Brazil’s Lula poised to complete political resurrection

By Manuel Perez Bella

Sao Paulo, Oct 26 (EFE).- The political career of Brazil’s Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, an icon of the Latin American left who was a highly popular president from 2003 to 2010, appeared to be over when he was convicted of corruption and imprisoned in 2018.

But the Supreme Court annulled those convictions last year on jurisdictional grounds and cleared the way for him to run for a third term in office – a race that will conclude when he faces off against incumbent right-wing populist Jair Bolsonaro in Sunday’s runoff.

Lula received a whopping 57 million votes on Oct. 2, a record for a first round of voting in Brazil. Yet he garnered fewer than 50 percent of all ballots, and his 5.2-percentage-point advantage over Bolsonaro was surprisingly narrow.

Born in the impoverished small town of Caetes in the northeastern state of Pernambuco, Lula’s humble beginnings are his greatest political asset because voters know that he himself suffered the privations now facing some 66 million Brazilians, roughly a third of the population.

The leftist former lathe operator and union leader first won Brazil’s highest office 20 years ago and implemented Fome Zero (Zero Hunger) and other programs that lifted tens of millions of people out of extreme poverty.

Lula, who turns 77 on Thursday, now blames Bolsonaro for Brazil’s recent, pandemic-fueled rise in food insecurity and pledges a return to the conditions that existed in the first decade of this century, when a global commodities boom filled government coffers and made generous fiscal measures possible.

Through a combination of good fortune, sound economic management and his personal charisma, Lula left the presidency with a sky-high approval rating of more than 80 percent.

Not even a parliamentary vote-buying scandal that led to prison terms for top politicians in his Workers’ Party (PT) was able to dent his popularity.

But a few years later Lula began to be dogged by legal troubles stemming from the 2014 launch of the sprawling “Lava Jato” (Car Wash) investigation, a probe initially centered on a $2 billion corruption scandal at Brazilian state oil company Petrobras that later expanded to include politicians and private firms like construction giant Odebrecht.

Lula was convicted in two cases, including on charges of accepting bribes from construction company OAS in the form of renovations to a seaside condo he never owned or occupied.

He was sentenced to nearly 25 years in prison and was barred from running in the 2018 presidential election amid polls showing that he would have won by a wide margin.

Lula spent 19 months behind bars before being released pending appeal in November 2019.

Then in 2021, the Supreme Court annulled Lula’s convictions on the grounds that the lower court that convicted him did not have jurisdiction in the case, a decision that restored his political rights.

Lula has consistently maintained his innocence and says the charges were politically motivated.

His argument was bolstered by a series of articles that The Intercept Brasil published in 2019 based on leaked communications between Sergio Moro, the judge who presided over the OAS case, and the prosecutors pursuing Lula.

The messages exchanged by Moro and prosecutor Deltan Dallagnol via the Telegram app showed that the then-federal judge was deeply involved in shaping the prosecution strategy against Lula.

Yet despite Lula’s efforts and the revelations about Moro’s conduct, corruption remains the Achilles’ heel of the leftist candidate’s campaign and the main factor in his high disapproval rating of 46 percent.

In a bid to win back public favor, Lula has built a large 10-party coalition that extends from the left to the center-right and even enlisted his rival in the 2006 presidential election, conservative former Sao Paulo Gov. Geraldo Alckmin, as his running mate.

Several of his adversaries in the first round also have sided with Lula ahead of the Oct. 30 runoff, including the third-leading vote-getter, center-right Sen. Simone Tebet.

Related Articles

Back to top button