“I’m coming back to this fight,” Lula said yesterday in São Paulo.
He came back without having gone. Lula is where he has always been for the last four decades, in the struggle for power.
He debuted as a candidate on an afternoon forty autumns ago, in May 1982, in a campaign parade on the sidewalk of Rua das Flores, downtown Curitiba.
He was a smiling bearded man, waving to strangers in the middle of a group with banners and improvised posters from an obscure Workers’ Party, with only eight weeks of existence recognized by the Electoral Justice.
A small band animated the procession, opening the way towards Boca Maldita, where Curitiba’s tradition recommends the full exercise of freedom to speak ill of everything and everyone, starting with friends.
Six months later he ran for governor of São Paulo. He lost to André Franco Montoro, from the MDB, but left the polls in fourth place, with 10.7% of the votes, a rookie feat.
In that 1982, Luiz Inácio, the “baiano” as he was called in the metallurgical unions of São Paulo’s ABC region, changed his name on his birth certificate to Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Two years later he was elected federal deputy, participated in the Constituent Assembly, and in the first presidential election by direct vote, in 1989, he reached the second round. He lost to Fernando Collor, removed from power in an impeachment led by the PT.
Since then, he has turned rallies into a summons, as he did yesterday: “More than a political act, this is a summons. To men and women of all generations, all classes, religions, races and regions of the country. To regain democracy and regain sovereignty.”
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The difference from previous campaigns was in the disciplined reading of the speech, with a weakened voice and few improvisations, and in the studied moderate tone to contrast with the usual verbal violence of the opponent, who did not even name but blamed the crisis for 45 minutes.
He exposed the weaknesses of a chosen adversary who knew how to frame the government in a militaristic framework but, he accused, vacillates in guaranteeing national sovereignty, foundation of the democratic constitutional regime and the original reason of the Armed Forces.
He showed himself in the “high leap” of the certainty of an electoral victory, five months before the polls opened, by publicly dismissing José Dirceu, his former Chief of Staff, and Dilma Rousseff, his successor in the presidency, from his ministry. “I want to tell you, Dilma, that you will not be my minister, but you will be my companion…”
He presented a broad diagnosis of the “destruction” of sovereignty — from public policies to state-controlled companies. He recalled that in the country ruled by the chosen adversary, “living became much more expensive”, with families “getting into debt to eat”.
In the ritual of politics, Lula is now a “pre” candidate for the PT and half a dozen parties, the same parties that have always supported him in the first or second rounds of the last 33 years of presidential elections. He came back without ever having gone — he was a protagonist at Dilma’s rallies in 2010 and 2014, and, from prison in Curitiba, hovered omnipresent in the campaign of Fernando Haddad, defeated by Jair Bolsonaro in 2018.
The contrast with the candidate of previous incarnations is highlighted in a substantive aspect: today’s Lula wants a blank check from voters to make the changes he deems necessary in the “urgent task of restoring Brazil’s sovereignty”.
In yesterday’s long speech, he owed an explanation on exactly what and how he intends to do. Both to “defend” the Amazon”, and to “recover” lost industrialization, “cheap credit”, “better jobs”, “increase” wages above inflation, among other things.
He thinks he deserves a blank check because, as he told Time magazine’s Ciara Nugent, he understands he’s “the only candidate people shouldn’t be worried about” — with the direction of the economy — “because I’ve been president twice times.” For Lula, it is enough for voters to trust and vote for him.
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