News Latin America “If Lula wins, we will cut 30% of the workforce”: complaints against...

“If Lula wins, we will cut 30% of the workforce”: complaints against businessmen for electoral harassment skyrocket in Brazil

A follower of Bolsonaro, with a sign that says “Lula, thief.”Eraldo Peres (AP)

The Brazilian electoral battle has seeped into the companies. From calls to vote to notices of dismissals, the complaints of workers for electoral harassment break records. The registered complaints, 1,633 so far in the campaign, have grown by 670% compared to the 2018 elections, according to data from the Prosecutor’s Office until midday this Wednesday. The number of companies sued is also twelve times greater than four years ago.

The authorities have warned that the coercion of the vote is an electoral crime, but the complaints have not stopped growing since the first round. In the vast majority of cases, they try to favor the far-right Jair Bolsonaro against the leftist Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, whom the bosses present as a threat to stability. Many times, those involved are small and medium-sized companies in states that Bolsonaro won in the first round.

A store in Mato Grosso, in the center of the country, invited people of supposed Venezuelan origin to give a talk to the workers about the danger of Brazil becoming “communist”. A guest recounted the harsh living conditions in Venezuela and said that she would not like the neighboring country to go through the same, according to the complaint from the Public Ministry of Labor (MPT), the prosecutor’s office in charge of monitoring compliance with labor legislation. “When a socialist government wins, it doesn’t want to let go,” she warned. The MPT has taken the case to court and has asked the company to issue a statement reaffirming its employees’ freedom to vote.

In other cases, fears of layoffs have been stirred. Concrevali, a cement company in a small city in Parana, in the south of the country, warned of a significant drop in production “due to the possible change in economic guidelines” if Lula wins. “Dear suppliers, (…) if the result of the first round is maintained, the company must reduce its expenses and the number of collaborators by at least 30% next year,” says the statement signed by the owner and collected in the prosecution’s complaint. The judge has ordered the company to “refrain” from requesting a vote for a candidate under penalty of 20,000 reais for each breach, about 3,700 dollars.

The transport sector, one of the sectors that most supports the current government, is a focus of the complaints. Adriano Jose Benvenutti, owner of a fleet of 700 trucks, considered changing work schedules so that those who vote for Lula would be on the road on election day. In addition, in a video sent to the company’s Telegram group that reported the Piaui Magazine, the businessman demanded that his workers vote for the far-right candidate. “Good day, personal, is everything alright?” He would say, with a Brazilian flag in the background. “I am going to strongly ask all drivers to vote for Bolsonaro so that the companies continue to grow, to continue operating.” The judge gave him 24 hours to delete the video and ordered him to adapt the hours to allow voting and avoid “any impediment” to participation.

The cases have accumulated rapidly since the first round of the elections, on October 2. In just the last six days, they went from 903 to 1,633. This sudden increase, prior to the second round that takes place this Sunday, has put the Prosecutor’s Office on alert. The MPT has reminded employers that forcing or directing their employees to vote constitutes an electoral crime and has encouraged workers to denounce. The unions have also created a platform to collect complaints, even if they are anonymous.

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70% of the complaints are concentrated in the southeast and the south, the most developed regions of the country. According to the data provided by the Prosecutor’s Office until this Wednesday, Minas Gerais, the second most populous and key state in the final stretch of the campaign, is the one that accumulates the most cases, 27% of the total. It is followed by Parana and Santa Catarina, two entities with less electoral weight but that Bolsonaro clearly won on October 2, and São Paulo, the country’s great industrial hub.

The bosses’ preference for Bolsonaro is clear. The ultra-rightist offers low taxes, more privatizations and an ultra-liberal discourse. “The more State, the worse,” he recently told the magazine See. Instead, Lula, who has been criticized by businessmen for the vagueness of her economic proposals, proposes raising taxes on the richest and increasing social spending, but has made it clear that she will maintain fiscal responsibility. His status as favorite in the race has led to a rapprochement by top business leaders. In late September, he hosted a dinner in São Paulo with nearly 150 executives that helped calm things down. Outside Paulista Avenue, however, the fear of the “communist” remains strong.

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