World

Lula comeback in Brazil?

Tim Young, Brazil Solidarity Initiative, says Lula seeks to bring the left back to power in Brazil as Bolsonaro’s presidency crumbles.

As Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro’s domestic and international status continues to decline sharply, former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is stepping up his campaign to win the presidential election that will take place in October this year.

Bolsonaro’s standing has been seriously damaged by his mishandling of the Covid pandemic that has killed more than 615,000 Brazilians, one of the highest death tolls in the world.

Bolsonaro has also been losing support in the country for his neo-liberal programme, including budget cuts and the privatisation of public companies such as Electrobras which produces 30% of the country’s power.

Over two-thirds of Brazilians polled in December 2021 said they did not trust the president, and a similar figure did not approve of the way he was governing Brazil.

Brazilians have been badly hit by a combination of rising unemployment and soaring inflation, particularly for foodstuffs, increasing both poverty and hunger in the country. This led throughout 2021 to a wave of demonstrations in major cities across the country against Bolsonaro, demanding his resignation.

Bolsonaro has also been accused by a Senate panel investigation of ten serious offences, including crimes against humanity, for his government’s chronically inadequate response to the pandemic. The inquiry uncovered evidence pointing to potential illegalities in the way that the Indian vaccine, Covaxin, was acquired for the government’s programme.

Although Bolsonaro refused to approve an investigation into the Covaxin deal, federal prosecutors subsequently opened a case on the contract, citing a number of concerns about how it was managed. Whether or not Brazil’s Prosecutor-General acts on the Senate report, which could lead to impeachment and criminal trials, Bolsonaro has been wounded politically by the six months long probe into his governing record.

Meanwhile, Lula, with his political rights restored in March 2021 after Brazil’s Supreme Court Judge, Edson Fachin, annulled the criminal convictions against him, has been building support for a run at the presidency in the autumn.

As well as taking a leading role in the anti-Bolsonaro opposition in Brazil, Lula has been seeking to restore Brazil’s standing abroad. Bolsonaro’s diplomatic isolation has been particularly affected by his cavalier attitude to the impact of deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon which has soared to a 15-year high.

In November, Lula visited four countries in Europe, meeting the now chancellor of Germany, Olaf Scholz, and President Macron at the Élysée Palace, the latter being a rare honour indicating Macron’s support for Lula in the forthcoming election.

Lula has also met left-wing leaders Alberto Fernández and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner in Argentina, where discussions included how recent advances by progressive forces across Latin America could be consolidated and expanded.

Further visits abroad are planned, to the US, China and Russia, to Italy, Portugal and the UK, and nearer home, to meet President Andrés Manuel López Obrador in Mexico.

Lula is likely to announce formally that he will run for president in March, a month after the Workers’ Party (PT) celebrates its foundation 42 years ago.

An opinion poll conducted in December put Lula 27 points clear of Bolsonaro, indicating that he might secure the presidency in the first round of voting. All other presidential candidates had less than 10%. On 6% and competing for Bolsonaro’s support base is Sergio Moro, the former judge who illegally collaborated with prosecutors to help convict Lula and bar him from the 2018 presidential election.

Key Lula supporters have been emphasising that Bolsonaro’s record of continual attacks on the judiciary, calls to close down Congress and admiration for Brazil’s 21 year-long military dictatorship show how great a risk he is to Brazilian democracy. There are concerns that he might launch a coup rather than accept electoral defeat.

The need for international solidarity in these circumstances is of the highest order.

Add your name to a Brazil Solidarity Initiative statement at: https://brazilsolidarity.eaction.online/Brazilelections2022

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