A former union worker turned Brazil’s most popular president before being jailed, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva returns to the political arena to try to regain power in October against his arch-rival, the far-right Jair Bolsonaro.
Favorite in the polls, Lula, leader of the Workers’ Party (PT, left), begins his campaign on Tuesday in a car factory southeast of Sao Paulo (southeast Brazil), “a return to his origins” workers, according to your press team.
The former president (2003-2010) aspires to a third presidential term with the promise of repeating the social achievements among the most vulnerable classes. During his administration, some 30 million Brazilians came out of poverty, according to official data.
But this self-described “76-year-old,” who married for the third time in May, to Rosangela da Silva – a 55-year-old sociologist – is coming back from far below.
In March 2021, he regained his political rights with the annulment of his judicial convictions, after being involved in “Lava Jato”, the largest anti-corruption operation in the country’s history, focused on a gigantic bribery network around the state-owned oil company Petrobras. .
The anti-corruption judge Sergio Moro had sentenced him in 2017 to nine and a half years in prison for obtaining a triplex apartment on the beachfront from a construction company in exchange for public contracts.
He was imprisoned in April 2018 for corruption and money laundering, after a mediatic entrenchment in the Metalworkers Union in Sao Bernardo do Campo, in the industrial belt of Sao Paulo.
But that did not mean he lost influence in the PT or in Brazilian politics, although the scandal made him become a leader repudiated by a large part of the population.
Lula has always declared himself innocent and considers himself the victim of a political conspiracy to favor the far-right Bolsonaro, who used him as a scarecrow to win the support of the middle classes and win in 2018 with an anti-corruption speech.
Finally, Lula was released in November 2019.
After becoming eligible again, the former trade unionist kept his candidacy on hold for a time, while he took care of his international image with tours abroad.
But over time he increased his public appearances in an electoral tone, as well as his missteps, with controversial statements about the Police or the war in Ukraine, for which he blamed Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelenski “as much” as his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.
He has also harshly criticized Bolsonaro, to the point of calling him “genocidal” for the 680,000 deaths left by the covid-19 pandemic in Brazil.
Lula, whom former US President Barack Obama (2009-2017) described years ago as “The Man”, added personal tragedies to his political and judicial setbacks since the death of his second wife, Marisa Leticia, in February 2017.
Already imprisoned, he lost a brother and a seven-year-old grandson. Before, in 2011, he suffered from laryngeal cancer.
But he managed to overcome everything, as he did since he was born in the poor and arid Brazilian northeast.
The seventh son of an illiterate couple from the northeast, he was abandoned by his father before the family emigrated to the industrialized metropolis of Sao Paulo, like millions of countrymen.
He was a street vendor and shoeshine boy. At the age of 15, he began his training as a lathe operator, lost a little finger while manipulating a machine, and at the end of the 1970s, as leader of the metalworkers’ union, he led a historic strike that challenged the military dictatorship (1964-1985).
In 2003 he became the first Brazilian head of state to come out of the working class, after three frustrated electoral attempts, and gained enormous international prestige as the pilot of the Brazilian economic “miracle”, pushed by the wind in favor of high prices. of the raw materials.
He achieved re-election after having overcome the “Mensalao” scandal, an illegal million-dollar accounting set up by the PT – a party he co-founded in 1980 – to buy the support of congressmen.
“We fought the greatest of all battles against hunger and we won. Today I know that I need to fulfill that mission again,” he declared when making his candidacy official for 2022.
Lula crowned his double term by winning the venue for the 2014 World Cup and the Rio-2016 Games.
He left power with 87% favorable opinions. Her designated successor, Dilma Rousseff, was president until 2016, when she was the subject of an impeachment that ended 13 years of leftist governments.