Resurrected Politically, Lula Goes After Bolsonaro’s ‘Moronic’ Handling of Covid-19 Pandemic

Jerri-Lynn here. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s management of the pandemic challenges that of the U.S. for the title of most incompetent; the country has the death statistics to prove it, with the second highest number of COVID-19 in the world, topped only by the United States.

A Brazilian court this week overturned several criminal convictions of former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, restoring the political rights of the popular leftist and clearing major obstacles to a 2022 bid to unseat Bolsonaro. Note the praise Bernie Sanders lavished on Lula for his anti-poverty, pro-worker record.

By Kenny Stancil, staff writer at Common Dreams. Originally published at Common Dreams

In a speech Wednesday that signaled a potential presidential run, former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva condemned Jair Bolsonaro, the South American country’s current far-right president, for his catastrophic mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic and ensuing economic crisis.

“This country is disorganized and falling apart because it has no government,” Lula told a crowd gathered at the metalworkers union in São Bernardo do Campo, where the 75-year-old left-wing icon’s political career began as an organizer in the 1970s.

While Covid-19 has claimed the lives of nearly 270,000 people in Brazil—the world’s second-highest death toll over the past year, after the United States—Bolsonaro has consistently minimized the lethal threat posed by the virus.

Last week, after two consecutive days of record deaths that have pushed the country’s hospital system “to the brink of collapse,” Brazil’s president told his citizens to stop “whining,” which Reuters called Bolsonaro’s “latest remarks attacking distancing measures and downplaying the gravity of the pandemic.”

Standing in front of a banner that read, “Health, jobs, and justice for Brazil,” Lula, a member of the Workers’ Party, said Wednesday that “many of these deaths could have been avoided.”

Lula also told the audience: “Do not follow a single one of the president or health minister’s moronic decisions.​ Get vaccinated.”

“The people don’t need arms. The people need jobs,” Lula said, criticizing Bolsonaro’s pro-gun policy as well as his inept response to the ongoing economic turmoil, which the former president contrasted with the increased prosperity and reduced inequality that Brazilians experienced when he governed the country from 2003 until 2011.

The speech was Lula’s first since a Brazilian Supreme Court justice on Monday overturned several criminal convictions against the former president, restoring his political rights and opening the door for a 2022 bid to unseat Bolsonaro.

Though Lula said he “doesn’t have time to think about a 2022 candidacy now,” some observers interpreted his vow to “fight tirelessly” for Brazil and denunciation of Bolsonaro as evidence of his official return to the political arena, with Reuters characterizing the event as an attempt to “set the stage” for a likely presidential run.

“His speech was a campaign launch” in effect, said political analyst Creomar da Souza of the consulting firm Dharma. “He presented his project for the country, which involves a lot of references to his legacy as president.”

During his presidency, Lula oversaw an economic boom, which he channeled to improve the lives of downtrodden Brazilians. He remains popular with progressives throughout the world for implementing social programs that lifted millions out of poverty.

When he left office in 2011, Lula enjoyed approval ratings over 80%, and before his candidacy was derailed by a corruption conviction, he was leading the polls during the 2018 race eventually won by Bolsonaro.

Lula has maintained his innocence, describing the charges that put him behind bars for 18 months as a lie fabricated by right-wing adversaries intent on perpetrating a political coup.

While Lula could still be tried in the capital Brasília if prosecutors there decide to pursue one of the pending corruption cases, in which no verdicts have yet been reached, the former president remains popular.

Recent polling data indicates that he is in the best position to defeat the right-wing incumbent.

“Bolsonaro represents rock bottom in the recent history of the republic,” said Christian Lynch, a political scientist from Rio de Janeiro’s State University. “And he’s going to have to face the candidate who was its zenith.”

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  1. Larry

    I have a colleague who moved from Manchester UK to Brazil. He has family in Brazil and was sick of the lock downs and Boris Johnson. He was telling me this week that Bolsanaro might be the worst leader he’s ever seen, but at least it’s warm and sunny when he has a beer in his garden. Let’s hope for the sake of Brazil that Bolsanaro is gone soon.

  2. Darius

    Obama must be frustrated that the cases against the old populist fell apart. In his memoir, the self-righteous one says Lula is like a Tammany Hall ward healer, not the high-minded, serious, Calvinistic virtue signaler Obama is.

    Also, RIP Michael Brooks.

    1. LowellHIghlander

      Do you mean to say that you read Obama’s memoir? I hope you borrowed it from a library or someone else.

      Of course the Obama would say that Lula reminds him of a Tammany Hall ward heeler: Does Lula have a degree from an Ivy-League school? When I was a Federal worker, I remember how appointment after appointment by President Obama was given to graduates of Ivy League universities. In fact, I well remember how Glenn Greenwald was strongly, to the utmost of his abilities, pushing for a spot on the Supreme Court for a brilliant woman [jurist] who was amazing in her ability to, civilly, talk and build coalitions with other judges from ideologoical persuasions different from hers. Ultimately, she had one fatal flaw that apparently sank her appointment: she’d graduated from (if I remember correctly) University of Texas’ law school.

      We, as a country, can congratulate ourselves: we’ve replicated a class structure that’s every bit as parasitic and odious as the one we threw out in 1783.

      1. Baldanders

        By that metric, I would say we have improved upon the British model; we managed to set up a class structure that is largely invisible to most Americans, and any attempts at talking about it are “class warfare.”

      2. Alex Cox

        In a similar vein, I think one of the reasons our elite leaders hate the president of Venezuela is because he used to be a bus driver.

        Whereas, on a sane planet, a successful career safely driving a bus through city streets might be seen as a qualification for higher office.

    2. lyman alpha blob

      So in other words, like with Tammany Hall, people actual received some benefit in exchange for their vote? The horror…..

      Nice to see Bernie piping up. Even better would be if he acknowledged the role of the US government in Lula’s bogus conviction.

  3. Knifecatcher

    Glenn Greenwald and his (former) team at The Intercept Brazil did amazing work in exposing the dishonesty and corruption at the core of Lula’s so-called corruption trial. Among other things they revealed that the judge, Sergio Moro, had been coaching the lead prosecutor, Deltan Dallagnol, as to how he should present his case.

    Lula himself has cited Greenwald’s reporting as a key factor in his release.

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