Edeleusa Pereira, beneficiary of the aid payment from Auxilio Brasil, accompanied by her granddaughters last Tuesday in Salvador de Bahía Matheus Leite (EL PAÍS)
Brazilian Camila Reis, 34, arrived here before 7 a.m. with the last of her money. Five reais, less than a dollar. And on the bus that took her to this square where she’s queuing in front of a bank, she was robbed. It was not an assault, but the driver who withheld the 10 cents of the return. “I don’t have anything anymore, I hope the money is there, for God’s sake,” says Ms. Reis under the harsh midday sun in Periperi, a neighborhood on the outskirts of Salvador de Bahia. With the patience of the poor and renewed faith, he trusts that the queue is moving forward, the paperwork is in order, and he receives the Brazilian government’s monthly payment for the poor. It derives from the famous and effective Bolsa Familia, which President Jair Bolsonaro renamed Auxilio Brasil to separate from Lula da Silva’s Labor Party. Looking ahead to the elections, he managed to increase the amount by 50%.
Thanks to a legislative and accounting maneuver, the President has received $7,500 million from the public coffers, which he has already divided among three groups: the poor, hoping that part of them will turn their backs on Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva , as well as Taxi and truck drivers, who he hopes will increase the support they already give him. Inflation hits the former very hard; to the second the increase in fuel.
Bahia, part of the blackest and neediest part of Brazil, is Lula territory. Here, even at his worst, the former president was an idol for the masses.
This Tuesday morning, the queue in front of the Caixa Economica goes around the block. Reis comes to pick up the Brazil aid. He needs help to feed his five children, build a cabin, and most importantly, get his ticket back to his neighborhood. For the past eight months, this thin woman and her offspring have lived on the alms of other Pentecostal believers. “I’m without gas, without a refrigerator,” he says. Nothing out of the ordinary in a country where 33 million people are starving.
Camilla Reis, queuing at the bank to collect the anti-poverty payment, last Tuesday in Periperi, a neighborhood on the outskirts of Salvador de Bahía Matheus Leite (EL PAÍS)
He says the two young children were left in the care of 12-year-old Uedison, who “is more responsible than a lot of men,” he shoots. Skinny, the tattoos on her arms contrast with the skirt below the knee and the tight bow; indicate that it was not always evangelical. She grew up believing, she lost her way, her boyfriend was in prison and when he regained his freedom he betrayed her with another man and appropriated her cabin. In the face of such a spate of disasters, he returned to the Church. She is part of the undecided minority ahead of these elections. His priority right now is getting paid.
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This female head of family is among 20 million Brazilian families who have been receiving 600 reais ($115) a month from Aid Brazil in recent days. While the Bolsa Familia was around 190 reais, Bolsonaro raised it to 400 after the pandemic and now to 600. Pay is his main weapon to turn the polls around, which put Lula 15 points clear according to Datafolha, the more reliable poll. This indicates that among the recipients of aid to Brazil, 56% will vote for the former president and 28% for the current president.
Getting votes from Lula in Bahia is quite a challenge, as the states on the northeast coast of Brazil are the traditional breadbasket of the former president and the PT. During his two terms in office, these humble folk prospered like never before thanks to the bonanza of the commodity boom and wealth redistribution.
Three numbers give an idea of how vital social assistance has become here. Bahia has 16 million inhabitants, 1.8 million formal jobs and 2.2 million families dependent on Brazilian aid. A situation that is repeated more or less intensively in a third of the federal states.
Edeleusa Pereira, 55, has been unemployed for many years after a lifetime working odd days as a housemaid without contributing. She’s glad aid has increased but says even that isn’t enough to pay all the bills. “Sometimes I have outstanding bills that I have to pay with the card or in installments,” explains the ardent Lula admirer. He appreciates the help but has no intention of voting for Bolsonaro, whom he considers nefarious, one of the worst rulers. All of Ms. Pereira’s confidence is in a win for the PT.
Because, although she may not quite believe it, the salary amount is due at the end of the year, just before the next president takes office. “They keep saying the 600 reais is until December but Lula will keep it. I have faith in him.”
It immediately occurs to him that the first round is on October 2nd and that “there may be a second round on October 30th”. And if Lula wins, what should his first decision be? “First, lower the price of things because everything is very expensive. I’m getting wings from so much chicken already. We used to have barbecues with Lula,” he recalls.
Adailton Andrade, a collector of recyclable material who could not ask for help online, last Tuesday in the Periperi district in Salvador de Bahía Matheus Leite (EL PAÍS)
The queues around the block for payment aren’t the only problem, says architect Wila Carvalho, 28, and activist for Salvador Invisível. The Internet practices that those who live with the Internet are so grateful for are an impassable wall for people like Adailton Andrade, 43, a cardboard recycler. “To request help, you had to make an appointment online. I tried it with my daughter, with her mobile phone, we tried again and again, but we didn’t succeed,” he explains resignedly. The activist participates in an advisory board of the authorities, where she has proposed monthly courses to prepare users to successfully face the digital bureaucracy.
Albanise Santos, 37, also a Periperi resident, has been paid since giving birth to her second child three years ago. Previously, she was secretary to a PT deputy. Though he’s been leaving resumes here and there for some time, no one calls him to offer him a job outside of his former bosses, who want him to get involved in the campaign. He says he only accepts if they offer him a permanent job in return.
The 600 reales supplement her husband’s salary. As long as nothing unforeseen happens, this house where the kids eat soup for dinner and the adults get bread and coffee will make ends meet. “In June, the two children became ill and mad at the same time. The pharmacy bill alone was 400 reais… We paid half and the other half on credit,” he says at the door of the house where seven adults and three children live.
Mrs. Santos is determined to vote for Lula. And he agrees with analysts that the election will be very close. “There are many around here who are not from the PT, but they will vote for Lula. Let’s see if we kick Bolsonaro out and things get a little better.” The expectations the left is raising among the most vulnerable Brazilians are immense. The two favorites have promised that if they win the Brazil aid payment, they will continue. How much it will be remains to be seen.
In any case, Ms. Reis is cautious: “I cannot rely solely on help. I need to find another steady source of income,” he insists, while trying to find a shadow without losing his place in line at the bank.