Lula pledges to lead Brazil out of Bolsonaro’s era of ‘devastation’ | Brazil
Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has vowed to lead Brazil out of Jair Bolsonaro’s era of “devastation”, barbarism and hatred after being sworn in as the new president of Latin America’s largest democracy.
Addressing the National Congress in Brasília on Sunday afternoon, the veteran leftist, a former factory worker who served as president from 2003 to 2010, celebrated the defeat of the radical far-right ‘authoritarian project’ in elections of October and promised to lead Brazil into a new chapter of environmental protection, social progress and “rational democratic” government.
“Democracy was the big winner of this election… Long live democracy! Love live Brazilian people!” he told lawmakers to applaud.
Lula did not mention his right-wing predecessor by name in his 30-minute speech. But he excoriated the damage wrought by Bolsonaro’s four-year administration during which nearly 700,000 Brazilians died from a mismanaged Covid outbreak, millions were plunged into poverty and the deforestation of the Amazon soared.
The “criminal behavior of a negationist and obscurantist government that treated people’s lives with callousness” during the coronavirus pandemic should not go unpunished, Lula told Congress.
“Those who made mistakes will have to answer for those mistakes,” he said, although he denied seeking revenge.
Minutes earlier, Lula had paraded towards the Parliament Building in a 1952 Rolls-Royce convertible, with thousands of security forces, including snipers, deployed to protect him from a potential assassination attempt. . A man was reportedly arrested nearby carrying a fish knife and explosives. Fears of a bombing grew on the eve of the inauguration when police arrested a pro-Bolsonaro radical who was allegedly plotting at the airport.
Huge crowds of ecstatic Lula supporters flooded the streets of Brazil’s capital to celebrate the sensational political revival of a man who just over three years ago was languishing in jail on corruption charges that were later dropped cancelled.
“We feel unfathomable and dizzying relief,” journalist Arimatea Lafayette, 59, said as revelers dressed in red marched to the congress building on Sunday morning to toast Lula’s return and Bolsonaro’s downfall. , who flew to the United States on Friday.
“We have gone through four years of terror and now we feel free,” added Lafayette, who had flown in from the northeast state of Alagoas wearing a T-shirt stamped with Lula’s face.
Franceli Anjos, a 60-year-old feminist, had traveled 55 hours from the Amazon city of Santarém to witness the long-awaited end of Bolsonaro’s chaotic reign. “I am convinced that a new spring has arrived,” she said.
Lucas Rodrigues’ hands were shaking with emotion as he described his delight at Lula’s sensational return, exactly 20 years after the former labor leader became Brazil’s first working-class president in January 2003.
“All of Brazil is here – that’s what Lula is capable of,” the 25-year-old said after stepping off a bus from the southern state of Santa Catarina, where he is part of the free workers’ movement. Earth.
Lula’s American biographer John D French believed that after declaring war on hunger – a hallmark of Lula’s first government – the new president’s top priority would be to reunite a bitterly divided nation after a poisoned election campaign marred by violence.
“I think what he would like would be widespread reconciliation…and a reduction in levels of conflict,” French said, though he warned that would be difficult given the toxic chasm between the Lulistas and the Bolsonarians. .
“The notion that everything is going to be roses and peaches and cream [is misguided]. I think it’s going to be a very conflicted time.
Bolsonaro boycotted the inauguration of a politician he calls a communist “crook” and refused to hand over the presidential sash to his successor, as is democratic tradition.
But interim president Hamilton Mourão alluded to those divisions during a New Year’s address in which he indirectly accused the right-wing radical of creating “an atmosphere of chaos and social collapse” by refusing to acknowledge the outcome of the elections.
“Alternation in power is healthy in a democracy and must be maintained,” Mourão said, dashing the hopes of hardcore Bolsonarians who had called for a coup to prevent Lula from taking power. When Lula was sworn in, hundreds of radicals remained encamped outside the army headquarters in Brasilia, demanding military intervention.
Bolsonaro’s narrow defeat in the October election – which he lost by 2 million votes in a country of 214 million people – sent a wave of relief to progressive Brazilians desperate to see the back of a man who they accused of destroying the environment and Brazil’s place in the world.
French said the relief was reminiscent of the Democrats’ reaction to Donald Trump’s demise in 2020.”[People were] like: ‘Phew, OK, now things can go back to normal.
“But they have not returned to normal in the United States. Nothing is normal politically. And it’s not gonna go back to some kind of placid normalcy [in Brazil either].”
Yet the mere prospect of a fresh start under a progressive and inclusive government of Lula – which has pledged to tackle environmental crime and appointed an indigenous woman to head Brazil’s first-ever ministry for indigenous peoples – has delighted supporters who flocked to the capital.
“I know it won’t be easy for Lula to rebuild everything that Bolsonarism has destroyed. But I’m hopeful. If there is anyone who enjoys the popular support and international respect of world leaders needed to rebuild Brazil’s relationship with the world, it is Lula,” said Diogo Virgílio Teixeira, a 41-year-old anthropologist. from Sao Paulo.
As Lula spoke, hundreds of political leaders and social activists gathered to greet their leader at the presidential palace.
“It’s a historic day,” said Douglas Belchior, a prominent civil rights activist who was part of Lula’s campaign. “It’s a sense of duty fulfilled.”