Retirement never crossed Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s mind. Neither prison, nor his age nor his upcoming wedding have diminished his passion for doing politics. The worker who made history by reaching the presidency of Brazil two decades ago made official this Saturday in São Paulo his candidacy for the October elections in which he is the favorite to prevent the far-right Jair Bolsonaro from being re-elected. Militants of the Workers’ Party (PT), from the seven parties that have allied with him for these elections, representatives of the social movements that are so important to the Brazilian left, and trade unionists gathered to support the veteran politician and his number twoGeraldo Alckmin.
“Without a cause, life loses meaning,” Lula proclaimed in a speech that was read. The leftist aspires to a third term to “end the irresponsible and criminal policy of this government, which puts our strategic companies up for sale, damages the environment and destroys public policies that changed the lives of millions of Brazilians.”
Among those lives, that of Priscilla Rocha, 28, who arrived at the event from Pernambuco, Lula’s home state, where she is an adviser to the Workers’ Party (PT). She said that the PT governments changed her life for her and her family. “I managed to get into university. My whole family, black, peripheral, is completely PT”, she assures and adds: “It’s great that Lula has had the strength to come back”. 12 years after leaving power, Lula is making a comeback that was unthinkable a little over a year ago. He led to the annulment of his convictions for corruption, which took him 580 days in prison. “We are going to make the greatest peaceful revolution that the history of Brazil has seen,” he promised his faithful.
But the years do not pass in vain. Turned 76, the former president read the speech to avoid the slips that sometimes betray him. The effects of the intense pace of recent months were noticeable, in which he has focused on forging alliances with other parties and in the States to forge a progressive front. He now intends to undertake a tour of Brazil with a stop on the 18th to marry his girlfriend, a longtime PT militant, who accompanies him almost always.
Although the campaign won’t officially start until August, the event held at a nondescript convention center a 30-minute drive from downtown São Paulo was the closest thing to an official announcement of Lula’s candidacy. Technically, it was the presentation of the Movement Let’s go together for Brazil. The former president (2003-2010) was greeted with cries of “Lula, brazilian povo warrior” and “Brazil, urgent, Lula president”.
He asked his followers to seek allies, to campaign in all corners of Brazil so that “fascism is sent to the sewer of history, where it should never have been.” Restoring democracy and repairing what was destroyed by Bolsonaro are part of Lula’s speech, but he dedicates the bulk of his speeches to the past. They are nostalgic speeches with constant references to how wonderful life was when he ruled. Of the future he speaks much less.
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His main promise is to repeat the achievements of those years of economic boom in which the redistribution of income and the inclusion of the poor were the government’s priority. According to Lula, in October Brazilians will have to choose between “the Brazil of democracy or the one of authoritarianism, the Brazil of truth or the seven lies a day (as Bolsonaro says), the tolerant Brazil or the one of intolerance,” he said. Lula to conclude: “Choosing has never been so easy”.
In his speech he included various nods to women, who have a very small presence in Brazilian politics, dominated by white and older men, like Lula. She also promised to defend the environment, the blacks (who are the majority in Brazil although looking at their politicians nobody would say), the indigenous people, the LGBT movement…
Lula has been the favorite in all the polls for months, although Bolsonaro has reduced the distance in recent weeks to 15 points. The former trade unionist is around 45% and the retired military, 30%. Lula returns after being removed from the electoral race by the judges of the last elections in which he was also the favorite. The UN Human Rights Committee ruled a few days ago that Lula’s political rights had been violated.
Lula went this week cover of Time, but his words in the interview about the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, have raised blisters. “This guy is as responsible for the war as Putin. Because in wars there is no single culprit”, declared the politician, who promises that, if he wins the elections, “Brazil will be respected again and will once again speak face to face with powerful countries”.
Aware that only with the votes of the left it is impossible to win the elections, he has chosen a historical adversary to accompany him on that mission. The vice-presidential candidate is conservative Geraldo Alckmin, a former governor of São Paulo and a practicing Catholic. For decades he was one of the main figures of the great party of the Brazilian center, the PSDB, which he recently left to ally himself with Lula and other progressive parties in the name of defending democracy.
The “comrade Alckmin”, as Lula now calls him, had to intervene in the event from his home because on Friday he tested positive for covid, which raised fears that the electoral party would be delayed for the umpteenth time. But no.
Seimour Souza, a 23-year-old from Rio de Janeiro, had this to say about the signing of Alckmin: “For me it is a bad choice from an ideological perspective, but from a practical perspective it prepares us for the next phase. Because, if (Lula) wins, he will receive a country worse than any other government. That is why it is very important to broaden the spectrum of political forces beyond the left.”
Along with Lula and Alckmin, the former’s girlfriend was the other protagonist of the act. Rosángela Silva, 55, a sociologist and PT militant since 1983, will be his wife in a few days because the couple plans to marry on the 18th in an undisclosed location. Known as Janja, she is a constant presence alongside Lula at almost every event. This Saturday she has taken the floor to publicly declare, once again, her love for her boyfriend and give him her wedding gift: an emotional video whose soundtrack was the catchy music of Lula’s electoral campaign in 1989, which despite his defeat then has become a classic of the PT. The relationship, which began after Lula was widowed in 2017, only transpired for the second time. 2019 when he was released.
The one in 2022 is a revival election campaign. The image that most triumphs on the militants’ t-shirts is that of a Lula from four decades ago, when his girlfriend was a teenager who joined the party and he mobilized the workers against the dictatorship.
The day Lula presented his vice-presidential candidate, the family photo attracted attention because there were twenty mature white men there, no blacks and only two women. One was the president of the Workers’ Party and the other, the former president’s girlfriend.
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