Lula takes power in Brazil election

Charlotte Wilken, News Reporter

The former leftist president of Brazil, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, is once again in power after defeating Jair Bolsonaro in the election on Sunday, Oct. 30. Lula received 50.9 percent of the votes.

Bolsonaro’s far-right agenda during his four years in office had a large impact on the country. His policies destroyed the Amazon rainforest at an accelerated rate and worsened the effects of the pandemic in Brazil, where nearly 700,000 people died.

Lula’s presidency is predicted to look very different from Bolsonaro’s time in office. Professor of History Julie Charlip specified why Lula’s victory is such a dramatic change.

“Lula’s victory is monumental because it represents not just a narrow rejection of Jair Bolsonaro’s right-wing, Trumpian brand, but [it signals] a return to the progressive policies that Lula carried out during his two terms as president of Brazil (2003-2010),” Charlip said. “The expectation is that there will be a return to policies that help the poor, working classes and the protection of the Amazon rainforest.”

Assistant Professor of History Camilo Lund-Montaño believes Lula’s victory to be a part of the second Pink Wave. The Pink Wave symbolizes a shift away from the neoliberal and right-wing politics that have prevailed in the region over the last decade, as a series of recent presidential elections in Latin America have resulted in progressive and left-wing candidate victories. 

Lund-Montaño also described the power Lula still holds from his last presidential term, as he still holds political power in the Workers Party (known as the PT) and low-income and working class communities around the country. Lund-Montaño described the specifics of how Lula’s victory was able to reign.

“This is the result of a combination of movements that rejected the far-right politics and policies of Jair Bolsonaro: indigenous groups fighting against deforestation and state sanctioned violence from loggers and miners, Afro-Brazilians organizing against systemic racism and police brutality, women and LBGTQ communities denouncing the misogynist and homophobic rhetoric and legislation from the Bolsonaro administration and his followers, a resurgent labor movement rejecting the extreme austerity measures and the manifestation of outright outrage over Bolsonaro’s negligent handling of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Lund-Montaño said.

With his return to Brazilian politics, Lula has sparked controversy.

After being convicted of corruption charges during his last presidential term, Lula ended up having to spend 580 days in prison. 

Lund-Montaño linked these charges to past corruption in Latin America.

“Lula was convicted in 2016 for allegedly being complicit in two cases of a major anti-corruption operation, Operacão Lava Jato (Operation Car Wash),” Lund-Montaño said. “The main accusations were of graft and kick-backs with government contracts and a major Brazilian construction company, Odebrecht. This company has been at the center of corruption investigations all over Latin America, most of which were exposed during this period.”

Specifically, Lula was accused of receiving an apartment as a form of bribery in a corruption scandal tied to a state oil company. Though the judge offered him an appeal where he could remain free, he rejected the claims and stated that the trial was politically motivated.

Lula’s return to office was made possible by the Supreme Court’s dismissal of his previous convictions on the basis of past political bias in Lula’s judges.

Lund-Montaño argued that many people view Lula’s investigation and the convictions against him to be an effort to remove the Workers Party from power. There are concerns from his supporters that he may have a hard time keeping the Workers Party in power with Bolsonaro’s party maintaining a majority of the seats in Congress.