Lula keeps policies a mystery on Brazil comeback trail

Monday - 19/07/2021 13:54
Former two-term president has emerged as serious challenger to Bolsonaro
Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva speaks at a metalworkers’ union in March. His allies insist any third term would be characterised by pragmatic dealmaking and progressive values © Victor Moriyama/Bloomberg
Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva speaks at a metalworkers’ union in March. His allies insist any third term would be characterised by pragmatic dealmaking and progressive values © Victor Moriyama/Bloomberg

Since his return to Brazilian politics in March with a rollicking speech at a metalworkers’ union outside São Paulo, the popularity of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has continued to rise.

Opinion polls suggest Lula — who served two terms as president between 2003 and 2010 — would easily defeat the firebrand conservative Jair Bolsonaro if elections scheduled for October next year were held today.

But while the leftwing former leader’s call for a return to normality after three divisive years of Bolsonaro’s populist rule has resonated, some Brazilians wonder what a new Lula presidency could look like. Over half a century in Brazilian politics, the 75-year-old has shown different stripes.

Lula has conceded that his ideas “change when the facts change”, and he has veered from socialist union leader to the head of a liberal economic administration in 2003. Today he pledges support for the free market while vowing to intervene in state-run companies if it means improving the wellbeing of Brazilians.

Some also wonder whether Lula would seek political vengeance once back in power. He spent almost two years in prison following a corruption conviction in Brazil’s sprawling Lava Jato, or Car Wash, investigation. He deems the conviction, which was quashed by the Supreme Court in March, the result of a political plot by his opponents.

The former president’s allies insist any third term would be characterised by pragmatic dealmaking, progressive values and the protection of democracy.

 
People celebrate after former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was convicted on corruption charges in 2017
People celebrate after former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was convicted on corruption charges in 2017.
The conviction was quashed in March 2021 © Nacho Doce/Reuters

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