Brazilian leftist Lula wins third presidential term to redeem his tarnished legacy | The mighty 790 KFGO
By Anthony Bodle
BRASILIA (Reuters) – Brazil’s left-wing leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva won a third presidential term on Sunday in a remarkable comeback for the country’s first working-class president, whose political career nearly ended in prison.
A former metalworker born to illiterate farmworkers, Lula has been the most central figure in Brazilian politics for four decades, since he led union strikes against a military dictatorship in the 1980s and formed the left-wing Workers’ Party.
Lula called his victory over far-right President Jair Bolsonaro by a tight margin in a Sunday run-off a ‘resurrection’ after being jailed in Brazil’s biggest corruption scandal after his two presidential terms from 2003-2010 .
“They tried to bury me alive and I’m here to rule this country,” he said in a speech from his campaign headquarters on Sunday evening, his voice deep and hoarse after months of campaigning.
The 77-year-old, whose once bushy hair and trademark beard has turned white, has relied on unrivaled political instincts and charisma to overcome intense skepticism from his Workers’ Party, which has overseen a deep recession and a sweeping corruption scandal that ultimately brought Bolsonaro to power. .
Lula has vowed to undo Bolsonaro’s legacy, including pro-gun policies and the weakening of environmental protections in the Amazon rainforest, which have left Latin America’s largest nation increasingly isolated on the world stage. .
The man former US President Barack Obama once called “the most popular politician on Earth” left office 12 years ago with a record 87% approval rating. His policies have lifted millions out of extreme poverty, expanded access to education and health care, and reduced Brazil’s deep social inequalities during years of robust growth driven by a global commodity boom.
His presidency also reinvigorated Brazil’s oil and shipbuilding industries, while its economy grew to number six in the world. Brazil’s global prestige reached new heights as it was chosen to host the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup.
However, Lula’s legacy was tarnished by revelations of an extensive government procurement bribery scheme, benefiting the leaders of major political parties, including his own. That and a deep 2015-16 recession provided impetus for the impeachment of his hand-picked successor, former President Dilma Rousseff.
Lula was also on trial for receiving real estate and other gifts as bribes from engineering firms hung on the graft investigation. He was found guilty in 2017 and sentenced to 9 and a half years in prison.
The convictions barred him from running for president in 2018, when Bolsonaro came to power on a wave of conservative backlash and antipathy towards the Workers’ Party.
The former president was freed after 19 months and Brazil’s Supreme Court overturned his convictions on the grounds of improper jurisdiction, after the judge charged with his prosecution was found to be biased. Lula has always denied the charges and said his enemies tricked him into removing him from Brazilian politics.
Lula emerged from prison as a pragmatic politician vowing to fight rising hunger and unemployment by channeling public loans and investment to strategic industries while committing to fiscal responsibility.
He forged a broad center-left coalition including left-wing social movements and his centrist rival from the 2006 election, former Sao Paulo governor Geraldo Alckmin, which helped calm investors fearful of more interventionist economic policy. .
Lula promises to attract foreign investment by restoring Brazil’s credibility as guardian of the Amazon rainforest, where Bolsonaro has allowed deforestation to reach a 15-year high.
Lula toned down his leftist image in the latest stage of the campaign, swapping his Workers Party’s bright red colors for white attire, while making more biblical references as he addressed the growing evangelical Christian community from Brazil.
After losing his first wife to a stroke while in prison, Lula remarried last year to sociologist Rosangela da Silva, known as Janja.
A heavy smoker for years, Lula was treated with chemotherapy for throat cancer in 2011, deepening his gruff baritone.
(Reporting by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Brad Haynes and Grant McCool)