Steph Deschamps / October 31, 2022
At 77 years old, after having chained moments of glory and reverses of fortune by passing by the box prison, Lula, unsinkable icon of the Latin American left, is going to find the presidential palace of Brasilia. “This is the most important day of my life,” he said as he cast his vote on Sunday morning, even though he had been the favorite in the election for months against the outgoing far-right president Jair Bolsonaro.
The comeback of Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who was in power for two terms (2003-2010) and is seeing his sixth presidential campaign lead him back to the supreme office, is a first in Brazil’s recent history. But Lula, who has had an extraordinary destiny, has come a long way. Condemned for corruption in the biggest scandal in the history of Brazil, “Washing Express”, he had been incarcerated 580 days, from April 2018 to November 2019.
The leader of the Workers’ Party (PT) has always said he was the victim of a political plot that allowed Bolsonaro to be elected president in 2018 when he was the clear favorite. In March 2021, he could once again dream of a stunning revenge. The Supreme Court overturned or prescribed his convictions, allowing him to regain his political rights, without clearing him. For the UN Human Rights Committee, the investigation and prosecution of Lula had violated his right to be tried by an impartial tribunal. Today, 12 years after leaving office with a stratospheric 87% of favorable opinions, the stainless steel Lula wants to make “Brazil happy again. This charismatic tribune with a hoarse voice has travelled the length and breadth of the country, equipped with a bulletproof vest, and has fought a fierce duel with his long-time enemy, Bolsonaro.
Lula is still perceived as “close to the people” and is still very much loved, especially in the poor regions of the Northeast, his historical stronghold. But he is also hated by a part of the Brazilian people for whom he forever embodies corruption. Jair Bolsonaro, who had played a lot on the hatred of the PT to be elected in 2018, has not stopped calling him a “thief” and an “ex-convict” during their debates. Nothing predisposed Lula to such a destiny, this youngest of a sibling of eight children, born on October 27, 1945 in a family of poor farmers of Pernambuco (northeast).
As a child, Lula was a shoeshine boy. He was seven years old when his family moved to Sao Paulo to escape poverty.
A street vendor and then a metal worker at 14, he lost his left pinkie finger in a work accident.
At the age of 21, he joined the metalworkers’ union and led the great strikes of the late 1970s, during the military dictatorship (1964-1985). Co-founder of the PT in the early 1980s, he ran for president for the first time in 1989 and narrowly failed. After two more failures, in 1994 and 1998, the fourth attempt was the right one, in October 2002. He was re-elected in 2006.
The first Brazilian head of state to come from the working class, he implemented ambitious social programs, thanks to years of growth driven by the commodities boom.
During his two mandates, nearly 30 million Brazilians were lifted out of poverty.
Lula also embodied a country that was opening up to the world, and gave Brazil an international stature with, in particular, the World Cup (2014) and the Olympic Games (2016) in Rio de Janeiro.
An idealist but a pragmatist, Lula is a master in the art of weaving alliances that are sometimes unnatural.
For this presidential election, his running mate is a centrist technocrat who can reassure the economic community: Geraldo Alckmin, his opponent in previous elections.
In March 2016, his attempt to return to business as a minister of his dauphin, Dilma Rousseff, was a bitter failure, as was her impeachment in August. In October 2011, he suffered from laryngeal cancer.
In February 2017, the former president suffered an intimate ordeal with the death of his wife Marisa Leticia Rocco.
But Lula found a new love, Rosangela da Silva, nicknamed “Janja”, a sociologist activist of the PT, 21 years his junior, whom he married in May. “I am in love with her as if I were 20 years old,” he said of the woman who took an active part in his campaign.