RIO DE JANEIRO — A new Netflix series about a sprawling corruption investigation has muscled its way into Brazil’s heated politics, outraging supporters of a leftist former president who is trying to make a comeback and stirring debate about how closely a docudrama should adhere to the facts.
The series, “The Mechanism,” has drawn heat since it was released on March 23. Critics say its inaccuracies are unfair to a former president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who is the leading candidate in the polls for the election this fall. Others see in the show a more or less fair, if depressing, depiction of an intricate investigation that has so far seen more than 100 people convicted, including senior political figures like Mr. da Silva.
Still others say the publicity — however negative — has only been a boon for Netflix, and lament the frivolity of talking about a television show instead of poverty, violence, environmental conflicts and the myriad other challenges that face Brazil, Latin America’s most populous nation.
The debate has been fierce.
Paulo Roberto Pires, a left-leaning columnist at the newsmagazine Época, called the series misleading, adding that it reduced complex political, historical and social issues to the fight against corruption.
Antonia Pellegrino, a feminist activist who has a blog at the newspaper Folha de São Paulo, said the series amounted to a “condemnation of representative democracy.”
Mr. da Silva, known universally as Lula, has not directly commented on the series, but his ally and successor as president, Dilma Rousseff, wrote a post on Facebook listing inaccuracies. “Netflix’s board doesn’t know what they got into,” she said last Monday, a comment that some commentators interpreted as an implicit threat. “I think this is very serious for them.”
The show’s creator, José Padilha, a Brazilian based in Los Angeles, said the furor had only benefited the series. “I think Lula and Dilma are helping us a lot with the marketing of the series,” he said with a laugh.
Mr. Padilha, who also created the Netflix series “Narcos,” about a Colombia drug kingpin, noted the disclaimer before each episode, which says that the series is “loosely based on actual events.”
“The Mechanism” dramatizes a corruption investigation — known by its police code name, Operation Car Wash — that has now roiled Brazilian politics for more than four years. Three successive presidents have been implicated: Mr. da Silva, who was convicted of corruption and money laundering; Ms. Rousseff, who was impeached and removed from office over unrelated charges of violating budgetary rules but also faced criminal investigations; and the incumbent, Michel Temer, who has faced charges and remains under investigation.
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