Bolsonaro speeds up payments to the poor as election looms

Sao Paulo

Brazil’s government has announced plans to accelerate this month’s welfare payments to the needy, as President Jair Bolsonaro prepares to face leftwing rival Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in a second-round election.

Payments of R$600 ($120) under the Auxilio Brasil program will be sent to over 20 million families between October 11 and 25, as well a gas voucher for over 5.5 million Brazilian families.

The financial aid was originally scheduled to be disbursed the following week, from October 18 to 31.

The Auxilio Brasil program debuted under President Jair Bolsonaro’s presidency, and the right-wing leader has campaigned for a second term in part on promises to continue paying the monthly benefit.

He will face da Silva during a run-off vote on Oct. 30.

“Why wouldn’t we help the poor population because of the election period? We are coming out of a pandemic, a time of war, energy, and food insecurity,” said Brazilian citizenship minister Ronaldo Bento during a press conference about the date change on Thursday.

“Those who are hungry cannot wait,” he added.

Critics however have speculated about potential political motivations, which Bento denied.

“It is clear that the acceleration of the payment of the aid and the gas voucher has an electoral intention,” tweeted one person. Another asked if the country’s Superior Electoral Court would think it fair play.

According to national pollster IPEC, 64% of respondents who earn minimum wage and below — the target recipients of the Auxilio Brasil program — said that they planned to vote for Lula on October 30.

Twenty-nine percent of that cohort said they planned to vote for Bolsonaro.

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