2022 Race

Rumors of “attack” on gubernatorial candidate in São Paulo unconfirmed

climate são paulo Tarcísio de Freitas and his aides duck after shots were heard during a campaign event. Photo: Social media
Tarcísio de Freitas (center, wearing a blue shirt) and his aides duck after shots were heard during a campaign event. Photo: Social media

A campaign event for former Infrastructure Minister Tarcísio de Freitas, who is the frontrunner in the São Paulo gubernatorial race, was interrupted on Monday after a shootout began in Paraisópolis, one of the biggest favelas in São Paulo city.

In video footage, shots can be heard near the building where Mr. Freitas, his staff, and several reporters stood. A few cameramen approached the open windows to record the incident. 

Mr. Freitas claimed on Twitter that he and his team were “attacked by criminals.” The police and the São Paulo state government did not confirm the allegation.

Public Security State Secretary João Camilo Campos said in a press conference that “no hypothesis is discarded” for now.

“We had a shootout event near where candidate Tarcísio’s staff were,” Mr. Campos said. He added that shots were fired somewhere between 50 and 100 meters away from where the candidate and his staff were campaigning.

Mr. Campos confirmed that one man died in the shootout — Felipe Lima, who had a criminal record. The circumstances of his death are still under investigation. Before the press conference, Governor Rodrigo Garcia told CNN Brasil that there is insufficient information so far to assess whether the shootout was politically motivated.

Mr. Freitas finished first in the gubernatorial election on October 2, with 42 percent of the vote. He will face former mayor of São Paulo Fernando Haddad, who received 35 percent of the vote, in an October 30 runoff.

Governor Garcia, who was running for re-election, was eliminated from the race after managing just 18 percent of the vote. His defeat put an end to a 28-year-rule of the Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB) in São Paulo state. After the first round, he pledged his “unconditional support” to Mr. Freitas and to President Jair Bolsonaro.

During a press conference of his own, Mr. Freitas said the shots fired “had nothing to do with an electoral issue.” He also denied ever saying he and his team were victims of an attack, although he tweeted earlier today that he had been “attacked by criminals.”

Mr. Freitas tried to capitalize on the issue by quoting unnamed sources who supposedly said criminals were sending a message that he is not welcome on their turf — although security officials made no mention of such information.

Fears around political violence have permeated the 2022 campaign season. The electoral investigation group at the Federal University of the State of Rio de Janeiro (Unirio) tallied at least 212 episodes of political violence during Q3 2022, including 21 murders. The numbers represent a 70-percent rise from Q3 2020 — just before that year’s municipal elections.

Still, authorities say the first round took place without abnormal levels of violence.