Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Brazil's former president, speaks during a press conference on March 10, 2021 in São Bernardo do Campo, Brazil. (Photo: Alexandre Schneider/Getty Images)

Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Brazil's former president, speaks during a press conference on March 10, 2021 in São Bernardo do Campo, Brazil. (Photo: Alexandre Schneider/Getty Images)

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

"This country is disorganized and falling apart because it has no government," said the former Brazilian president.

Kenny Stancil

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."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Massive Demonstration of Support for Lopez Obrador in Mexico City

AMLO was elected in 2018 and heralded as the Bernie Sanders of Mexico

Common Dreams staff ·


Scientists Revive ‘Zombie’ Virus After 50,000 Years Trapped in Siberian Permafrost

Researchers documented 13 never-before-seen viruses that have been lying dormant, frozen in thick ice, over tens of thousands of years.

Common Dreams staff ·


'Cleaner Air Is Coming' as London Expands Vehicle Pollution Fee to Entire Metro Area

"Around 4,000 Londoners die prematurely each year because of long-term exposure to air pollution, with the greatest number of deaths in outer London boroughs," noted Mayor Sadiq Khan in announcing the expansion.

Brett Wilkins ·


'Amazing News': Historic Shark Protections Approved at Global Wildlife Convention

Up to 90% of sharks targeted by the lucrative fin trade will now be protected, said one advocate.

Julia Conley ·


'The Nightmare Materializes': Far-Right Extremist Itamar Ben-Gvir to Be Israel's National Security Minister

The Foreign Affairs Ministry of the Palestinian Authority said Ben-Gvir's elevation to national security minister could have a "catastrophic impact on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."

Jake Johnson ·

Common Dreams Logo