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Photo: REUTERS/Amanda Perobelli

Lula on Brazil's 2022 Elections: "I'm back in the game, I want to play, I want to win"

Without officially assuming the candidacy, former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva talked to Reuters about his expectations to the next year's presidential dispute

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After six years of legal disputes, in April this year, former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva managed to have his corruption convictions overturned in court, regained his political rights, and now warns: he’s back in the game. “I’m very happy now, very happy because I compare it to a resurrection: I’m back in the game, I want to play, I want to win because I’m sure I can improve these people’s lives,” said the former president last Friday, in an interview with Reuters.

Even trying to say that his candidacy for next year’s dispute has not been defined, Lula spoke and acted like a candidate, like someone who is already making plans not only for the electoral campaign but for his return to the Planalto Palace (Brazil‘s Presidency headquarters). In almost two hours of conversation with Reuters, the former president almost got up from his chair when he spoke of his plans for the country while being emotional more than once when dealing with the hunger that hit Brazil again.

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Lula did not spare criticism of President Jair Bolsonaro, which he compared to a “tumor” that, if excised, would enable the country to return to normality. When asked if he was worried that Bolsonaro might cause problems during the whole process, he said no. “He will have to obey (the law) as I have to obey. He’s going to lose and he’s going to be quiet at home, he’s going to lick his wounds like I did so many times, and let us govern this country with peace of mind,” he says.

Lula admitted the ongoing negotiations for former Sao Paulo’s governor (and many times presidential candidate) Geraldo Alckmin, of the PSDB party, to be his vice president. “I take this Alckmin issue very seriously; I can’t say if he will be (a vice president candidate) or not, because it’s not just an issue with me or for him. Who is going to discuss the VP candidate is PT [the acronym for the Labor Party]. And Alckmin knows that, and he’s also very cautious. He’s leaving a party now, he wants to talk to other political parties to make a decision. I don’t know which party he’d go to.”

Without refusing to answer anything, Lula spoke of alliances, the economy, the recent controversy caused by his comments on the reelection of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, and even his future marriage, which should take place next year, but without a defined date.

The following are the main points of the interview given to Reuters on Friday, at a studio set up by his team at PT headquarters, in downtown Sao Paulo:

Lula’s (official) return to the political arena

“I could tell you that this is the year of PT’s, Lula’s resurrection, and the resurrection of the truth in this country. This country was for a long time subject to a number of unprecedented lies… So I say it is a resurrection because, for people who thought that the PT was dead, that we would no longer do anything in this country, we come back with a clear conscience; we come back with a very special affection from a very large portion of the Brazilian population, with a word called hope taking over people’s heads.”

Is Lula running for president in 2022 or not?

“We are in a dispute. I haven’t decided to be a candidate yet because there are some arrangements to be made, not just from the perspective of winning the elections, but of governing later. Because governing is much more complicated. But when I took over in 2003 it was also difficult… ‘Oh Lula won’t be able to govern’, and we governed and governed well. So that’s what I have to show the Brazilian people.”

I know what [the Brazilian] society expects from me. I know what hope is in people’s minds, and I know I can’t lie to them, I have no right to lie. Anyone can sell that they’re going to do this or that. I can’t, I have a legacy. This legacy is the basis of any governance of mine, I cannot do less. I know I have more responsibility, so I don’t want to fight. I want to gather strength to be able to build

Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

What Lula thinks about Jair Bolsonaro’s administration

“There is no polarization between Lula and Bolsonaro. There is polarization between Bolsonaro and the others. I have almost half the votes of the Brazilian people; he has less than half of what I do, how am I polarizing with him? There is polarization between him and Ciro [Gomes, from PDT], [Sergio] Moro [Podemos], the other people. But don’t you talk about polarization with me, it doesn’t exist.”

“This country does not need to be destroyed as it is [being destroyed], this country cannot have a president who tells five or six lies a day through his blog, through his live videos. It cannot have an Economy minister who does not know the word development, generation of jobs, salary increases, economic growth. He is an antagonistic president, who gets up, eats lunch, dines, and sleeps thinking about what he is going to sell the next day.”

“I’m not afraid (of Bolsonaro not admitting defeat). I’m worried because he’s too ignorant. A guy who doesn’t cry, who hasn’t shed a tear with 620,000 deaths; a guy who has no feeling, a guy who doesn’t like the poor, the natives, the black, the LGBT, the unions… this guy can actually create confusion, but there’s a law for that.”

“We’re going to have an election, he’s going to submit to the electronic vote, the people are going to defeat him and they’re going to take the office in January and they’re going to govern. If it’s me, I’ll govern. If another Democrat wins, I would be happy to convince my party to support a return to democracy in this country. “


With whom Lula would govern in 2022?

Asked who he would govern with and whether it would have been a mistake, in his two terms in office, to have given so much space to the center parties, Lula said he does not consider the political alliances a mistake, but recognized that it is possible to improve the way these alliances are made.

“It wasn’t a mistake. It wasn’t because all the presidents do this. You will see in Germany the new chancellor, he will have to give posts to the parties that participate in the alliance with him. Otherwise, why would the party enter the alliance?

“What you can do differently is that it is not because you build an alliance that there has to be corruption. You can make a programmatic agreement. And it has to be like that, not only in Brazil but all over the world. (….) You set a minimal plan and keep things running. There is this idea that was created in Brazil that political alliances cannot be made. Political alliances are needed, to win and to rule – more even to govern than to win.”

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Lula’s expectations for the 2022 Elections

“People keep saying ‘ah, PT didn’t do self-criticism.’ It’s like I go to an interview, and instead of saying the good things I did, I say the things I didn’t do. Who has to say what I didn’t do is my opposition. They’ll now have a chance to compete with me and say it.”

“So now these people are like ‘oh, but is Lula nervous?’. See, I’m nervous. It’s as if I took a slave during slavery, gave him 580 lashes, and when he was bleeding I said ‘hey man, give me a little smile’. They were irresponsible thinking they were going to harm me, thinking they were going to harm Dilma; they harmed this country.”

“Let’s get it all back very smoothly. You won’t see me raise my voice any time, you won’t see me attack the press any time, you won’t see me attack any opponents. Because I want to be a harmony builder. If the [Brazilian] society elects me it won’t be to fight others; it will elect me to fix what others didn’t have the competence to do or to fix what was destroyed.”


How Lula would take the country out of the crisis

Throughout the conversation, Lula constantly referred to his two terms in office to point out what he intends to do if he returns to the presidency, but at the same time, he shows that he has been thinking about how to get the country out of the current crisis.

“There are two miraculous words that are valid for Brazil and for any country in the world: you have to have external credibility and internal credibility. When you speak, people have to believe what you are saying… And the second is predictability. There has to be a predictable government, people cannot be taken by surprise every day.”

Latin America needs Brazil to be strong and Europe needs a strong Latin America, because together with the European Union we will be able to create an economic bloc, a bloc with close political positions, with close environmental visions, to face two giants: the US and China.”

“We have to do some things quickly, those who are hungry cannot wait. That’s why the State has to enter the fight very competently, do what it has to do. Because even if you have to contract a public debt to do a productive asset, you are not spending, you are investing as in the future this asset will give you a return.”

What has Lula been talking about with businessmen?

In conversations with businessmen, the former president has said, according to himself, that what he has to offer is a new consumer market in the country, and that reforms and other issues are matters of government, not business.

Stop discussing tax reform, privatization, this is all government business. I’m going to offer you [entrepreneurs] a market, I’m going to offer purchasing power. I’m going to offer a consumer society so you can sell your products; stop bothering about it


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Ortega, Merkel and re-elections

After the controversy he caused by comparing Daniel Ortega‘s third term in Nicaragua – obtained after the arrest of opposition members – to Angela Merkel‘s 16 years at the head of the German government, the former president laughed when he said he was waiting for the question to better explain his position. He said that it bothers him not to talk about continuity when it comes to parliamentarism, just presidentialism, but he made it clear that he is against re-elections for more than one term.

“I had already said: I do not believe that there are indispensable or irreplaceable men. What we have are indispensable causes, non-transferable causes. And I’m against this amount of reelection because if I were favorable, I would have been a candidate in Brazil [again]. I had an 87% rating of great and good, everyone wanted [me to be a candidate]. I didn’t because I’m in favor of alternation.”

“What I get worried about is that when Margareth Thatcher was in power for so many years, nobody talked about it. They only talk about presidentialism. Just because in the parliamentary system Angela Merkel can stay 16 years [in power], nobody talks about continuity? If the people of Germany want to keep Angela Merkel, so keep it; if the prime minister of England is to stay there governing another 10 years, the problem is for the English people, the problem is not mine.”

(Translated by LABS)