Brazil president marks 1,000 days, warns about possible Lula 3rd term

By Eduardo Davis

Brasilia, Sep 27 (EFE).- Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro marked his first 1,000 days in power on Monday with a stark warning about a possible third term for former head of state Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who left office in 2010 with sky-high approval ratings.

The rightist made clear references in a speech to the Oct. 2, 2022, general election in which he will likely seek a second term even though polls show him trailing far behind Lula, who now appears headed for a convincing first-round victory.

In particular, Bolsonaro alluded to Lula’s having been found guilty in 2017 of accepting bribes in exchange for helping Brazilian construction company OAS obtain lucrative contracts from state oil company Petrobras and sentenced to nearly a decade behind bars.

Bolsonaro, a controversial figure in Brazil before becoming head of state who is a professed admirer of Brazil’s 1964-1985 military regime and has a history of making misogynistic, homophobic and racist statements, benefited politically from Lula’s legal problems because the ex-president was barred from the 2018 presidential election amid polls showing he would have won by a wide margin.

Lula, however, was exonerated and had his political rights restored in April of this year after Brazil’s Supreme Court overturned his corruption convictions amid revelations of gross prosecutorial misconduct.

“We’ve had 1,000 days without corruption. Obviously it hasn’t been eliminated. But if there were corruption, we’d take the necessary measures (because) this government doesn’t tolerate it,” Bolsonaro said.

Accusations of graft, however, now hover over the president and his four sons. Some of those allegations stem from a series of reports published this year by a Brazilian news website that accused Bolsonaro of overseeing a graft scheme during his nearly 30 years as a federal lawmaker.

Referring to ongoing probes into him and his family, including for irregularities in Covid-19 vaccine negotiations, the president said investigators “have nothing.”

Besides warning about corruption, Bolsonaro also tried in his speech to brand Lula – a one-time Marxist union firebrand who governed between 2003 and 2010 as a pragmatic centrist and left office with a record-high approval rating of more than 80 percent – as a socialist in the mold of the late Hugo Chavez and his protege, current Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

“Whoever forgets the past is condemned to have no future,” Bolsonaro said, adding that “don’t think that certain things happening to our neighbors can’t happen to us.”

“Who would have imagined a few years ago that wealthy Venezuela would be like it is today?”

Bolsonaro, who notoriously dismissed Covid-19 as a “measly flu” and denounced state and municipal governments for mask mandates and other preventive measures, on Monday tried to pin the blame for the country’s high levels of inflation (the annual rate is now in double digits) and unemployment (14.1 percent in the second quarter) on decisions by governors and mayors who “closed everything” in 2020.

Now under investigation by the Brazilian Congress for his handling of Covid-19, which has left nearly 600,000 dead in Brazil (second-most worldwide after the United States), the president said his approach was balanced and pragmatic.

“Now we’re all paying the price,” said Bolsonaro, who maintained that his administration “was equally concerned about public health and jobs,” which “always go together.”

He also predicted that Brazil’s economy, which contracted by 4.1 percent in 2020 due to the pandemic-triggered lockdowns, will grow nearly 5 percent both this year and in 2022.

“They say I’m a denialist, but I care about freedom and the rights of all” Brazilians, Bolsonaro said. EFE


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