Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Lula speaks to a crowd of supporters

Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva formally launches his presidential campaign in Sao Paulo, Brazil on May 7, 2022. (Photo: Nelson Almeida/AFP via Getty Images)

Lula Launches Campaign to Unseat Far-Right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro

"Brazil will have the opportunity to decide which country it will be for the next few years, and for generations to come," said Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. "The Brazil of democracy or authoritarianism?"

Jake Johnson

Speaking to a crowd of supporters and allies gathered in São Paulo on Saturday, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva officially launched his campaign to unseat far-right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, whose three-year tenure has accelerated the destruction of the Amazon rainforest and intensified the nation's myriad human rights crises.

"Everything that we did is being destroyed by this government," said Lula, a globally renowned leftist who served as Brazil's president from 2003 to 2010 and departed office with a striking 83% approval rating. Extreme poverty fell sharply during Lula's presidency, owing in large part to his implementation and expansion of safety-net programs that included cash transfers and unemployment insurance.

"There is no greater force than the hope of a people who know they can be happy again."

But today, poverty, hunger, and homelessness remain at alarming levels in Brazil, one of the most unequal countries in the world. The coronavirus pandemic—which Bolsonaro has repeatedly downplayed despite Brazil's staggering death toll—has made the nation's preexisting crises far worse.

While the Bolsonaro government spent billions of dollars on a basic income program in 2020 to help vulnerable people weather the public health emergency, funding for the initiative quickly dried up, hurling millions back into poverty.

Bolsonaro's handling of the pandemic and its reverberating societal impacts has been so catastrophic, according to his critics, that he should be tried for crimes against humanity.

Lula, who was released in 2019 after spending more than a year in prison on politically motivated corruption charges, declared Saturday that with the October presidential election, "Brazil will have the opportunity to decide which country it will be for the next few years, and for generations to come."

"The Brazil of democracy or authoritarianism? Of knowledge and tolerance or of obscurantism and violence? Of education and culture or of revolvers and rifles?" said the former president. "We have a dream. And there is no greater force than the hope of a people who know they can be happy again. That you can eat well again, have a good job, a decent salary, and rights. That you can improve your life and see your children growing up healthy."

Polling conducted in recent weeks indicates that Lula is favored to defeat Bolsonaro in the October election, but fears are mounting that the far-right incumbent could attempt to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the election, following a playbook used by his U.S. ally Donald Trump.

"Will the result be accepted? And, if we win, will there be a peaceful transition?"

"Bolsonaro has said his party will seek an audit of the country's electronic voting system ahead of the upcoming elections in October," Al Jazeera reported Friday. "The move comes as the far-right leader has for months questioned the validity of the country's voting systems, a campaign that has coincided with his plunging approval ratings and directly contradicts election officials and experts."

The Brazilian president's incendiary rhetoric has also put observers on edge. "An armed population will never be enslaved," Bolsonaro said during a recent rally. Late last month, as Reuters reported, Bolsonaro "suggested the military should conduct its own parallel ballot count alongside" Brazil's federal electoral court.

Natália Bonavides, a congresswoman for Lula's Workers' Party, cautioned against dismissing Bolsonaro's threats as mere bluster.

"I think it's a mistake to think anything Bolsonaro says is simply bravado," Bonavides told The Guardian. "All you have to do is look at what happened in the United States to see how what is supposedly bravado can become action... and can even get people killed."

"These are going to be hard, possibly violent elections—and what happens after them will be really important," she added. "Will the result be accepted? And, if we win, will there be a peaceful transition?"

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.

Brazil Votes Live: Lula Wins the First Round Over Far-Right Bolsonaro; Run-Off Oct. 30

Lula took the lead as more rural votes counted but failed to reach 50%

Common Dreams staff ·

'Enough is Enough': Hundreds of Thousands March Across the UK

'As wages fall while profits soar, our message is clear... We are here to win.'

Common Dreams staff ·

California Gov. Newsom Proposes Windfall Profits Tax on Big Oil

Calls for windfall profits taxes have increased globally in recent weeks

Common Dreams staff ·

'Incredible': Omar and Khanna Staffers Join Levin's Office in Unionizing

"It is long past time the United States Congress became a unionized workplace, and that includes my own staff," said Rep. Ilhan Omar. "I am proud of all the people on my team who have played a leading role in the staff unionization effort. Solidarity forever."

Jessica Corbett ·

Destructive Hurricanes Fuel Calls for Biden to Declare Climate Emergency

"Mother Nature is not waiting for the president or Congress to declare a climate emergency. She's showing us in real-time here in the United States—with wildfires, floods, heatwaves, hurricanes, and drought."

Jessica Corbett ·

Common Dreams Logo