Social Issues

Lula vows to prioritize needs of Brazil’s poorest

Sao Paulo, Dec 15 (EFE).- President-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said here Thursday that under his government, Brazil’s poor “will recover the right to have rights.”

As he did every year during his previous two terms as president (2003-2011), the founder of the center-left Workers Party addressed the annual gathering of cooperatives of recyclers and homeless people in Sao Paulo, Brazil’s largest city.

He told them that his administration, set to take office Jan. 1, will return the dignity “stolen” from them by the outgoing president, rightist Jair Bolsonaro.

The new government “will create the conditions for you to be respected in your function and in your profession,” Lula said.

Throughout Latin America, people who lack any other option resort to the dirty and often dangerous practice of searching garbage dumps for salvageable items that they sell for a pittance to put food on the table.

The homeless and other needy people “will not be treated as bums, but as people who were abandoned by the governing class,” Lula said.

Without mentioning Bolsonaro by name, the 76-year-old president-elect criticized the head of state for vetoing a bill passed by Congress to bar what is known as hostile architecture: the deliberate placing of obstacles to drive the homeless off the streets.

Lula said that the use of hostile architecture is growing in Sao Paulo, where an estimated 40,000 people live on the streets.

“They are putting rocks under the bridges, because they don’t want the poorest to even have the right to sleep under a bridge,” he said, decrying the “absolute lack of love and understanding.”

He promised to come back to Sao Paulo soon after the inauguration with his Cabinet ministers in tow to underscore that the needs of the poor will be the focus of all public policy for the next four years.

Indeed, Lula asked another speaker at Thursday’s gathering, the Rev. Julio Lancellotti, a Catholic priest known for his efforts on behalf of the homeless in Sao Paulo, to organize the post-inaugural visit.

The nearly 1 million Brazilians – 70 percent of them women – who work as recyclers earn around 1,000 reais ($210) a month, which is 90 percent of the minimum wage.

Official statistics indicate that a significant number of recyclers are also among Brazil’s estimated 300,000 homeless people and the 21.5 million (10 percent of the population) living in extreme poverty. EFE ed/dr

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