Brazil’s poorest look forward to return of Lula

By Waldheim Garcia Montoya

Recife, Brazil, Dec 24 (EFE).- The people at the bottom of the ladder in Brazil are hopeful ahead of the Jan. 1 inauguration of Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, whose previous tenure as president was marked by a pronounced “social aspect” in the form of significant reductions in hunger and extreme poverty.

And nowhere are the expectations greater than here in the Northeast, Brazil’s poorest region, where the former two-term president crushed right-wing incumbent Jair Bolsonaro in the October election.

Lula, 77, was born in Cuetes, 250 km (150 mi) from Recife, the capital of Pernambuco state.

Residents of Roque Santeiro, a community of shacks on stilts that has grown up along the Capibaribe River in the center of Recife, are counting on the Pernambuco native to deliver real improvements.

Ana Cristina Alves, a mother of two who is also caring for a younger sister left orphaned by the death of their mother from Covid-19, tells EFE that Lula’s promise to increase monthly welfare payments, currently 600 reais ($115), by $29 for each child up to the age of 6, “is going to help a lot.”

“In my case, rent alone runs me 400 reais ($76.90) a month,” the 26-year-old street vendor said.

Recently released from prison, Alves’ husband has yet to find a job and the household, like many in Roque Santeiro, depends on public assistance.

The 150 families dwell amid piles of garbage and are plagued by rats, snakes, insects and even alligators.

The scene stands in stark contrast with the luxury residential high-rises that line the urban beaches of Recife, known as the Brazilian Venice for its rivers and canals.

Last year, the ranks of the poor in Brazil surged by nearly 23 percent to 62.5 million, and the proportion of the population living below the poverty line stands at 29.4 percent, the highest in a decade.

While the number of Brazilians mired in extreme poverty soared 48.2 percent in 2021 to 17.9 million.

Support from the Northeast was crucial to Lula’s narrow victory over Bolsonaro in the Oct. 30 presidential runoff.

“The Northeast set an example of wanting to end that four years of misrule. And our hope was in the return of Lula, because he is of the Northeast and brings a government that handles the social aspect from a different viewpoint,” community leader Andrea Vieira tells EFE.

Vieira, the president of the Community Association in Coelhos, the Recife neighborhood that includes Roque Santeiro, says that Lula’s victory was “very important” for inhabitants of the Northeast, “because we believe we will have much bigger investments in both the housing and the social areas.” EFE wgm/dr

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