on the same day that Jair Bolsonaro arrived in the United Kingdom to attend the funeral ceremony of Queen Elizabeth II on Sunday 18th, Senator Soraya Thronicke, presidential candidate for União Brasil, filed an action with the Superior Electoral Court (TSE) to prevent the electoral use of the visit — which, as it turned out, was in fact in the captain’s plans. The parliamentarian would do the same thing later in relation to Bolsonaro’s speech at the UN, in New York, on Tuesday 20. A similar initiative she had already taken with the president’s participation in the acts of September 7. In all of them, she achieved her objective — the Electoral Justice prohibited the president from exploring the episodes in the election.
It is for these and other attitudes, such as the combative stance he adopted against Bolsonaro in the debates, that Soraya went from being a “bolsonarist senator” to one of the preferred targets of the president’s supporters. “You, who had never heard of candidate Soraya either, so she was elected: ‘Bolsonaro’s senator’. History has already shown how voters treat traitors,” posted Senator Flávio Bolsonaro (PL-RJ). Indeed, it was so. The lawyer debuted in politics as a candidate for the Senate for Mato Grosso do Sul in 2018, representing the PSL, acronym for Bolsonaro, and with the support of the presidential candidate. Soraya appeared far from favoritism, but was elected with 375,000 votes in the wake of the Bolsonarista wave.
The alliance did not last long. During her term, Soraya went on a collision course with Bolsonaro, which ended up taking the senator to the opposition and earning her the label of “traitor”. She began to distance herself when radical agendas such as attacks on the STF became frequent and, at the Pandemia CPI, she thickened the bloc that firmly hit the government. The current presidential candidate justifies the change in position by saying that the president abandoned the proposals that elected him, such as liberalizing the economy and fighting corruption. “I remain loyal to the same flags, the same party and the same supporters. So, he is the traitor”, he criticizes, with the same harshness with which he said that the president was “chutchuca” with other men, but went up to women like a “tiger”, in the first presidential debate in the Band, when defending a journalist mistreated by Bolsonaro.
The confrontation between the senator and the president reached the level of attacks on her and her family in Mato Grosso do Sul. Soraya’s home state is still one of Bolsonaro’s strongholds. Born in Dourados and raised in Campo Grande, Soraya is 49 years old, married and owns a chain of motels with her husband, with whom she has a child. She graduated in law at the Integrated College of Campo Grande, where she was a student of Simone Tebet (MDB), another senator from Mato Grosso do Sul, candidate for the presidency. She did a postgraduate degree in business and tax law before becoming a public figure at the time of the protests for the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff. She gained prominence when she obtained a habeas corpus for protesters who had been arrested in protest against PT in Campo Grande, in 2015. She joined Novo in 2017 and switched to PSL a year later, when she triumphed in her Senate campaign right in political debut. At Casa, she was in favor of projects such as the sale of Eletrobras, voted against the increase in the Electoral Fund and defended agribusiness as president of the Agriculture and Agrarian Reform Commission.
In theory, Soraya should not lack ammunition in the presidential race, as she is a candidate for the party that has the biggest chunk of the Electoral Fund and the biggest share of radio and TV time. Soraya has already spent 27 million reais, of which 17 million reais in marketing, under the baton of the marketer Lula Guimarães, one of the most experienced and respected professionals in the field. She declared spending 1.75 million reais on jet rentals and has traveled around the country in search of votes – which so far earns her only 1% of the share of voters. In recent days, however, there have been complaints about delays in the transfer of campaign funds by the party. In the long time she has on TV, she shoots both Bolsonaro and Lula, whom she calls “the usual liar”. “One of the biggest lies of this election is to say that Squid was cleared,” he says. In relation to the proposals, he incessantly repeats the single tax bill of his deputy, economist Marcos Cintra, and continues to raise the banner of fighting corruption. He also piles on original promises, such as releasing non-lethal weapons to women, exempting teachers from paying income taxes and promoting sustainable development in the Amazon. “All indigenous people are Brazilians and have the right to work and prosper,” he says.
One of the candidacy’s hopes is to take a ride on the visibility guaranteed by the next two presidential debates of the first round: that of VEJA, in partnership with SBT and a pool of companies, on the 24th, and that of TV Globo, on the 29th. Senator started to score after doing well in the Band debate, when she went viral on social networks when comparing herself to Juma Marruá, a character who turns into a jaguar in the soap opera wetland (which takes place in MS). On Wednesday the 21st, she criticized Lula for signaling that she will not attend the next debate. “Cowardice, huh, Luiz? Let’s discuss Brazil there. Debate is a voter’s right and a candidate’s duty. I am chock full of questions for you and PT,” she posted on Twitter.
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Despite the difficulties to conquer space, Soraya’s candidacy is already evaluated as successful internally for scoring even though it is unknown nationally with a last-minute candidacy created by União Brasil. Initially, the party made gestures that it would be part of a third way bloc, alongside the MDB and PSDB. The attempt foundered and the arrival of Sergio Moro’s acronym seemed designed to launch him as presidential candidate. The plan was interrupted at birth by legend chiefs, who undermined the project. Moro ended up resigning himself to being a candidate for senator for the party, in Paraná. With that, the presidential vacancy fell into Soraya’s lap.
Her and União Brasil’s challenges are the same: to come out of the election bigger than they entered. In the case of the senator, it seems simple. For União Brasil, it became more difficult, as it is still paying the price of breaking with Bolsonaro (part of the legend is formed by the former PSL, the captain’s party in the 2018 campaign). The acronym has 51 deputies, less than the PSL elected in 2018 (54). Now, it tries to maintain itself as one of the parties with the most money and TV time, but for that it will have to repeat the success of four years ago. “Our objective is to form one of the three largest benches in Congress”, says Deputy Junior Bozzella, the optimistic president of União in São Paulo.
Much of the acronym’s clout is on strong platforms in states such as Bahia (ACM Neto), Goiás (Ronaldo Caiado) and Ceará (Capitão Wagner). The trio, however, is not fully engaged in Soraya’s candidacy. Caiado and ACM have alliances with Ciro Gomes (PDT) and Wagner is associated with Bolsonarism. “I have the support of the party and I expect a minimum of loyalty”, she says. In the end, the newcomer was left with the task of leading a giant party that struggles not to go back to being a runt.
INTERVIEW: “They offend my honor”
Presidential candidate Soraya Thronicke (União Brasil) says she has received threats after adopting a critical stance against Jair Bolsonaro.
What kind of attacks have you suffered?Threat, slander, slander, defamation, the entire Penal Code. Bolsonaristas are violent to the extreme. These are aggressive attacks on social media and in person. And it bothers me a lot in an election where we’ve already seen assassinations for political dissent.
So these threats aren’t just virtual?My husband, who had the car with stickers, stopped at the traffic light, a truck with Bolsonaro advertising took a “thin” from his car and the driver raised his hand. I have already requested protection from the Legislative Police, but the family members do not have the structure to deal with it. And a lot of people carry guns in the state.
Do you think you suffer more threats for being a woman?The fact that I’m a woman makes it easier for the unscrupulous to threaten. They offend my honor in a way they wouldn’t if I were a man. I have many male supporters, but four years in the Senate made me aware that there is a veiled machismo in the country.
Do the attacks make you think Bolsonarism is worse than PTismo, of which you have always been a rival?There are two bad sides, which combine mismanagement and systemic corruption. And I don’t think the dispute is crystallized between the two. If you don’t believe me, I won’t get out of bed.
Published in VEJA of September 28, 2022, issue nº 2808
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