What Lula’s victory in Brazil means for the world


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Less than three years ago, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was in prison. On Monday, he woke up on track to return to Brazil’s presidency after scoring a narrow victory in Sunday’s run-off election. The left lost to President Jair Bolsonaro in a bitter contest due to ideological and personal hatred. His victory was one of the most remarkable political comebacks of this century.

Lula served two successful terms as president from 2003 to 2010, during which he became part of the world’s wealth to lift millions of Brazilians out of poverty through welfare programs. in life. But the years following his presidency saw an economic downturn, while corruption ravaged much of Brazil’s political establishment – and Lula himself went to prison in 2018, the country’s Supreme Court will order his release in 2019 and beyond. dismiss the accusations against him.

Bolsonaro has remained on the far right of Brazilian politics for most of his political career, known for his penchant for making absurd and extravagant statements, and for expressing nostalgia for years of military rule. . He rode a wave of unpopularity as a candidate for the establishment and won the presidency in the 2018 elections. His four years of power were marked by scandals, a reckless response to the coronavirus pandemic and a sign of polarizing, hard-right politics that critics fear is eroding the bonds that bind Brazil’s young democracy.

Lula, a true working-class hero who lost a finger in a factory accident, may have been the man behind the popular appeal against Bolsonaro’s move. Now, he has little time to enjoy his victory.

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At the time of writing on Monday, Bolsonaro did not accept defeat, although the electoral authorities confirmed the results on Sunday night and many world leaders, including President Biden , congratulated Lula and celebrated the release of free and fair elections in Brazil. Bolsonaro did not speak publicly (although one of his sons did a mysterious tweet urging supporters not to “abandon our Brazil”).

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Several months into his presidency, Bolsonaro has raised questions about the integrity of Brazil’s electoral process despite little evidence to support his claims. Now defeated, he took another page from the playbook of former president Donald Trump, pointing to the small side of Lula’s victory as a reason to question his legitimacy and spend time before Lula opened to disrupt the political transition.

“This is the Trump model,” said Marcos Nobre, a political analyst and author, to my colleagues. “That’s it, the person who won the election and the square is illegal. Bolsonaro will seek to weaken Lula in every way.

“Is he going to hold on, demand an election review and trigger a legal crisis a la Trump in 2020?” my colleagues asked. “Or, because his conservative campaign is doing better than expected, he is cementing his position as Brazil’s most powerful opposition leader since the return of democracy – using Is his social media platform a bully platform to undermine Lula’s career? Or, as some have suggested, will he leave Brazil to avoid criminal prosecution?”

Lula, on the other hand, has adopted a new style, eager to represent the whole country, to restore trust in its public institutions and return the country to its former state. peace and democracy. As Bruno Cava, the Brazilian columnist, said, “he presented himself as a candidate for the system, as a ‘Brazilian Biden,’ so to speak, and ended the Trumpist ban.”

Lula’s election campaign involved a coalition of parties and politicians, including former political enemies. After the election, many of Bolsonaro’s allies also called on the administration to recognize the result for the good of the country. “It is time to demoralize, extend your hand to your opponents,” said House Speaker Arthur Lira.

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But, like Biden, Lula will have to contend with legal and political opposition from the powerful that will bear the brunt of this lost election. The headwinds of the global economy — and a flurry of misinformation on social media — will affect his cause.

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When he first came to power, Lula was a South American figure and the most prominent figure on the left. He is the titan in the “pink” wave of elected left-wing governments across the country, and his relationship has stood him in contrast to the left-wing elites and downtrodden areas. such as Venezuela and Cuba.

Now, Lula will return to power in another era in the country’s politics. As of 2020, left-wing governments will take over in Bolivia, Peru, Chile and Colombia – long-held by the right. There is no easy story to tell about their rise, but it all happened in the shadow of the pandemic, which exposed social inequalities in many countries, especially in Latin America.

“It’s more of a protest than anything … people looking for a different way,” Michael Shifter, former president of the Inter-American Dialogue think tank in Washington, told AFP. . “We are in that period in Latin America where many governments are being rejected as being right or right-centered.” And the pendulum will quickly swing the other way if voters believe these governments haven’t delivered in the years to come.

As for foreign policy, it’s hard to see Lula calling himself a running mate for Biden like Bolsonaro has for Trump. He can recapture the position his government took back ten years ago, emphasizing Brazil’s role as a champion of the Southern Hemisphere, while standing far from the West and unique opportunities on a variety of rough terrain challenges.

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Like Bolsonaro, Lula may be skeptical about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – he also said in an interview earlier this year that the leaders of the two countries were opposed to the war. Unlike Bolsonaro, Lula is unlikely to appeal to evangelical voters by embracing Israel and siding with right-wing politician Benjamin Netanyahu, who will return to power after elections in Sunday

Lula promised to protect the Amazon. After Bolsonaro, it will not be easy.

Under Bolsonaro, the deforestation of the Amazon region – described for years as the “lungs” of the world – has accelerated. He eliminated environmental protections and reduced the government agencies charged with enforcing them. About 2 billion trees were cut down or burned while he was in power, as his administration secretly worked to promote the interests of Brazilian agriculture. Between the summers of 2019 and 2021, an area of ​​forest greater than the whole of Belgium has been lost. According to a study published by the journal Nature last year, parts of the Amazon rainforest have turned from a net carbon sink to another source of emissions.

That is a concern for all those concerned about the planetary effects of global warming and the international community’s efforts to stop climate change. Lula has promised to turn back the page and ban deforestation, as he did before in office. One analysis predicts that Lula’s victory will result in a nearly 90 percent decline in Amazon deforestation over the next decade.

“Brazil is ready to resume its leadership in the fight against the climate crisis, protecting all our life, especially the Amazon rainforest,” Lula said after his victory. .


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