Brazil: the return of Lula

by Maurizio Sacchi

Speaking on Saturday at a rally in Sao Paulo, former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva publicly announced his candidacy to the presidency of Brazil, in the October elections. “I am sure we will be able to stage the greatest peaceful revolution the world has ever seen,” she said during the launch of a transversal anti-Bolsonaro alliance called Vamos Juntos Pelo Brasil – Let’s go to Brazil together. “We have a dream. We are moved by hope – and there is no greater strength than the hope of a people who know they can be happy once again… Once again we will take care of Brazil and the Brazilian people ”, said Lula again.

Polls suggest that Lula is on track to win his third presidency of South America’s largest democracy. A poll, released on the eve of Lula’s announcement, gave him a 13% lead over Bolsonaro in the first round and a 20% lead in a ballot. Lula da Silva (PT) leads in all scenarios of the first round according to the research Genial Investimentos and Quaest Consultoriai. In the most probable scenario, Lula appears with 46% of voting intentions, against 23% of Jair Bolsonaro (PL), current president, and 10% of former judge Sergio Moro (Podemos). Sixty percent of voters said they would not vote for Bolsonaro – who is accused of mishandling a Covid epidemic that killed nearly 665,000 Brazilians. More than 60% believe the economy is going in the wrong direction, with rising inflation, high unemployment and a rising cost of living. “It is important not only for Lula to win, but for Bolsonaro to lose badly,” said political columnist Celso Rocha de Barros, who fears that in the event of a narrow margin victory by Lula, Bolsonaro may refuse to give up power. , alleging fraud, and may promote a coup for “Restore democracy”.

The Lula bloc comprises seven left and center-left parties, and hopes to expand before the October 2 vote. As a demonstration of his unifying intentions, Lula has appointed Geraldo Alckmin, the former center-right governor of São Paulo, and former presidential rival, as his fellow traveler. Despite everything, there have been signs of nervousness in recent weeks between Lula’s allies and progressive Brazilians exasperated by Jair Bolsonaro. For example, Lula was forced to apologize after declaring that the police officers are not human beings. This week he was criticized for claiming that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and Vladimir Putin are equally to blame for the war. “If Lula continues with this verbal incontinence … it will give the current occupant of the presidential palace a serious chance of re-election,” Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho warned on Twitter.

Who is Lula

The son of a proletarian family, at the age of 19 Lula lost the little finger of his left hand in an accident at work at the press in an automotive parts factory. It is then that he begins to take an interest in the activities of the union.In 1978 he was elected president of the steel workers union of São Bernardo do Campo and Diadema, the cities where most of the Brazilian automotive industries are located, including Ford, Volks Wagen and Mercedes. In 1980, under the military dictatorship, he was co-founder of the Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT), Workers’ Party, with a group of university professors, union leaders and intellectuals, including the ecology activist and martyr Chico Mendes. In the 1986 election, Lula was elected at the Brazilian Congress. in the lists of Partido dos Trabalhadores, and participated in the drafting of the post-dictatorship Constitution

In 1989when he was still a deputy, Lula ran for office for the first time in the presidency. It already enjoyed great popularity in Brazilian society, but was much feared by businessmen and bankers. As a result, he was targeted by the media (the very famous presidential debate against Collor de Mello, heavily censored by Rede Globo), and penalized by some fraud during the elections. Lula decided not to run again for the seat of deputy in 1990, preferring to work on improving the organization of the PT in the country. In 1992 Lula participated in the campaign to oust President Fernando Collor de Mello, who had defeated him in 1989 after a series of scandals related to public funding. Lula became President on October 27, 2002, after winning the ballot against the center candidate José Serra of the Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB)., In the ballot, with 61% of the votes; he got 52.4 million votes, the highest number of votes in Brazil’s recent democratic history. He took office on January 1, 2003. On October 29, 2006, Lula was reconfirmed as president, with over 60% of the votes in the ballot, defeating PSDB candidate Geraldo Alckmin.

Twice president

During the two mandates, thanks to new welfare policies, millions of Brazilians have significantly improved their living conditions. The Brazilian middle class thus reached 54% of the population in 2013 when his daughter Rousseff succeeded him as president. The Programa Bolsa Família, the enlargement of the Single Health System (Sus) and the Brasil Sem Miseria (Brazil without poverty) program, which provides subsidies to millions of families, have helped to save millions of people from hunger and destitution. The United Nations Human Development Index thus increased by 36% in 2013 compared to 1980. Together with projects such as Fome Zero – Zero Hunger- and Bolsa Família, the flagship program of the Lula administration was the Programa de Aceleração do Crescimento (PAC, Growth Acceleration Program) which provided for the modernization of roads and railways, the simplification and reduction of taxation and the modernization of the country’s energy production. The goal was to strengthen Brazil’s infrastructure and, consequently, stimulate the private sector and create more jobs. The money committed to this program was estimated to be around 500 billion reals (over $ 250 billion) over four years.

Lula and his governing group renewed all agreements with the International Monetary Fund, signed when Argentina defaulted in 2001. His government achieved a satisfactory primary budget balance in the first two years, as stipulated in the agreement with the IMF, exceeding the target for the third year. By the end of 2005, the government had fully repaid its debt to the IMF, two years ahead of schedule.

The judicial plot

In 2016 Lula is involved in the Operação Lava Jato (Operation Car Wash), accused of having received money from the Petrobras oil industry, as well as business favors, such as building a ranch and beachfront apartment.[3 La presidente Dilma Rousseff  tentò di nominare Lula ministro, secondo alcuni per sottrarlo all’inchiesta, ma la Corte suprema bloccò l’operazione. Il 4 marzo 2016 è stato fermato e interrogato per tre ore nell’ambito di un’inchiesta sui rapporti con Petrobras: Lula  respinse tutte le accuse. Dopo un anno, Lula è stato ritenuto colpevole di aver accettato tangenti del valore di 3,7 milioni di reais (1,2 milioni di dollari), venendo condannato il 12 luglio 2017 dal giudice Sérgio Moro, in primo grado, a nove anni e mezzo di prigione,[3ma rimanendo libero in attesa dell’appello. Poi, in secondo grado la pena è stata aumentata a 12 anni] and the Supreme Court rejected his appeal against the provisional enforceability of the sentence.

On 7 April 2018, after giving a speech in front of the Metallurgical Workers’ Union, Lula spontaneously surrenders to the Federal Police and is taken to Curitiba to serve the sentence imposed on him. According to the polls, Lula could have largely won the presidential elections, then won by the right-wing candidate Jair Bolsonaro recycling.

On November 8, 2019 he was released after 580 days of imprisonment: the decision of the Supreme Court has determined that the accused whose guilt has not yet been established can remain at liberty until the final decision.

Finally, on 7 March 2021 he is acquitted of all charges by the Supreme Federal Court of Brazil, thus returning eligible and regaining his political rights.

On the cover a photo of Lula as president (cropped)

Brazil: the return of Lula