Former Brazilian leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva came out and swung at President Jair Bolsonaro’s “imbecile” handling of the coronavirus pandemic on Wednesday when he returned to the political scene, two days after a judge reinstated his right to run.
Lula, who led Brazil from 2003 to 2010, has emerged as a leading challenger to the right-wingers sitting next year after a Supreme Court overturned his conviction on Monday and reinstated his political rights.
In his first comments since the verdict, Lula, 75, gave a scathing breakdown of Bolsonaro’s leadership of the economy and signature policy.
He is particularly critical of Bolsonaro’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 266,000 people in Brazil – the second highest number of deaths in the world after the United States.
“This country has no government,” Lula told a news conference. “This country does not take care of the economy, job creation, wages, health care, environment, education, youth.”
Bolsonaro has repeatedly downplayed the new coronavirus, broken out expert advice on containing it and pushed for vaccine skepticism.
“Do not follow any decisions made by the President of the Republic or the Minister of Health: get vaccinated,” Lula said.
The former president “managed to sound both calm and angry, both radical and conciliatory,” said Jowharcorrespondent Tim Vickery. “This is an experienced politician who shows that he is still at the top of his game.”
Lula, a former metalworker and union leader, led Brazil through an economic boom and recalls social programs that helped lift tens of millions of people out of poverty.
Recent opinion polls suggest he is the best-placed politician to beat Bolsonaro in the October 2022 election.
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But he is still a very controversial person after being sentenced to a total of 26 years in prison on corruption charges stemming from a comprehensive investigation into a system in which top politicians and business leaders systematically abolished billions of dollars from the state oil company Petrobras.
He spent more than 18 months in prison before being released in 2019 pending appeal.
Campaign launch in all but names
Lula called himself a victim of “the biggest legal lie in 500 years” and reiterated his claim that the transplant fees against him were made to put him off the 2018 presidential election, paving the way for Bolsonaro’s victory.
He said he planned to “fight tirelessly” for Brazil and that he wanted to resume the tour through the country when he was vaccinated against Covid-19 next week.
But he declined to say whether he would run in the election, saying: “My head does not have time to think about a 2022 candidacy now.”
Yet “his speech was a campaign launch” in everything but name, according to political analyst Creomar da Souza, from the consulting firm Dharma.
“He presented his project to the country, which includes many references to his legacy as president,” da Souza told AFP.
Lula is still seen as a hero on the left, claiming he was the victim of a conspiracy.
Supporters point to the fact that the lead judge in the anti-corruption probe that imprisoned him, Sergio Moro, continued to accept the post of Minister of Justice under Bolsonaro, and that hacked phone messages indicate that Moro conspired with prosecutors to ensure Lula was gone.
Lula is still facing a series of allegations of corruption and influence, including those for which he was imprisoned, which will now be transferred to a federal court in Brasilia.
But it may already be too late for other courts to exclude him from the 2022 race, said FRANCE 24’s Vickery: “For him to lose his political rights again, he must be convicted and then lose again on appeal, and there may not be time for that to happen before the next presidential campaign in October next year. “
( Jowharwith AFP)