Anazir Maria de Oliveira has a simple message for the man they call Lula.
“Comrade, I want you to come back,” said the 88-year-old black union veteran and activist as she celebrated the return of her “guru” to the Brazilian political contest.
Until just a few months ago, Lula – full name Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva – seemed to have reached the melancholic twilight of a mythical political career. The former factory worker became one of the most popular leaders in the world before, in a dramatic fall from grace, he was imprisoned and removed from office.
But the overturning of corruption convictions against Brazil’s first working-class president has shaken the politics of the South American country and given believers like Oliveira tantalizing hope that the septuagenarian politician can return.
Five months after Lula’s political rights were restored, polls suggest that in next year’s election he would hit Brazil’s far-right president Jair Bolsonaro, who faces mounting anger over his response to a Covid outbreak that has killed more than half a million Brazilians.
“Seeing him again in the presidency is all we want… I am Lula at heart and soul,” said Oliveira, or Doña Zica, as she is known in Vila Aliança, the favela where she lives in the disadvantaged western limits of Rio.
Lula, a two-term president from 2003 to 2010, has yet to formally announce his sixth presidential campaign since first sought to become Brazil’s leader in 1989 44 years. In a recent interview, the 75-year-old did not confirm his plans, but said he was inspired by the choice of Joe Biden at 78. “I’m a kid compared to Biden,” Lula joked.
John D French, author of a new biography In charting Lula’s rise from trade unionist to president, he said he had no doubt that Lula would run and that he was well placed to win.
“He is the Pelé of international presidential electoral politics, no one has a track record like him anywhere in the world,” French said, recalling how Lula or Lula’s anointed candidate had come first or second in six successive elections dating back to 1998. .
Lula lost that year’s contest to centrist intellectual Fernando Henrique Cardoso, but won a historic landslide victory four years later, in 2002, telling voters “Hope had conquered fear”. Members of Lula’s Workers Party (PT) are sending out an equally optimistic message now, as Brazil reels from a coronavirus-fueled health and economic catastrophe that has killed more than 550,000 people and plunged the country into deep water. funk.
“The fact is [Lula] it represents a moment when things turned out well, when Brazil felt that it was moving forward, when things happened, when the minimum wage went up, when their children were able to go to school, when 10 million houses were built, ”said French. Bolsonaro, by contrast, was widely associated with today’s “suffering, crisis and despair”.
“Everybody feels in their daily life what is happening right now,” French said. “I am not just talking about unemployment… People are losing large numbers of their family members. Is very real “.
Many conservatives are horrified at the idea of Lula’s return, and some on the left are also wary, even if they acknowledge that his political dominance may mean he is in the best position to defeat Bolsonaro.
Ciro Gomes, a former Lula minister who is now his main left-wing rival, called a third Lula presidency a “terrible” prospect. “What does Lula want to do at 78 years old? [sic]What did he not do during the four terms he managed to win for himself or for the representative he proposed? Gomes asked, referring to Lula’s successor, Dilma Rousseff, who won the elections in 2010 and 2014.
Gomes called out voters’ fury over “the economic and moral debacle” of previous PT governments, when key associates of Lula, including his chief of staff and finance Minister they were jailed for corruption, they had paved the way for the election of Bolsonaro. He argued that Lula’s participation in the 2022 vote threatens to return Bolsonaro to power by creating an election “in which Bolsonaro calls Lula a criminal and Lula calls Bolsonaro a murderer.”
There is much more enthusiasm among the PT devotees, who have started attending the protests against Bolsonaro in bright red T-shirts with the slogan: “Lula 2022.” A helium-filled cartoon of Lula towered over recent opposition rallies in Rio, while in the northeastern city of Fortaleza, one Lula He hung a banner from his window that described the resurrection of the leftist in biblical terms. “Your will be done: President Lula 2022”, it said, next to the image of the bearded leftist.
Doña Zica, a retired cleaning lady and activist who keeps a stash of PT paraphernalia in her spotless home, said she was also encouraging the return of a politician whose life story and social crusade mirrors hers. Like Lula, she was born into rural poverty in the small town of Manhumirim and, after a childhood harvesting peanuts and corn, she moved to Rio in 1948, four years before Lula’s impoverished family. left for São Paulo in an open van.
During the 1970s and 1980s, while Lula defended the rights of metalworkers and Zica those of domestic workers, they crossed paths at union events. In 1994, during his second presidential campaign, he visited Vila Aliança. And in 2002, after Lula was finally elected on his fourth attempt, overjoyed Dona Zica traveled to Brasilia to witness his inauguration. “I felt fulfilled. It was my dream come true ”, he said about that day, when the former lathe operator promised that one of the most unequal countries in the world “Tread a new path” growth and social change.
Almost two decades later, Doña Zica expected history to repeat itself, but warned that Bolsonaro’s defeat was not assured. She believed that many Vila Aliança residents regretted voting for Bolsonaro in 2018, having lost jobs or family members to a pandemic that their president has repeatedly trivialized. A neighbor recently apologized to Doña Zica, whose son spent 25 days in the hospital fighting Covid, for backing Bolsonaro, but other locals remained loyal.
“If Lula runs in 2022, they will not be easy elections. Today is ahead, but politics is constantly changing, “said Doña Zica.
“I’ll tell you one thing though,” added the 34-year-old great-grandmother. “Things cannot continue as they are. Poor Brazilians have been totally abandoned by the federal government … Many people have died ”.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism