‘Our phoenix’: Lula’s ups and downs in Brazil defy perception


SAO PAULO — 4 years in the past, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s fame and political future had been in tatters. After an unlikely rise from poverty to union chief to Brazil’s presidency, the person universally often known as Lula had landed in jail.

On Sunday – in one more twist – Brazilian voters selected him by the narrowest of margins to as soon as once more lead the world’s fourth-largest democracy. He may even be placing his legacy on the road.

“They tried to bury me alive, and I am here,” da Silva mentioned in a speech Sunday night time after outcomes that confirmed his third presidential win. “I am here to govern in a very difficult situation. But I have faith in God that, with our people’s help, we will find a way out for this country.”

The lifetime of da Silva has unfolded in such a novel, extraordinary manner that, had been it fiction, it might pressure credulity.

His household moved from Brazil’s poor northeast area to Sao Paulo state in pursuit of a greater life, following his father who had traveled south years earlier than. Upon arriving, nevertheless, they discovered he had settled down with one other girl. Da Silva’s mom was left alone to lift eight kids, of whom little Lula was the youngest.

Pressed for cash, he grew to become a metalworker at age 14 within the metropolis’ gritty outskirts. It was a bodily job that famously price him his left pinky finger. He grew to become a union chief in an period when Brazil’s manufacturing work pressure was nonetheless huge, and translated into political energy. He made his first presidential run in 1989, which he misplaced — together with two subsequent races.

Lastly, in 2002, he claimed victory and have become the primary employee to imagine the nation’s prime job. And he was reelected 4 years later, defeating his rival Geraldo Alckmin who, this 12 months, grew to become his working mate.

Commodities exports to China had been surging, filling authorities coffers, and an enormous welfare program lifted tens of thousands and thousands of Brazilians into the center class. Da Silva left workplace with an approval score above 80%, and then-U.S. President Barack Obama referred to as him “the most popular politician on Earth.” His hand-picked successor, Dilma Rousseff, was elected in 2014.

In Rousseff’s second time period, nevertheless, a sprawling corruption investigation ensnared prime politicians and businessmen alike. It plunged her administration — together with da Silva and the remainder of the Staff’ Celebration he based — into shame.

Revelations of systemic kickbacks in trade for presidency contracts had been adopted by a deep, two-year recession that many blamed on Rousseff’s financial insurance policies, and which turbocharged resentment of the Staff’ Celebration. She was impeached in 2016 for breaking fiscal duty legal guidelines relating to administration of the federal funds.

Then the previous president was sentenced for corruption and cash laundering, and confined to a 160-square-foot room on the fourth ground of a Federal Police constructing in southern metropolis Curitiba. That sidelined him from the 2018 presidential race, and cleared the way in which for Jair Bolsonaro, then a fringe lawmaker, to cruise to victory. Da Silva’s political legacy was in tatters.

His private life, too, was blown to items. His spouse handed away, which on the time he blamed on the pressure brought on by the investigation.

Slowly, hope crept in. He began exchanging love letters with a girl named Rosângela da Silva, nicknamed Janja. Their relationship blossomed because of da Silva’s then lawyer, Luis Carlos Rocha, who visited him each weekday.

Rocha acted as dutiful courier, hiding Janja’s letters inside his jacket pocket the place guards wouldn’t test. He instructed The Related Press he noticed da Silva’s face gentle up with every colourful envelope he delivered.

“God willing, one day we will publish (the letters),” da Silva mentioned at a rally in September. “But only for people aged over 18.”

The Supreme Court docket additionally began assessing the legality of his convictions, which it will definitely annulled on the grounds that the presiding federal decide had been biased and colluded with prosecutors.

After 580 days imprisonment, da Silva was a free man — free to marry his girlfriend, and free to run for the presidency. That didn’t cease incumbent Bolsonaro, looking for a second time period, from reminding voters of da Silva’s convictions at each flip, warning that electing him could be like letting a thief return to the scene of the crime.

It revitalized semi-dormant sentiment towards the Staff’ Celebration, and the truth that a lot of Brazil nonetheless holds da Silva in disdain is a key motive this 12 months’s contest between the 2 political titans grew ever nearer.

Finally, it got here all the way down to the wire: da Silva was elected, for the third time, with 50.9% of the vote. It was the tightest election since Brazil’s return to democracy over three many years in the past.

Throughout his victory speech, Janja was by his facet, as she was all through his marketing campaign. She shed tears, overwhelmed with emotion. And he or she wasn’t alone.

“I cried when he was jailed. Now I cry because he will take Brazil back to normal. He can do it, he has the charisma to do it,” mentioned Claudia Marcos, a 56-year-old historian who joined 1000’s of others to have fun the leftist’s victory on Sao Paulo’s fundamental boulevard. “He is our phoenix. The most important president in Brazil’s history.”

On the Staff’ Celebration’s headquarters on Sunday, da Silva learn out a protracted, rigorously written speech promising to unite Brazil. He’ll take workplace on Jan. 1, and has mentioned he gained’t search reelection. Which means this presidential time period could possibly be his ultimate act.

“It is not the number of years that makes someone old. What makes you old is the lack of a cause,” mentioned da Silva, who turned 77 three days earlier than the vote. “Brazil is my cause. The Brazilian people are my cause.”

Related Press writers Daniel Politi contributed from Curitiba, and Diane Jeantet from Rio de Janeiro.

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