By Manuel Perez Bella
Sao Paulo, Aug 22 (EFE).- Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, a former two-term president who is the clear front-runner to win Brazil’s highest office once again later this year, said at a press conference here Monday that the Latin American people “don’t want more fascists.”
Lula, who will square off in October against rightist current head of state Jair Bolsonaro, said people’s aversion to authoritarian leaders has been apparent in recent victories by leftist candidates in different countries of the region.
“South America is going through a very special moment with the victory in Chile, the victory in Argentina, the recovery (of power by the left) in Bolivia, the recent victory in Colombia, the victory in Peru. It shows the Latin American people don’t want fascists leading our continent. The people want democracy,” Lula said.
The former president, who spoke at the 90-minute press conference to journalists from roughly 50 foreign media outlets, said the people of Brazil also are “tired of authoritarianism” and a leader such as Bolsonaro who “defies” all government institutions and “treats everything like it’s a joke.”
Referring to the Oct. 2 first round of voting, Lula said attacks on democracy by Bolsonaro’s supporters have put Brazil in an “anomalous situation.”
“What’s important,” he said, is for there to be “civilized elections” and for polarization not to serve as a breeding ground for hate.
Political tensions recently spilled over into bloodshed last month in the southern city of Foz de Iguazu, where a member of Lula’s Workers’ Party was shot and killed at his own birthday party by a Bolsonaro supporter.
Regarding his own security, Lula said he is not overly concerned even though he has been seen wearing a bulletproof vest during several recent public appearances.
“I don’t have time to think about that. I’m obsessed with winning these elections so I can fix this country. I’m not worried, but I take the necessary precautions. I don’t have this dread that some think I have,” he said.
Lula, a promoter of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and the Union of South American Nations (Unasur), pledged that if elected he will work hard to strengthen both economic and non-economic ties among the region’s countries.
In that regard, he said cultural and political integration is necessary to bolster the region’s ability to “negotiate with other blocs.”
Referring to the European Union-Mercosur trade agreement that was agreed to in principle in 2019, he said it “is not valid” and must be renegotiated to protect Brazil’s industry and that of its South American partners.
In the international sphere, Lula said Bolsonaro has turned Brazil into a pariah and that he will work to ensure the country once again is treated with respect and plays a lead role once more in eventual discussions about a “new world governance.”
Asked about Venezuela, the ex-president said he hopes for that country to be “as democratic as possible” and that he is an advocate for alternation of power, adding in reference to President Nicolas Maduro, in office since 2013, that “there is no irreplaceable president.”
Lula said that if he is elected once again Brazil will treat Venezuela with respect and urged the European Union and the United States to do the same, adding that he hopes Washington is not seeking improved ties with Caracas only “because of oil.”
Among his priorities, Lula mentioned combating the hunger that afflicts 33 million Brazilians, saying he will push to attract foreign investment and invest heavily in public works to create jobs, promote social inclusion and expand the consumer market.
The former head of state compared the current economic situation with what he encountered when he first took office in 2003, noting that, like then, Brazilians are now coping with elevated consumer prices, double-digit interest rates and an unemployment rate that is still high despite having fallen in recent months.
But the difference today is that the country “is more de-industrialized and there are fewer job vacancies than in 2003.”
Lula said the government must have credibility and stability and foster economic “predictability” if it is to create jobs.