RIO DE JANEIRO - The two presidential candidates who will square off in Brazil's runoff this month are calling for an end to politically motivated violence- an issue emerging as a central theme of the elections.
Numerous cases of violence were reported in the week before the first round of voting on Oct. 7 and have been ongoing since then. The second round of voting is scheduled Oct. 28.
The race has exposed deep divisions in Latin America's largest nation, with the two candidates representing opposing visions for the future.
On the right is front-runner Jair Bolsonaro, a former army captain who speaks approvingly of the country's 1964-1985 dictatorship and has promised a violent crackdown on drug gangs and other criminals. On the left is Fernando Haddad, a former Sao Paulo mayor who promises to return the country to leftist policies of his Workers' Party, which governed between 2003 and 2016.
While most of the incidents of violence have been blamed on Bolsonaro supporters, the candidate himself was stabbed while campaigning on Sept. 6, allegedly by a man who told police God had told him to attack. Bolsonaro was discharged from the hospital on Sept. 29.
In a tweet late Wednesday, Bolsonaro said he didn't want the vote "of anybody who practices violence against those who didn't vote for me."
His statement came after days of criticism from Workers' Party supporters who said Bolsonaro was turning a blind eye to attacks by his followers.
Runner-up Haddad also called for an end to the brutality, saying parties need to confront the issue together.
"This escalation of violence has to stop," Haddad tweeted Wednesday night.
Publica, a nonprofit investigative journalism organization, found 50 incidents of attacks by Bolsonaro supporters compared to six against them since the beginning of October through Wednesday. The attacks, verified by police reports, happened all over the country and included beatings, stabbings, death threats and even homicide, according to the group.
One of the most extreme cases was in the northeastern city of Salvador, where a capoeira teacher and supporter of the left-leaning Workers' Party was stabbed to death during a discussion with a supporter of Bolsonaro. Police say the attacker was arrested and confessed the killing was politically motivated.
Also in Salvador, a university professor was arrested for allegedly running over a man who was selling Bolsonaro t-shirts.