Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, or ‘Lula’, is the politician whose supporters proclaim “Lula ladrão roubou meu coração’”(Lula thief stole my heart). But who is he, and why is his election as President so important?
Former President Lula triumphed against Bolsonaro in the second stage of the Brazilian elections – which came at a critical moment for the country after its polarising past. But I believe that Lula represents something more than just hope for Brazil, and that his election should be celebrated by people across the globe. After the Covid-19 pandemic and years of Bolsonaro’s far-right politics, it’s clear to me why Brazil needs the former trade unionist.
His previous term in office introduced sweeping measures that lifted millions from poverty, reduced destruction in the Amazon, and improved economic growth. However, his presidency was tainted for many by the stretch in prison that he served, on charges of corruption – although these were later revoked. Yet whilst his presidency, like any, was not perfect, I believe that from his election promises and his past, Lula is the best option for the future. Even more, I think that his example should be looked upon as a blueprint for other leaders across the globe and provides a reference point to scrutinise our own leader here in the UK.
Lula’s social policies from 2003-2010 brought about vast social changes, such as the Bolsa Familia scheme, which alleviated many people from Brazil’s social problems. This scheme should be looked upon as an example of real support for the underprivileged, which was effective in reducing poverty, inequality, and hunger, by offering a benefit scheme which helped parents and their children. Contrast this to Britain’s past with decisions, like the Coalition government’s cuts to benefits which saw 1.75 million pushed into greater poverty. Sadly, I believe that with the cost-of-living crisis it’s hard to hold hope that Rishi Sunak will be prepared to create a scheme as sweeping as his Brazilian counterpart.
Lula’s promises for the future, like renewing the Bolsa Familia programme and saving millions from poverty, are credible as they come off the back of a proven track record of reforms. This makes it easier to understand the elation of many Brazilians at Lula’s election, which is the opposite of the feeling I get at the appointment of Rishi Sunak, coming after tumultuous weeks of changing PM’s. I find it hard to draw hope from Sunak’s promise to protect the most vulnerable in the context of this cost-of-living crisis, considering the measures of austerity that his party has previously implemented.
When it comes to tackling the climate crisis, the feeling of hope is echoed, and the world should rejoice at what Lula’s election means for the Amazon rainforest. Under Bolsonaro the Amazon rainforest was decimated, with over a 52% increase in deforestation in the last three years alone. But I feel that hope can be found in Lula despite bleak global prospects for the environment, as his promise to halt deforestation is credible because of his previous reduction to deforestation, and his future pledge to prioritise the environment.
This again should be a lesson our government should learn from Lula. Whilst Rishi Sunak performed a U-turn after his refusal to attend the global climate conference COP-27, Lula immediately committed to attending the conference, even though his official term as president doesn’t begin until January 1. This stark contrast in attitudes is representative of the difference in commitments as a whole between the two leaders.
The election of Lula is an important moment, for Brazil and beyond, as it represents a decisive shift away from the far-right, and brings hope of progressive policies for millions. But more than this, I believe that it shows the possibility for real change, and why here in the UK we should be demanding political representatives who have our best interests, and the best global interests, at heart.