Bolsonaro Flees, Lula da Silva Leads

Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva waves upon his arrival to the Planalto Palace with a group representing diverse segments of society after he was sworn in as new president in Brasilia, Brazil, Sunday, Jan. 1, 2023. Photo Credit: AP / Eraldo Peres


Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, commonly referred to as Lula, was inaugurated as President of Brazil on January 1st 2022. This was Lula’s third time being elected under the Partido dos Trabalhadores or Worker’s Party. What makes this election especially important is that Lula inherited the country from Jair Bolsonaro and his highly controversial presidency. 


During his presidency, Bolsonaro reduced the laws which protected the Amazon Rainforest and actively supported its destruction to generate greater profits for wealthy elites, telling  the rest of the world to stand idly by as this atrocity occurred. He also targeted the Indigenous people of Brazil and has been accused of enabling and ordering the assassinations of several Indigenous political activists. His actions during his presidency made it harder for descendants of slaves, known as Quilombolas and Native Brazilians to purchase and own land so that they can better assimilate into what he called the ”Real Brazil.” He also referred to queerness as a threat to Brazil’s Christian values and selected a Human Rights Minister that stated diversity policies have been harming Brazilian families by indoctrinating children into “gender-ideology.” He also failed to implement restrictions to protect Brazilians against COVID-19 and raised doubts about  vaccines, which ultimately led to over 400,000 deaths as of 2023. 


These atrocities have oppressed the Brazilian people for a long four years and served as the catalyst for the return of Lula as president. Lula served as president from 2003 to 2010 and left his role with an astonishing 80% approval rating. He lifted tens of millions of Brazilians out of poverty through welfare programs, challenging political corruption, uplifting the economy and advocating for human rights. 


In the recent election cycle, Lula campaigned under a platform to increase the minimum wage, root out political corruption, reform land distribution, defend abortion, fight for worker’s rights and protect the Amazon. After Lula won the 2022 Presidential election with an extremely close 50.9% of votes, Bolsonaro was quick to say he would refuse to concede and many protests against Lula began to occur around the country. Many contested the results feeling that the numbers were being manipulated and that leftist policies would supposedly harm Brazil. 


President Lula’s inauguration attracted a massive crowd outside of the Presidential office. Thousands applauded as Lula was escorted to the front of the building and greeted by his honor guard. However, there was one key person who was missing from this historical event, Jair Bolsonaro. His absence broke the tradition of the departing president bestowing the Presidential sash to the newly elected president to symbolize the peaceful passage of power in a nation that previously suffered through a 21-year military dictatorship. 


This raises a new question: where is Bolsonaro? Rather than staying in Brazil and proudly accepting his political defeat in order to help unify the country, amidst five investigations stemming from malpractices he partook in during his presidency he fled six thousand kilometers away to the United States. He is currently renting a house in Orlando, Florida and plans to remain there for at least a month. He continues to question the reliability of the election results and failed to prevent Lula from taking office. Eventually he gave up on trying to overturn the election and told his supporters to accept the results and move on in order to prevent any violence from happening. 


Due to Bolsonaro’s absence, someone else was chosen to present Lula the presidential sash at the inauguration. Lula was escorted past his honor guard accompanied by those who were often targeted—not only by Bolsonaro—but by generations of colonization. He proudly ascended up the ramp to the Presidential Office accompanied by a disabled man, a ten-year-old Black boy, a Black woman who serves a garbage collector, an Indigenous leader, and a factory worker among others. This powerful sight was a way to show that he is accepting his Presidential role for the diverse population of Brazil. 


Lula’s reelection, to many, is a sign of hope throughout Brazil, especially for those who belong to marginalized communities who previously suffered under Bolsonaro’s presidency.  The next few months under Lula and his leadership may possibly result in a more unified and thriving Brazil.

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