Brazil’s new head of state, Lula, rose from the ashes at the age of 77

Brazil’s new head of state, Lula, rose from the ashes at the age of 77


Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who rose from poverty to the Brazilian presidency before falling from grace in a corruption scandal, has made a spectacular comeback at the age of 77 as leader of Latin America’s largest economy.

Lula, as he is affectionately known, clawed at far-right incumbent Jair Bolsonaro to win a third term at the helm, election officials confirmed.

Just 18 months ago, the bearded leftist hero with the trademark raspy voice was a political pariah embroiled in a corruption scandal that divided the nation.

Disgust with his Labor Party (PT) propelled Bolsonaro into office in 2018, but the hateful and divisive conservative quickly lost popularity as he oversaw the Covid-19 massacre and environmental destruction, and made comments that were criticized as racist, sexist and homophobic .

“We need to fix this country… so Brazilians can smile again,” Lula said during a tireless campaign in which he criss-crossed the country and appeared on popular podcasts to attract younger voters.

He promised that under his rule, Brazilians would be able to “eat picanha and drink beer” again on the weekends, referring to the popular cut of beef that high inflation put out of reach for many.

The comments reveal the famed political skills and folksy touch that endeared him to many around the world, with Barack Obama once calling him “the world’s favorite politician”.

The charismatic Lula was the slight favorite during a long and divisive campaign.

However, the election stalled, with Bolsonaro snapping at his heels to the last.

– disgraced –

Lula left office in 2010 as a working-class hero who spearheaded a commodity-fuelled economic boom that helped lift 30 million people out of poverty.

Despite fears at the time that his brand of leftism was too radical, Lula’s 2003-10 government blended pioneering social programs with pro-market economic policies.

He earned a reputation as a moderate and pragmatic leader.

Lula also made Brazil a key player on the international stage, helping to secure the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

At the end of his tenure, his approval rating was an unprecedented 87 percent.

But then he became embroiled in a massive corruption scandal involving the state-owned oil company Petrobras, which involved some of Brazil’s most influential politicians, businessmen and the PT.

Lula has consistently denied allegations that he received kickbacks for providing access to hefty Petrobras contracts.

He was jailed in 2018, the year Bolsonaro won. He spent more than 18 months in prison before being released pending appeal.

His convictions were overturned last year by the Supreme Court, which found the lead judge on the case was biased.

However, he was not exonerated. Many Brazilians remain traumatized by the scale of the corruption scandal. While many others have fond memories of the economic prosperity under his rule, others have voted for him just to see Bolsonaro from behind.

– From Poverty to President –

Lula grew up in abject poverty, the seventh of eight children in an illiterate farming family in the arid northeastern state of Pernambuco.

When he was seven, his family joined a wave of migration to the industrial heartland of Sao Paulo.

Lula worked as a shoeshine boy and peanut seller before becoming a locksmith at the tender age of 14.

In the 1960s he lost a finger in an accident at work.

He quickly rose to become the head of his union and in the 1970s led large-scale strikes that challenged the then military dictatorship.

In 1980 he co-founded the Workers’ Party, which he ran for as president nine years later.

Lula lost three presidential candidates from 1989 to 1998, eventually winning again in 2002 and four years later.

This was his sixth presidential campaign.

The twice-widowed father of five survived throat cancer and lost his wife of four decades, Marisa Leticia Rocco, to a stroke in 2017.

Lula has said he’s “in love again like I was 20” with Rosangela “Janja” da Silva, a sociologist and PT activist whom he married in May.

Lula has said he’s not seeking a second term.

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