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8 May, 2022 14:32

Brazil’s ex-president to challenge ‘criminal’ Bolsonaro

Lula de Silva will run in Brazil’s presidential election, and vows to send “fascism back to the sewer of history”
Brazil’s ex-president to challenge ‘criminal’ Bolsonaro

Former Brazilian leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva – known simply as Lula – announced on Saturday that he will run in October’s presidential election, facing off against the incumbent Jair Bolsonaro. While Lula leads Bolsonaro in opinion polls, he has recently earned notoriety in the West for his stance on the Ukraine conflict.

"We're ready to work not only to win the election on October 2, but to rebuild and transform Brazil, which will be even more difficult," the former union leader told a rally in Sao Paulo. “We need to return to a place where no one ever dares to defy democracy again. We need to send fascism back to the sewer of history, where it should have been all along.”

A leftist, Lula has said that he will ally with center-left parties, and has chosen centrist former Sao Paulo governor Geraldo Alckmin as a running mate, in a bid to peel moderate voters away from Bolsonaro, whom he described on Saturday as an “authoritarian” and an “irresponsible” “criminal.” 

However, Lula himself was until recently on the wrong side of the law. After governing Brazil between 2003 and 2010 and leaving office with an approval rating of 80%, Lula was sentenced to nine years in prison in 2017 for alleged involvement in a corruption and money laundering scheme within the state-run oil company Petrobras. The sentence was later increased to 12 years.

Lula maintained his innocence and told RT in 2018 that there was “a conspiracy in Brazil between the media, the judiciary, the prosecution service and police” against him. Brazil’s Supreme Federal Court eventually agreed and struck down his conviction in 2021, ruling that  former judge Sergio Moro, who oversaw the investigation against Lula and was later appointed justice minister, had no jurisdiction to prosecute the former president.

Following the annulment, it was widely assumed that Lula, who is 76, would launch another run for office. Opinion polling placed him comfortably ahead of Bolsonaro for several months, although that lead has shrunk, and Lula now leads the incumbent right-winger by 40% to 35%.

On the international stage, Lula has rattled the West on two significant issues: last week he proposed the creation of a common Latin American currency to break the dominance of the US dollar, and in an interview with Time magazine several days later, he declared Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky “as responsible as [Russian President Vladimir] Putin for the war.”     

Lula went on to blame NATO expansion for antagonizing Russia, and condemned Western leaders for encouraging and arming Zelensky to continue fighting Russia’s forces. 

Amid an outcry from Western journalists, Mikhail Podolyak, an advisor to Zelensky, responded by accusing Lula of spreading "Russian attempts to distort the truth."

Bolsonaro’s position on the Ukraine conflict is not vastly different from that of Lula. The Brazilian leader has refused to take sides on the war, and has rejected claims that Russia has carried out massacres in Ukraine.