Lula seizes power in Brazil and denounces Bolsonaro’s anti-democratic threats

Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was sworn in as Brazil’s president on Sunday.

In a speech to Congress after officially taking over the reins of Latin America’s largest country, the leftist said democracy was the real winner in October’s presidential election, when he ousted Bolsonaro in the presidential election. toughest election in a generation.

Bolsonaro, who left Brazil for the United States on Friday after refusing to concede defeat, has rattled the cages of Brazil’s young democracy with unsubstantiated allegations of electoral weaknesses that have spawned a violent movement of Holocaust deniers.

“Democracy was the clear winner in this election, overcoming…the most violent threats to the freedom to vote, and the most abject campaign of lies and hatred plotted to manipulate and embarrass the electorate,” Lula told reporters. legislators.

Lula, who was behind bars when Bolsonaro was inaugurated in 2019 on corruption convictions that were later overturned, issued a veiled threat to his predecessor.

“We bear no spirit of revenge against those who have tried to subjugate the nation to their personal and ideological designs, but we will guarantee the rule of law,” Lula said, without mentioning Bolsonaro by name. “Those who err will answer for their errors.”

He also accused Bolsonaro’s administration of committing “genocide” by failing to respond properly to the COVID-19 virus that has killed more than 680,000 Brazilians.

Lula wiped away tears after receiving the presidential sash.

“Responsibility for this genocide must be investigated and must not go unpunished,” he said.

Although Bolsonaro’s trip to Florida insulates him from any immediate legal danger in Brazil, he now faces growing legal risks – linked to his anti-democratic rhetoric and his handling of the pandemic – after losing his presidential immunity, have said. said legal experts.

Lula’s plans for government stood in stark contrast to Bolsonaro’s four years in office, which featured rolling back environmental protections in the Amazon rainforest, looser gun laws and weaker protections for indigenous peoples and indigenous peoples. minorities.

Lula said he wanted to turn Brazil, one of the world’s leading food producers, into a green superpower.


In his first decisions as president, Lula restored the authority of the government’s environmental protection agency Ibama to fight illegal deforestation, which had been watered down by Bolsonaro, and revoked a measure that encouraged the illegal mining on protected indigenous lands.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and his wife Rosangela "Janja" da Silva waves to the supporters. They were accompanied by Brazilian Vice President Geraldo Alckmin and his wife Maria Lucia Ribeiro Alckmin on the day of Lula's swearing-in ceremony in Brasilia, Brazil, January 1, 2023.
Lula was accompanied on his trip to the Planalto Palace by his wife, Vice President Geraldo Alckmin and Alckmin’s wife.

He also unfroze the $1 billion Amazon fund financed by Norway and Germany to support sustainability projects, bolstering his commitment to ending deforestation in the Amazon, which has reached a 15-year high under Bolsonaro.

The administration of US President Joe Biden, which shared little in common with Bolsonaro and chafed at his lackluster environmental policies, wished success to Lula and his vice president Geraldo Alckmin.

“We look forward to continuing the strong U.S.-Brazilian partnership on trade, security, sustainability, innovation and inclusion,” tweeted U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. “Here is a bright future for our countries – and for the world.”

Britain’s King Charles congratulated Lula on his return to power in a letter in which he offered to deepen cooperation with Brazil, including on the environment.

Supporters of Brazil's new President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva gather outside the Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil, January 1, 2023.
Tens of thousands of supporters gathered to celebrate Lula’s swearing-in.

“I was heartened to hear you stress the urgency of tackling the climate crisis in your victory speech and at COP27,” the king wrote in the letter leaked by the British Embassy.

After the swearing-in, Lula drove an open-top Rolls-Royce to the Planalto Palace, where he climbed the ramp with his wife and a diverse group that included Chief Raoni Metuktire of the Kayapó tribe, a young boy black, a cook and a disabled man.

Lula was then presented with the presidential sash – an extremely symbolic act in Brazil that Bolsonaro had repeatedly said he would never do – by Aline Sousa, a black garbage collector.

Tens of thousands of people who had gathered to celebrate on the Brasilia esplanade cheered as Lula wiped away tears.

In a later speech, he pledged to unite the polarized country and govern for all Brazilians.

“There are not two Brazils,” Lula said. “We are one country, one great nation.”

Supporters of Brazil's new President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva gather outside the Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil, January 1, 2023.
Lula was chosen to be president in October in a tough election.

Lula said he would be fiscally prudent, but made it clear that his main goal would be to end hunger and reduce endemic inequality. He also said he aims to improve women’s rights and address racism and the legacy of slavery in Brazil.

“It will be the hallmark of our government,” he said.

Allies said Lula’s new social conscience was the result of his 580 days in prison, Reuters reported on Sunday.


In his first decrees, Lula revoked Bolsonaro’s softer gun policy, which had led to a sharp increase in gun ownership.

“Brazil doesn’t want more weapons, it wants peace and security for its people,” he said.

Lula’s inauguration took place in a context of heightened security.

Some of Bolsonaro’s supporters claimed the election was stolen and called for a military coup to prevent Lula from returning to office amid vandalism and violence.

On Christmas Eve, a Bolsonaro supporter was arrested for making a bomb that was discovered on a truck loaded with kerosene at the entrance to Brasilia airport, and confessed he was seeking to provoke a military intervention .

Bolsonaro has seen his support among many former allies evaporate due to anti-democracy protests.

On Saturday night, interim president Hamilton Mourao, who was Bolsonaro’s vice-president, criticized his former boss for allowing anti-democratic sentiment to flourish after the election.

“Leaders who were meant to reassure and unite the nation … allowed silence or inappropriate and deleterious protagonism to create an atmosphere of chaos and social disintegration,” Mourao said.

Lula’s electoral victory marked a stunning political comeback, giving him an unprecedented third term after a hiatus that saw him spend a year and a half behind bars.

During his previous two terms as president from 2003 to 2010, the former labor leader lifted millions of Brazilians out of poverty during a commodity boom that boosted the economy.

Now he faces the daunting challenge of improving Brazil’s stagnant economy while uniting a divided country.

“A lot is expected of Lula,” said Creomar de Souza, director of the consultancy Dharma Political Risk in Brasilia. “He will have the difficult mission of restoring normalcy and predictability to Brazil, and above all of quickly delivering results that improve the quality of life of its inhabitants.


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