Lula returns to the presidency, Bolsonaro goes into exile in Florida

Three years after spending 18 months in a Curitiba jail cell following a politicized and irregular trial over a dubious corruption case, veteran leader of the Brazilian left-wing Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva returns to the Brazilian presidency for the third time.

01 January 2023 Sunday 07:30
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Lula returns to the presidency, Bolsonaro goes into exile in Florida

Three years after spending 18 months in a Curitiba jail cell following a politicized and irregular trial over a dubious corruption case, veteran leader of the Brazilian left-wing Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva returns to the Brazilian presidency for the third time.

It is estimated that more than 300,000 people will participate in the festivities to be held this Sunday in Brasilia after the inauguration of Lula and his vice president, the centrist Gerardo Alckmin.

Almost all the governments of the world will be represented in the ceremony of a politician who, during his two previous presidential terms (2003-2010), always boasted of not having enemies in the world. This is not the case in Brazil, however, where Lula still registers high rejection rates in part of the repopulation.

Among the followers of Lula and the Workers' Party (PT) who arrived in Brasilia from all over the country, there was an atmosphere of euphoria after four years under the controversial ultra-conservative president Jair Bolsonaro in which Brazil became a laboratory for the ultra-right denialist and a pariah to much of the international community. "I have never seen so many people in Brasilia for the inauguration," said a PT militant from Rio de Janeiro consulted on Saturday.

But the fact that 58 million Brazilians voted for Bolsonaro in October, and that tens of thousands have since taken to the streets in protest of what they baselessly view as a fraudulent result, casts an ominous shadow over the takeover. of possession Bolsonaro -following in the footsteps of his admired Donald Trump- decided not to attend the transfer of power for the delivery of the sash from the outgoing president to the new one, breaking with a tradition only interrupted to date by coups.

The ultra-conservative flew to Kissimmee in Florida on Thursday where he has stayed at the mansion of former Brazilian wrestling professional José Aldo, apparently to spend the entire month of January. Bolsonaro could stay even longer if he concludes that he and his family are at risk of prosecution for a wide range of alleged crimes, from alleged crimes against the rule of law to the embezzlement of public money for the purchase of estate.

But in a videotaped speech Thursday, Bolsonaro advised against "all or nothing" acts of violence. Fears of acts of destabilization in the style of what occurred in Trump's assault on the Capitol in Washington two years ago have largely faded. “Bolsonarismo is quite demobilized but there is some danger of attacks,” Bolsonaro expert Leticia Cesarino from the University of Santa Catarina in southern Brazil said in an interview with La Vanguardia.

A week ago, the police dismantled a Bolsonaro plan to attack the Brasilia airport with a truck-bomb. Although the fanciful Bolsonaro social networks already interpret the ex-president's mini-exile as the precursor of a military intervention, everything indicates that Lula has managed to placate the elements of the armed forces most closely linked to Bolsonaro after an astute dialogue with the military leadership for part of the new defense minister, José Mucio Monteiro.

Lula - who ran for his first presidential elections in 1989 - assumes power in the midst of a humanitarian crisis in Brazil where hunger already threatens more than 30 million inhabitants in a country of 207 million, according to the new census. His objective: to recover, even if only in part, the spectacular success of his first two governments (2003-2010) when 35 million Brazilians were lifted out of poverty in a context of macroeconomic stability and social peace.

The new president will once again promote Latin American regional initiatives in foreign policy, taking advantage of the recovery of power of the Latin American left from the Southern Cone to the Rio Bravo. Known for his diplomatic skills, he intends to coordinate a non-alignment movement to counter dangerous geopolitical spats between the West, Russia and China. “Brazil is an essential country for world balance due to its size, population, and borders with ten South American countries, and with Africa; Ahroa will also have leadership due to the democratic vocation that it recovers”, said in an interview with La Vanguardia, the former foreign minister and adviser to Lula on foreign policy.

The participation of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro in the inauguration is an indication that the geopolitical pendulum has shifted decisively in Latin America. At the same time, Lula will seek alliances with Washington in areas such as the protection of the Amazon. The decision to appoint Marina Silva as Minister of the Environment has been applauded in Washington and in Europe. The veteran environmentalist was Lula's minister between 2003 and 2008 but, after implementing policies that facilitated an 84% reduction in deforestation, she left Lula's second government due to discrepancies with the PT development model (see Trends).

But repeating the feats of the first decade of the century will not be easy. Although Lula has improvised a majority in both chambers, the right has a strong bloc in Congress and Bolsonarism is still very active.

The economic environment is much more difficult than twenty years ago. Brazil has a large public debt at a time of rising interest rates worldwide. The appointment of Fernando Haddad, a history of the PT, as Finance Minister, has caused anxiety in the markets, although the powerful Globo media group has just applauded Haddad for setting a more demanding deficit reduction goal than Paulo Guedes, the guru Bolsonaro's economy.

Despite the strength of the right, the new president has achieved support in Congress for the first measure considered crucial: the elimination of the ceiling on public spending established during the government of internal president Michel Temer.

Lula also seems to have the support of the Supreme Court, which has outlawed Bolsonaro's so-called "secret budget", freeing up more funds for the new government. “These victories show that the PT government has the goodwill of the other powers,” Lúcio Rennó, a political analyst at the University of Brasilia, said in an interview.



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