‘A Brazil of Hope’ as Leftist Lula Defeats Far-Right Bolsonaro in Presidential Runoff

Yves here. Finally, a wee bit of good news in Lula’s hard-fought win.

By Brett Wilkins. Originally published at Common Dreams

“A huge blow against fascistic politics and a huge victory for decency and sanity.”

That’s how RootsAction director Norman Solomon described Brazilian President-Elect Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s Sunday presidential runoff victory against far-right incumbent Jair Bolsonaro, the culmination of a most remarkable political comeback for a man who was languishing behind bars just three years ago.

With 99% of votes counted via an electronic system that tallies final results in a matter of hours—and which was repeatedly aspersed by Bolsonaro in an effort to cast doubt on the election’s veracity—da Silva led the incumbent by more than two million ballots, or nearly two percentage points.

“Brazil is my cause, the people are my cause and fighting poverty is the reason why I will live until the end of my life,” da Silva said during his victory speech.

“As far as it depends on us, there will be no lack of love,” he vowed. “We will take great care of Brazil and the Brazilian people. We will live in a new time. Of peace, of love, and of hope. A time when the Brazilian people will once again have the right to dream. And the opportunities to realize what you dream.”

Da Silva, the 77-year-old co-founder of the left-wing Workers’ Party (PT), became the first challenger to defeat an incumbent president since the restoration of democracy in 1985. His campaign overcame a rampant social media-driven disinformation campaign, political violence including the assassination on Friday of a PT congressional candidate, and what observers called massive Election Day voter suppression by federal police to win a third term for the man Brazilians endearingly call Lula.

Bolsonaro—who has threatened to reject the results if he lost—and his far-right nationalism will remain a powerful force in Brazilian politics despite his ouster.

Derided by critics as the “Trump of the Tropics,” Bolsonaro’s tenure was marked by accelerated environmental destruction, especially of the Amazon rainforest; gross mishandling of the Covid-19 pandemic, which killed more people in Brazil than in any other country save the United States; disdain and disregard for the rights of Indigenous peoples; rampant bigotry; and incessant flirtation with authoritarianism.

“Bolsonaro lost, but Bolsonarism emerged victorious. The numbers don’t lie,” tweeted São Paulo state lawmaker Erica Malunguinho, a reference to the incumbent’s more than 58 million votes. “Our project must be political and pedagogical.”

There was utter silence from Bolsonaro, his campaign, and his erstwhile-outspoken relatives for hours after the race was called for da Silva.

Journalist Marlos Ápyus tweeted, “Let him go in silence. As for me, I’ll never hear his voice again.”

Jubilant crowds thronged the streets of cities including São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro Sunday evening. Drivers honked horns and people cheered and chanted slogans including the popular campaign jingle “Lula lá”—”Lula’s there”—and “Tá na hora de Jair ir embora”—”Time for Jair to leave.”

Brazilian and international progressives, as well as many of the nation’s poor, Indigenous, LGBTQ+, women, intellectuals, artists, and people of color celebrated the imminent return of da Silva to the Palácio da Alvorada, which he occupied for two terms from 2003 to 2010.

“No more fear! With peace, love, and hope we will dream again,” tweeted Brazilian author Bianca Santana. “And we will work to live a full democracy where all people fit.”

Maria do Rosário, a PT member of the Chamber of Deputies—the lower house of Brazil’s National Congress—representing Rio Grande do Sul, exalted: “Today is the Day of Respect for Brazilian Women, it’s Workers’ Day, the Day of the Free Press and transparency. Today is Children’s Day and the fight against pedophilia; Day of the family and victims of Covid; Today is the day of courage and love. I hug you for that!”

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) tweeted that “today, the people of Brazil have voted for democracy, workers’ rights, and environmental sanity. I congratulate Lula on his hard-fought victory and look forward to a strong and prosperous relationship between the United States and Brazil.”

U.S. Rep. Jamaal Bowman called da Silva’s victory “a win for our values and a better world.”

University of California, Berkeley sociology professor Daniel Aldana Cohen said that “Lula’s narrow victory is still a massive win for Brazil: for its working class, its Black and Indigenous communities, and against fascism. It’s also a win for the Amazon and the planet itself—and thus [very] good news for the multiracial working class of the whole world.”

Reuters climate correspondent Jake Spring tweeted, “The lungs of the Earth will breathe easier tonight.”

Although criticized by the hard left for his previous administration’s neoliberal economic policies, Da Silva is beloved by millions of Brazilians for his lifelong advocacy for the poor, workers, minorities, and rural and Indigenous people. As president, he lifted millions of Brazilians from poverty through sweeping social programs including Fome Zero (Zero Hunger) and Bolsa Familia (Family Allowance), while presiding over Brazil’s rise into the top tier of world economies. Former U.S. President Barack Obama called him the “most popular politician on Earth.”

However, da Silva’s focus on social uplift at the expense of the oligarchy earned him powerful enemies at home, and his solidarity with leftist Latin American leaders and opposition to U.S. imperialism made him a target of many in Washington and on Wall Street.

In 2017, da Silva was controversially convicted of corruption and money laundering in connection with the sweeping “Car Wash” scandal and spent 580 days behind bars before being freed when the Brazilian supreme court found his incarceration unlawful. Last year, the high court annulled several criminal convictions against da Silva, restoring his political rights and setting the stage for his 2022 run.

Da Silva’s win is the latest in a string of leftist victories in Latin America and represents a significant counterbalance to the resurgence of right-wing politics in other parts of the world.

“Congratulations brother Lula, president-elect of Brazil,” tweeted Bolivian President Luis Arce. “Your victory strengthens democracy and Latin American integration. We are sure that you will lead the Brazilian people along the path of peace, progress, and social justice.”

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      1. Ignacio

        I concur. Biden should be considered conservative, a rabid one, by most standards. Such a comparison is pointless.

    1. Michael Fiorillo

      Read about the man’s life and work, and the rapaciousness of the ruling class he faces, before you push such foolish comparisons.

  1. PlutoniumKun

    Nice to wake up to some good news anyway. Lets home Lula can at least undo some of Bolsonaro’s damage.

    Somewhat depressing though that so many millions of Brazilians still somehow thought a vote for B was a good idea.

    1. the last D

      To paraphrase Mencken, Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the brazilian public. And by the way, add the toxic brew of end-time evangelical claptrap to the mix, and you find yourself remembering another old friend, and saying to yourself, it’s only the opium of the masses.

  2. orlbucfan

    “Tá na hora de Jair ir embora”—”Time for Jair to leave.”
    There’s an old classic tune by Steam called “Kiss Him Goodbye.” I wish I spoke fluent Spanish as a Floridian. Those Spanish lyrics remind me of “Na, na, na, na!/Na, na, na, na!/Hey, hey, hey, goodbye!” which are the Steam lyrics. Viva Brazil! I read Byedone has congratulated Lula, and told certain RW parties to butt out. Time will tell. Oh please, can there be some hope here next week. We Americanos need it.

  3. Olivier

    I disagree that this such good news. Obviously it could have been worse: Bolsonaro could have won, but Lula’s margin of victory is very disappointing and portends difficulties for his administration. Brazil will be a state to watch.

  4. Michael Ismoe

    Electing an 80 year old by 51-49 with a hostile Congress and economic depression around the corner and you have chaos waiting in the wings. Losing might have been a better long-term option.

    1. urdsama


      That’s akin to saying the captain of the Titanic should have steered into the iceberg to make the ship sink faster.

        1. Tony Wright

          Biden & Co. bad, Trump & Co. insufferable (narcissistic, shambolic, hypocritical, lying, ignorant, bigoted etc. etc.) The economies of the world are drowning in debt, climate change is getting out of control and half of the species on the planet have become extinct in my lifetime (and few people seem to care a hoot) . Sociopathic dictators rule China and Russia, “sabre rattling” is becoming the latest sport du jour and neoliberal inspired just in time economics is falling apart at the seams.
          The sad thing about the US Democrats is they could not come up with a better option than a well meaning, but half senile political hack as Presidential candidate in 2020.
          The election of Lula in Brasil and Albanese here in Oz are faint glows in a very dark future for us all.
          As the inimitable Con the Fruiterer (of Comedy Company fame) would have said “ Good luck to all your families”- we all need it.

          1. juno mas

            Sociopathic dictators rule China and Russia,…

            Have you read Putin’s Valdai speech? Or Xi’s plans for China? These are not sociopaths. The liberal democracy known as the USA has the sociopathic leader.

            1. Tony Wright

              I assess all politicians on actions, not words or so-called policy documents.
              In my opinion Xi’s actions regarding Hong Kong and the Uighurs, and Putin’s actions in Syria and Ukraine are highly sociopathic.

      1. Science Officer Smirnoff

        (little niggle)
        Recent documentary reminds us that, on the contrary, the hull had better rivets
        or was otherwise better protected in a head-on collision–ship would have remained afloat (far) longer.
        (I forget precise details)

    2. hk

      Add to the mix the, eh, complicated politics of last several years, along with a coup, use of extralegal authority, and so forth (against the leftist gov’t and it’s “former” officials). There will be “justified” calls for payback that will be difficult to resist for Lula, but, if carried out, they would only cause more chaos.

      1. hunkerdown

        Really? I’d think that, by destroying the people who know how to systematically subvert the general will, you would have reduced the ability of either side to play their chaos cards, and (if destroyed in the right way) made the career position of chaos apprentice much less attractive.

        1. spud

          russia is showing us the way. to affect the future, you must address the past, and by exposing the sell outs and their treason, you can get the people on your side, change things, hopefully for the better. and alert future generations as to what a traitor sellout policies look like.

          otherwise if you pretend to try to change things and leaving the sellout traitors and the people they represent in tact, they will still have immense power with the population. the founders knew this, exposed them, and drove them out.


  5. JohnnyGL

    Lula faces the unappetizing prospect of getting very little passed, or buying votes like the PT had to do, previously.

    Expect to see more ‘scandals’ in the next couple years, but it will be vote-buying scandals, not self-enrichment schemes.

      1. the last D

        The world is still heating up, and trump and biden continue to add fuel to the capitalist bonfire. Go left young man, go far, far left, and be as uncivil and disruptive and single-minded as you can. That might make you unwelcome, or even hated, but so what? It is better to be hated for what you are, than to be loved for what you are not.

        1. michael Ismoe

          Yeah, OK. They are calling Biden a “socialist”; imagine what they would have done to Bernie.

          1. the last D

            Even the dems pounced on sanders, and although I supported him in 16 and 20, he’s gone as far as he’ll ever go. He’s run out of gas, to bring it up to date. But climate catastrophe won’t stop, it will only get worse, and voting for either of the two accelerants, our two political choices,, will only make it worse. Political power to these miscreants is far more important than life itself. The only alternative, if any, is collective action against the system which is killing us. And I think this means going out to the streets. The street is the proper polling place now, the voting collection box for our times.
            And sorry to reply so late.

  6. Dave in Austin

    Lula has a past. A bit corrupt, a bit naive. He is faced with an almost impossible task; a huge mass of poorly-educated poor people who want an increase in living standards without any real change in their productivity balanced against a middle class that if taxed too highly will stop investing and sneak the profits out of the country. The worst case is a very large Venezuela.

    Latin America has a history of this. For, I believe, cultural reasons, Mexico, Venezuela, Chile, Bolivia, Argentina and the other all rose and fell based on the export of raw material. Political instability which limited long-term investment and very weak industrialization led to slow growth. A period of high interest rates and industrial recession will not help.

    I wish him well but I’m not as optimistic as others.

    1. EquitableEqual

      Brazil has a relatively strong and diversified domestic market in comparison to most of the countries you compare to, with a much higher proportion of domestically owned industrial businesses (and quite a few domestically run manufacturing subsidiaries of foreign corporations too).
      Their early adoption of ethanol should also help in this regard in terms of insulating against external shocks, as will their local payment methods.

      1. Rino

        As a brazilian this is something that I have been seeing a lot here, even from good economists that are not particularly interested/informed on south america: Lumping the countries up as if they didn’t have very significant particularities. I guess that in the 60s-70s-80s this lumping made more sense, these countries for “cultural reasons” (American imperialism) were more similiar, but the divergence 30 years later is certainly big enough that generalizing becomes very problematic, they still hold generally the same place in the worlds production chain, and countries like the US still work hard to keep them there, but under this big umbrella there is a lot of space for differences.

        Brazil becoming a very big Venezuela is not a valid argument at all from an economic perspective. It is certainly valid from a political angle, but Bolsonaro’s loss has pushed the possibility back for at least 8 or so years.

  7. JBird4049

    >>>Latin America has a history of this. For, I believe, cultural reasons, Mexico, Venezuela, Chile, Bolivia, Argentina and the other all rose and fell based on the export of raw material.

    Not cultural, but for historical and political economic reasons. The Spanish and Portuguese conquerors created an extractive economy in all their colonies. Gold and silver at first, and then whatever else that could be mined or grown for profitable export, usually to Spain or Portugal. After the ruling empires were overthrown, the elites kept the same system.

    In such economies, the social pyramid is very broad and consist of a tiny ruling class or oligarchy, a small servant class that supplies the rulers with the goods they want like fancy clothes, furniture, jewelry, medical care, a larger, but still small middle class, and a very, very large working class for the mines, forests, and farms. Finally, there is the largest class, which is of the very poor. The lowest classes are very oppressed and subservient often by brutal violence. It creates an extremely corrupt system with effectively no legal protections and almost all the wealth and power in the ruling oligarchy and what crumbs are left in the small business and middle classes

    There is usually almost no industry for heavy goods such as cars or refrigerators, maybe for items like clothing. Whatever educated class there is, is very small and usually involved in administration or other work serving the ruling families. Indeed, the rulers usually do not want a large educated class as they can get ideas such as removing the rulers. Or need a large manufacturing sector as that can become very inconvenient. All they really need is enough exports to generate the cash needed to pay for their personal imports.

    It does not help that countries like the United States help with financial and military support, like the School of the Americas, the ruling classes of the Americas because it is economically advantageous for the American ruling class. The rule of law and fairer, but still free market capitalism, is labeled communism and the death squads are let loose. Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Hawaii are good American examples.

    The various rebellions and resistance groups in the twentieth century used the Soviet Union for support as the Americans, French, Portuguese, Belgian, and Dutch empires either had colonies of their own that they oppressed or the supported the internal colonization of African and Latin American countries, Brazil, Indonesia, Iraq, Egypt, Syria, and Iran. Much of this is still ongoing.

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