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All but one of Brazil”s top presidential candidates arriving for the first debate.The showdown highlighted the sharp divides in Latin America”s largest nation… after one of the world”s biggest corruption scandals… two years of severe recession…. a sharp rise in violent crime…. SOUNDBITE (Portuguese) Geraldo Alckmin, candidate of the Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB):”Killings are surging in Brazil. In 2016 there were 62 thousand and last year there were 63 thousand With the unpopular President Michel Temer not seeking a second term… this is the least predictable Brazilian election in decades… and the elephant NOT in the room was Lula da Silva.SOUNDBITE – Guilherme Boulos, leftist PSOL candidate (man, Portuguese, 8 sec): “Good night to ex-president Lula, who should have been here, but is unjustly held in prison in Curitiba while Temer is walking free in Brasilia.”A court refused his lawyers request to allow Lula to participate via video link… and the TV station refused his parties request to mark his absence with an empty chair.Instead Worker”s party leaders organised what they called an “alternative debate”… broadcast on social media.Despite serving a 12-year prison term for corruption, Lula, who was president from 2003 to 2010, currently enjoys a stunning lead in the polls. His ally, the former Sao Paulo Mayor Fernando Haddad, read his statement: SOUNDBITE (Portuguese) Fernando Haddad, former Sao Paulo Mayor and spokesperson for Lula”The decision to exclude me from the presidential debate …violates the rights of the Brazilian people, the rights of other candidates to debate the proposals of my candidacy and even to criticize me while looking at my face, and I have the right to reply. Lula”s legal team still hopes to persuade the Supreme Electoral Tribunal to allow him to run in the October vote… despite the country”s clean slate rule that bars anyone who has lost an appeal to a criminal conviction.
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