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LATIN AMERICA | 30-10-2022 17:41

Brazil election hit by outcry over roadblocks

Leaders of the leftist Worker's Party shared numerous videos on social media of buses carrying voters stopped at the roadblocks, mainly in the electoral stronghold of former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

Brazil's election boss on Sunday announced the lifting of traffic police roadblocks that had "delayed" voters during a high-stakes presidential election, after the blockages led to an outcry from the left.

"A decision was taken to end these operations to avoid the delay of voters," top electoral judge Alexandre de Moraes told a press conference with just over an hour before polls closed.

Leaders of the leftist Worker's Party (PT) shared numerous videos on social media of buses carrying voters stopped at roadblocks, mainly in the electoral stronghold of former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (2003-2010).

Lula, 77, wrote that "what is happening in the North-East is unacceptable."

However, Moraes said that "no bus was turned back and all could vote."

On Saturday night the superior elections court banned any traffic police (PRF) operation that would hinder voters.

PT president Gleisi Hoffman wrote on Twitter that she had demanded the arrest of traffic police chief Silvinei Vasques for "non-respect" of the decision.

The controversial Vasques on Sunday morning published an Instagram story urging Brazilians to vote for far-right incumbent Jair Bolsonaro.

The newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo reported more than 500 roadblocks at midday, 70 percent more than the first round election on October 2.

"PRF agents are preventing voters from voting in Garanhuns, Lula's place of birth," PT senator Humberto Costa wrote on Twitter, sharing a video showing a bus halted at a roadblock.

According to the O Globo news website, around one hundred Indigenous people from Querencia in the central-west state of Mato Grosso complained they had been unable to vote due to an absence of public transport.

The newspaper also reported 200 kilometres (124 miles) of traffic jams in the metropolitan area of Rio de Janeiro.

Early Sunday, the metro in Belo Horizonte, capital of the key state of Minas Gerais, was not operating free of charge, as electoral authorities had ordered.

This was only implemented halfway through the day after judge de Moraes intervened.

Analysts have said that abstention in the poorest regions of Brazil is a factor that could have a significant impact on an extremely tight race.

During a first round of voting Lula came out on top with 48 percent of the vote, compared to 43 percent scored by the incumbent.

"A coup d'etat is underway, with the use of the PRF to prevent poor people from voting for Lula," tweeted political scientist Christian Lynch.

De Moraes said the situation had been resolved and "there will be no postponement of the end of the vote."

Human Rights Watch said in a statement it was "very concerned" about the operation.

"Authorities should immediately abide by the court's decisions, suspend all operations that can lead to voter suppression, and ensure all voters can exercise their right to vote freely and safely."

On social media, the hashtag #Deixeonordoestevotar (let the northeast vote) went viral in Brazil.

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