Brazilians, foreign dignitaries begin gathering for Lula’s inauguration

By Eduardo Davis

Brasilia, Dec 31 (EFE).- Two decades after assuming Brazil’s presidency for the first time, former autoworker and union leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is to be sworn-in for a third time in the presence of representatives from 50 nations and an estimated 300,000 of his compatriots.

Saturday saw a contingent of indigenous supporters of the president-elect set up camp at a park in Brasilia.

Most of the foreign dignitaries are scheduled to arrive early Sunday.

Lula, whose 2003-2011 tenure brought significant reductions of hunger and poverty, is returning to the highest office at the age of 77 after defeating right-wing incumbent Jair Bolsonaro by just 1.8 percent in the Oct. 30 presidential runoff.

While yet to explicitly acknowledge the election result, Bolsonaro gave a clear signal that he knows his time in power is over by leaving Brasilia on Friday for an extended sojourn in the United States.

Before leaving, he addressed his supporters for more than an hour on Facebook Live, urging them to remain firm in opposition to Lula’s government while keeping that opposition within the limits of “our law and constitution.”

Bolsonaro, without mentioning his successor by name, fulminated about the incoming “communist” government, though the vice president is a centrist who ran against Lula in 2006 and the Cabinet includes prominent figures from the center-right.

The outgoing president likewise defended the groups of his supporters who have taken up positions outside military posts calling on the army to stop Lula from taking office.

At the same time, Bolsonaro, an outspoken admirer of the 1964-1985 military regime, sought to distance himself from violent protests on his behalf and from last week’s attempt to detonate an explosives-rigged fuel truck at the Brasilia airport.

The man arrested in that case said his aim was to “create chaos” and force the military to keep Bolsonaro in power.

Despite Bolsonaro’s attempt to rein-in his most radical partisans, some 15,000 police and soldiers will be deployed Sunday to ensure security for the inauguration and a subsequent concert featuring dozens of popular acts that is expected to go on into the wee hours.

The return to power of the man once described by Barack Obama as “the most popular politician on Earth” will be witnessed by officials from 50 countries, a record for a Brazilian inauguration.

Among the 20 heads of state and government due in Brasilia are Spain’s King Felipe VI and the presidents of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Germany, Paraguay, Portugal, Uruguay and Venezuela.

In the case of Uruguay, incumbent President Luis Lacalle Pou will accompanied by two of his predecessors, Jose “Pepe” Mujica – an old friend of Lula – and Julio Maria Sanguinetti. EFE ed/dr

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