Since his return to Brazilian politics in March with a playful speech at a metalworkers ’union outside São Paulo, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s popularity has continued to grow.
Opinion polls suggest Lula – who served two terms as president between 2003 and 2010 – would easily defeat conservative conservative Jair Bolsonaro if elections scheduled for October next year are held today.
But while the call of the former left-wing leader to return to normalcy after three divisive years of Bolsonaro’s populist domination has resonated, some Brazilians are wondering how a new Lula presidency can be. For more than half a century in Brazilian politics, the 75-year-old has shown several stripes.
Lula acknowledged that his ideas “change when the facts change,” and moved from the head of the socialist union to the head of a liberal economic administration in 2003. He is now committed to supporting the free market while it promises to intervene in public companies if it means improving the well-being of Brazilians.
Some even wonder if Lula will seek political revenge once again in power. He spent nearly two years in prison after a corruption conviction in Brazil’s development Lava Jato, or Car Wash, inquiry. He thinks the conviction, which was overturned by the Supreme Court in March, is the result of a political plot by his opponents.
The former president’s allies insist that any third term would be characterized by pragmatic negotiations, progressive values and the protection of democracy.
“He is concerned about improving the lives of the poor and does not think about the economy in a way separate from employment, living conditions, health and education,” said Celso Amorim, who has been minister. of Foreign Affairs in the Lula government.
“My impression is that internally we should try to do something that is no different from what Joe Biden does in the United States. Of course, we don’t have the same resources, but it would mean a bigger role for the state especially in the social areas.” .If u [neoliberal] the view is that from the main center of capitalism in the United States, we should not be shy of adopting similar measures. “
Yet while supporters insist Lula is a pragmatic pro-democracy activist, he is a long-time supporter of repressive governments in Cuba and Venezuela.
After thousands of Cubans demonstrated in the streets last week, Lula signed a letter within the framework of the left-wing Puebla group expressing “its support for the government of Miguel Díaz-Canel with the full certainty that he will know how to handle the situation.” recent social work with caution and diligence ”.
Luiz Felipe d’Avila, a political scientist at the São Paulo Center for Public Leadership, said Lula’s support for the Cuban regime was “disturbing and indicates the perpetuation of radicalism.”
“We have a right-wing radicalism, and we continue to have a left-wing radicalism, which the Brazilian electorate does not want. Today, they do not want either Lula or Bolsonaro. They are tired of the radicalism that has not improved their lives.”
An aide to the former president said Lula would not disclose economic policies until the election but said that “the country needs a strong consumer market, a return to dialogue with the world and [a focus on] sustainable development, including in the agri-food sector. “
Lula used social media to criticize a roof over government spending – loved by investors for maintaining order in the Brazilian tax house – and the Bolsonaro government’s campaign to privatize state-run entities. .
“If you want to see the renunciation of national sovereignty and the sale of national heritage, don’t vote for me. Fear not, because we are not going to privatize,” he said earlier this year.
However, Lula’s parental silence had the effect of maintaining media attention over Bolsonaro’s erroneous manipulation of pandemic and anti-democratic rhetoric.
“So far, it’s been astute quietly – I seem to have realized that being out of the spotlight could actually be helping its popularity now,” said Eduardo de Carvalho, portfolio manager at Pacific Asset Management.
“If Lula returns like he did in 2003, it would be good news for the economy. Then, he would have a good economic team and he would have implemented a very sound economic policy. However, if he arrives he will propose policies closer to his second term and to the [successor Dilma] The Rousseff government – both where public spending has risen sharply – will allow investors to flee Brazilian assets. ”
Those close to him say that the Lula that Brazilians encounter in a third term would be a businessman, not an ideologue.
“We are working strategically, building alliances,” said Aloizio Mercadante, co-founder alongside Lula of the left-wing workers ’party. He points to Lula’s awareness of center-right politicians, including his once-enemy, former President Fernando Henrique Cardoso.
“Lula has held the most popular presidency in recent Brazilian history. It has shown that it is capable of building a meritocratic and competent government. ”
Hussein Kalout, who served in right-wing administration Michel Temer, said Lula’s attempts to build alliances would nullify any inclination to seek punishment for his imprisonment.
“Maybe the workers’ party will become more radical and want to avenge what happened, but I don’t see Lula going there because he doesn’t adapt to his personality and he doesn’t adapt to his politics. I know he won’t he could govern only by holding himself to the left, ”he said.
Bolsonaro’s success in the 2018 elections was largely attributed to voter dissatisfaction with rampant corruption during the Lula and Rousseff presidencies between 2003 and 2016.
Many voters today say they would not always vote for Lula because of this. Lula did not help ridicule Car Wash’s corruption investigation as a political witch hunt, despite the probe recovering billions of dollars in stolen public money. It was the largest corruption investigation in Latin American history, with dozens of politicians and businessmen arrested across the continent.
Kalout notes, however, that while the workers ’party was clearly involved in corruption alongside several other parties, the Lula and Rousseff administrations have done much to strengthen the institutions and rules that allowed the investigation to take place. by Car Wash. In particular, he says the independence of prosecutors has been strengthened.
Additional reports from Carolina Pulice