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Former Brazilian President Lula challenges incumbent Bolsonaro in election

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Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva waves while participating in a ceremony in his honor in Paris in 2020. Lula kicked off his campaign to reclaim the presidency on Tuesday. File Photo by Christophe Petit Tesson/EPA-EFE
Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva waves while participating in a ceremony in his honor in Paris in 2020. Lula kicked off his campaign to reclaim the presidency on Tuesday. File Photo by Christophe Petit Tesson/EPA-EFE

Aug. 17 (UPI) -- Former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is campaigning to reclaim the office, urging voters to punish incumbent President Jair Bolsonaro for his COVID-19 response.

Bolsonaro, who also launched his campaign Tuesday, has repeatedly denied the severity of COVID-19, calling it "a bit of a cold," even though it has killed more than 680,000 Brazilians. He has also called the election a battle between God-fearing "good" and leftist "evil."

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"If there's anyone who is possessed by the devil, it's this Bolsonaro," Lula said, according to The Guardian. "He's trying to manipulate the good faith of evangelical men and women."

Recent polls show that just under half of evangelical voters support the Bolsonaro government, the Washington Post reported. Many are angry about the government's response to the coronavirus pandemic.

"I have no doubt that Black evangelical women will decide these elections," Jacqueline Teixeira, an anthropology professor at the University of São Paulo, told the BBC.

A poll released on Monday showed Lula with a 12-point lead over Bolsonaro ahead of the October election.

Lula led Brazil from 2003 to 2010, but was sent to prison in 2018 for 580 days after a corruption conviction. He was released after a court ruled that he had been denied due process. On Tuesday, he said on Twitter that there would be no stopping his campaign from changing the country.

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"There will be no lies or fake news that stop us from changing Brazil," Lula tweeted.

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