities, the expectation of specialists is that there will be a record of abstentions, as has happened in other countries.
Freitas had moved shortly before the attack. He left the front seat and sat in the back to go over the day’s schedule with a consultant. According to her, traveling in an armored car was a preventive measure. The candidate, who went back to campaigning on the street this Friday, said she does not feel intimidated. “I am firm in my purpose, I am not going to give it up. This attack on democracy is also regrettable because it can discourage women from running for office in the face of so much violence, such as the attempted assassination of a female candidate, ”she says. “This strong movement of more women in politics is very good and important.”
The 50-year-old journalist worked as a reporter for TV Tribuna, a Globo affiliate, until May, when she left to dedicate herself to the campaign. Since she entered the political world, she claims to have been heavily attacked on social media. “Not with attacks like this, with shots. They were always attempts to damage my image. Many false news and accusations, so much so that I had to go to court many times, ”he says.
For her, the sole objective of the attacks on social networks was to destabilize her. “And more because of my status as a woman, because it is the first time that there are female candidates running for the city council. Instead, what has happened this week is indeed a question of power, “he says.
During the campaign, he claims to have suffered two death threats, to which he did not attach much importance. On October 14, one of the candidate’s meeting rooms was destroyed by a fire, allegedly intentional. The Civil Police is still investigating the case. Days later, when she visited the place, she was approached by a stranger on a bicycle.
“He told me that he worked for one person, without telling me for whom, but that he knew that if I got too high in the polls, they would kill me. And that, if they didn’t kill me and I won the elections, I wasn’t going to take office ”, he says. She concluded with her advisers that it was another attempt to destabilize her, and chose not to “give it a shot.” “Another day, I received a WhatsApp message with a number from Chile, threatening me, and I blocked it. Effective threats were those two ”, he explains.
‘Greeting’ from the PCC
Since the attack against the candidate, the city has commented on the possibility that the event was related to an alleged warning given by the First Command of the Capital (PCC) to prohibit the political campaigns of the PSDB and its allies in the favelas of all the state of São Paulo. Freitas does not believe the episode is related to that warning. “From the beginning of the campaign, that ‘greeting’ began [aviso] of the PCC, which was later extended to all parties linked to the State Government. Here in São Vicente practically no candidate could campaign in any favela, ”he explains.
She affirms that she did not go to the favelas and that they only approached her once, when she was recording an electoral advertising video at the Puente dos Barreiros, the main link between the continental and insular areas of the city. “I was doing some tests, on the way, but some guys told me I couldn’t be going. I told them that I was not doing anything, that I was neither inside the favela nor asking for votes. Still, they told me that as it was for the campaign, I couldn’t, and then they deleted the photos and video. I do not see anything linked to them or reasons for them to have done that ”.
The PSDB issued a statement in which it states that it awaits the prompt investigation of the responsibility of the crime. “The PSDB of São Paulo is in solidarity with the candidate for mayor of São Vicente, Solange Freitas, and her team, victims of a firearm attack this Wednesday morning. Solange is hoping for better days in the city and will surely continue to do so. The PSDB expects the speedy clarification of the case by the police authorities and the exemplary punishment of its perpetrators ”.
For his part, the governor of São Paulo, João Doria (PSDB), spoke on Twitter and stated that the violence against the candidate is “an attack on democracy” and reported that he has urged the Civil Police to clarify the episode .