Brazilian Lula takes oath, vows accountability and rebuilding

BRASILIA, Brazil — Brazilian Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was sworn in as president on Sunday and, in his maiden speech, expressed optimism about reconstruction plans while promising that members of Jair Bolsonaro’s outgoing administration will be held responsible.

Lula takes office for the third time after thwarting the re-election bid of far-right incumbent President Bolsonaro. His return to power marks the culmination of a political comeback that is delighting supporters and infuriating opponents in a fiercely polarized nation.

“Our message to Brazil is a message of hope and reconstruction,” Lula said in a speech to the lower house of Congress after signing the document that officially appoints him president. “The great edifice of rights, sovereignty and development that this nation has built has been systematically torn down in recent years. To rebuild this edifice, we will direct all our efforts.

Sunday afternoon on the main esplanade of Brasilia, the party was launched. Tens of thousands of supporters dressed in Lula’s Workers’ Party red cheered after he was sworn in. They celebrated when the president said he would send a report on the previous administration to all lawmakers and judicial authorities, revoke the “penal executive orders” that relaxed gun control and held the previous administration accountable. of his denial in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We bear no spirit of revenge against those who have sought to subjugate the nation to their personal and ideological designs, but we will uphold the rule of law,” Lula said, without mentioning Bolsonaro by name. “Those who err will answer for their errors, with broad rights of defense under due legal process.”

Brazil’s new President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva applauds during his inauguration ceremony at the National Congress in Brasilia on January 1, 2023.Mauro Pimentel / AFP-Getty Images

Lula’s presidency is unlikely to resemble his previous two terms, after Brazil’s tightest presidential race in more than three decades and resistance to his taking office by some of his opponents, political analysts say.

The leftist beat Bolsonaro in the Oct. 30 vote by less than 2 percentage points. For months, Bolsonaro had cast doubts on the reliability of Brazil’s electronic voting and his loyal supporters were reluctant to accept the loss.

Many have gathered outside military barracks since, questioning the results and pleading with the armed forces to prevent Lula from taking office.

His staunchest supporters have resorted to what some authorities and new members of Lula’s administration have called acts of “terrorism” – prompting security concerns over the events of the day of the war. ‘inauguration.

Lula will face tougher economic conditions than during his first two terms, when the global commodity boom proved a boon for Brazil.

At the time, his administration’s flagship welfare program helped push tens of millions of poor people into the middle class. Many Brazilians have traveled abroad for the first time. He left office with an 83% personal approval rating.

In the years that followed, the Brazilian economy plunged into two deep recessions – first, during the tenure of his hand-picked successor, then during the pandemic – and ordinary Brazilians suffered greatly.

Lula said his priorities were to fight poverty and invest in education and health. He also said he would end illegal deforestation in the Amazon. He sought the support of political moderates to form a broad front and defeat Bolsonaro, then called on some of them to serve in his cabinet.

Claúdio Arantes, a 68-year-old pensioner, carried an old Lula campaign flag on his way to the esplanade. The longtime Lula supporter attended his inauguration in 2003 and agreed that this time was different.

“Back then he could talk about the unity of Brazil. Now he is divided and won’t heal anytime soon,” Arantes said. “I trust his intelligence to make this administration of national unity work so that we never have a Bolsonaro again.”

Given the country’s political flaws, it’s highly unlikely that Lula will ever regain the popularity he once enjoyed, or even see his approval rating top 50%, said Maurício Santoro, a political science professor at the University. of State of Rio de Janeiro.

In addition, Santoro said, the credibility of Lula and his Workers’ Party has been assaulted by a sprawling corruption investigation. Party officials were imprisoned, including Lula, whose convictions were later overturned on procedural grounds. The Supreme Court then ruled that the judge presiding over the case had agreed with prosecutors to secure a conviction.

Lula and his supporters claimed that he had been the victim of a railroad. Others were willing to look past possible wrongdoing as a way to topple Bolsonaro and bring the nation together.

But Bolsonaro supporters refuse to accept someone they consider a criminal returning to the top job. And with tensions burning, a series of events raised fears that violence could erupt on inauguration day.

On December 12, dozens of people attempted to invade a federal police building in Brasilia and set fire to cars and buses in other areas of the city. Then, on Christmas Eve, police arrested a 54-year-old man who admitted making a bomb found on a tanker truck heading to Brasilia airport.

He had camped outside Brasilia’s army headquarters with hundreds of other Bolsonaro supporters since November 12. He told police he was ready for the war against communism and had planned the attack with people he met at the protests, according to excerpts of his statement published by local media.

Bolsonaro finally condemned the bomb plot in a December 30 farewell speech on social media, hours before he flew to the United States. His absence on the day of the investiture marks a break with tradition.

Instead of Bolsonaro, a group representing various segments of society took on the role of presenting Lula with the presidential sash at the top of the ramp at the presidential palace. Across the sea of ​​people standing outside the palace, supporters held a huge Brazilian flag above their heads.


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