iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — With Brazil facing an historic presidential election this weekend, many Brazilians are expressing growing concern that the favored far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro will return the South American nation to a military dictatorship.
"We know we are heading to that direction if Bolsonaro is elected on Sunday," Marcelo Leal 36, an unemployed, Afro-Brazilian from Rio de Janeiro told ABC News.
Many Brazilians fears were exacerbated this week when Bolsonaro, a former army captain, said during a 10-minute video conference at a Sao Paulo rally that the "red" left-wing politicians should "either go overseas, or they will go to jail."
Bolsonaro added that these "red outlaws will be banished from our homeland."
Euphoric Bolsonaro supporters wore yellow t-shirts and chanted in Portuguese, "Brazil, love it or leave it!"
Leal wasn't so euphoric.
"The way he spoke — he is just asking Brazilians to be violent, to hate his neighbor," he said.
Worker's Party candidate Fernando Haddad reacted swiftly to Bolsonaro's comments, tweeting that "Bolsonaro threatened the survival of his opponents… How can people feeling safe if he threatens those who think differently from him?"
ARKO Advice political risk expert Thiago de Aragao said Bolsonaro's surface level rhetoric is part of his campaign strategy.
"The strong[er] Jair Bolsonaro's comment[s] will be, the less he will need to go deep in the meaning," Aragao said.
But Bolsonaro's spirited invective seems to be working, according to an Institute of Public Opinions and Statistics poll, which puts Bolsonaro ahead of his closest competitor Fernando Haddad, 57 percent to 43 percent.
Echoing the rhetoric of U.S. President Donald Trump, Bolsonaro supporter Nailma Bispo told ABC News that "he is the one who will make Brazil great again.
"We do need something brutal and shocking to…stop violence" she said.
Among the growing concerns many Brazilians are harboring is the possibility that Bolsonaro plans to appoint military leaders to important political positions in his possible administration — including the consideration of General Antonio Hamilton Mourao for his vice president.
The recently retired general has suggested the prospect of a dictatorship, telling an audience last year that "if institutions cannot solve the problems… we will have to impose the solutions ourselves".
Political violence continues to dominate the issues animating the crucial upcoming elections, especially the murder of Romualdo Rosario da Costa 63, who was killed the day of the first round of the elections.
While seated at a bar, da Costa was stabbed by a Bolsonaro supporter after da Costa revealed that he had voted for Haddad.
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