Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva on Sunday once again became Brazil’s President securing a political comeback as he defeated far-right incumbent Jair Bolsonaro. Lula won slightly more than 50% of the votes polled against Bolsonaro’s 49%, ending a closely and bitterly contested presidential election.
Lula’s victory will see the return of the left-wing in Brazil, a trend that is now observable in its neighbourhood as Latin and South American countries vote for more left-leaning governments.
Lula, now 76 years old, once worked as a shoeshine boy and worked in a factory and when he became president of Brazil in 2002, crowds cheered as they could see one of their own rise to power.
Lula introduced reforms that lifted millions of people out of poverty and also made Brazil part of international forums like the G20 and BRICS.
Born to a poor rural family in 1945 in Brazil’s Pernambuco , Lula grew up as a child in Santos in São Paulo. His mother shifted to the state capital of São Paulo where Lula and his six siblings lived in the backroom of a bar which they rented.
Lula’s biographer and friend, Fernando Morais wrote that at nights drunkards used to enter the room to piss or puke and when it rained everything flooded.
During the two decades where Brazil plunged into dictatorship, Lula worked as an office boy and as a lathe operator in his teenage years. Speaking to the Guardian, Morais said that Lula was first not interested in politics when they both met in the 1970s but the repression of the working class served as a wake-up call.
Lula led a series of strikes in 1979 and according to a report by the Guardian was disappointed once when things didn’t work out in 1985 as he lost his first presidential-bid. But a chastising from Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro forced him to pull up his socks and keep on working.
His biographer, however, says that the kidnapping and torture of his brother at the hands of the military in 1975 was also a watershed moment.
The results were there for everyone to see when Lula decades later led his Worker’s Party to electoral victory in 2002 after failing to win three successive presidential elections.
During his eight-year presidency, he is credited with helping Brazilian families face the 2008 economic crisis and during his rule for the first-time in Brazil’s history became a net creditor after remaining for many decades under foreign debt.
It was also during his presidency that people started having a modest lifestyle as his economic programmes helped millions of people become middle-class earners.
He left office in 2011 with more than 85% approval ratings but soon after him leaving office, the Workers Party became embroiled in corruption cases and Dilma Roussef, his successor and Brazil’s first woman president, was impeached in 2016.
Accusations were also levelled against Lula and he was found guilty in a trial related to the corruption cases that sent him to prison for 580 days. In 2021, a court cleared him of those accusations.
There is a strong probability that torture Lula suffered at the hands of Brazilian dictatorship in the 70s and his recent time in prison helped him plot this major comeback.
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