On March 8, the Brazilian Federal Supreme Court Judge Edson Fachin overturned a corruption sentence against the ex-president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Thus, the former head of the largest Latin American country, known for his “left” views, received political rights and is ready to take part in the presidential elections to be held in 2022. What could be the return of Lula da Silva to the political arena of the country? What is the current head of state, Jair Bolsonaro, afraid of?
Last Monday, the Judge Edson Fachin explained his verdict by the fact that the lower court in Curitiba, which sentenced Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva to 17 years in prison, was not empowered to rule on this case. As a result, the politician spent a year and seven months in custody. Now, by the ruling of the Federal Supreme Court, the leader of the Brazilian “left” is finally freed from the threat of imprisonment.
Lula da Silva was formally sent to prison in 2017, and the sentencing judge Sergio Moro (Port. – Sérgio Fernando Moro) eventually joined the government of Jair Bolsonaro (Port. – Jair Messias Bolsonaro) as Minister of Justice. At the same time, in a number of Brazilian and regional media, facts appeared that during the trial of Lula, Moro actually conspired with prosecutors and committed numerous procedural violations in order to “eliminate” the ex-president. At the moment, the prosecutorial group previously involved in this case has been disbanded, and the judge is facing charges of breaking the law. It was this state of affairs that opened the way for the partial rehabilitation of Lula da Silva.
It is worth noting that the Supreme Court focused on the fact that Lula’s full rehabilitation is not being discussed, charges still remain in at least three corruption-related cases (illicit enrichment, bribes, illegal acquisition of an apartment by the sea and etc.), which the former Brazilian president’s lawyers describe as politically motivated. By the way, Lula was supported by the Argentinean head of state Alberto Fernández (Spanish – Alberto Ángel Fernández), who called this trial part of the campaign of persecution of the progressive leader.
After the news of the partial withdrawal of charges against Lula da Silva, the current president of the Latin American country, Jair Bolsonaro, immediately accused the highest court of bias. His fears are understandable. Bolsonaro, whose rating fell sharply in particular due to the government’s unsuccessful strategy during the pandemic, received a dangerous contender in the elections next year, who, if he wins, will be able to radically change the orientation and vectors of the country’s foreign policy.
The often absurd statements of the President of Brazil about the coronavirus, together with the resignations of popular ministers and heads of other institutions led to the fact that by July last year his rating dropped to 26-28%. A public opinion poll conducted at that time by the “Ipespe” Institute showed that half of the Brazilians evaluated the president’s activities extremely negatively. However, over time, the situation for Bolsonaro has improved somewhat.
According to polls by the Internet portal “Poder360”, the current head of state now has the support of 31% of Brazilians. However, 47% are against this indicator. In turn, Lula da Silva does not have such an anti-rating. It is also interesting that despite the criticism of the “icon” of the Brazilian “left”, at the time of the verdict, Lula remained the most popular politician in the country. A contradictory and rather negative attitude towards the president is characteristic of the business and political elites of the Latin American country, and especially of the intelligentsia, a significant part of which has become increasingly irritated by Bolsonaro’s arrogance and tactlessness.
After a partial withdrawal of the charges, Lula da Silva again became eligible for presidential nomination, which he intends to do next year. In general, if in the coming year the ex-leader cannot be re-charged for corruption, then he has very high chances in the upcoming presidential elections. Lula is still very popular with Brazilians and is credited with the economic growth of the 2000s (when he served as head of state), the development of social policy, the strengthening ties with China and Russia through the BRICS, etc. In addition, given the colossal drop in Bolsonaro’s rating, Lula may well return, winning over all those dissatisfied with the current government to his side.
Just two weeks ago, Lula da Silva came out for the nomination of the Brazilian scientist and politician Fernando Haddad as the candidate for his “Workers’ Party” (Port. – Partido dos Trabalhadores, PT), who was defeated in the 2018 presidential election from the current head of state. Now Lula will personally be able to go into direct confrontation with Bolsonaro. Thus, the “left” forces again have a real chance to take revenge. And Lula da Silva may become their joint presidential candidate. By the way, he himself is not averse to returning to power, although he is no longer young (his age is 75).
In any case, the struggle in the upcoming elections in 2022 promises to be extremely tense, because the Brazilians will need to cast their vote not only in favor of the individual candidate, but the country’s development model for the next few years. During Jair Bolsonaro’s period, Brazil became a stronghold of conservative, pro-American forces in South America, where a neoliberal economic course was pursued with an eye to Washington. If the current leader is defeated, Brazil is likely to radically change its domestic, and especially foreign policy. Venezuela and Cuba will once again become Brazil’s main regional allies, its relations with China and Russia will become warmer, and with the United States, on the contrary, may become more complicated.
However, a loss of Bolsonaro, even with the decline in his popularity, is not guaranteed. Despite the rather successful and long-term presidency of 2003–2010, Lula da Silva will need not only to re-prove his advantages, but also to achieve solidarity between forces of similar views. Judging by the latest polls, the candidate from the united “left” coalition has a very high chance of defeating the representative of the “right”. However, despite ongoing efforts, it has not yet been possible to create a solid common platform. In recent years, the “Workers’ Party” has been repeatedly accused of trying to completely take control of the “left” forces. There were even announced plans to create a coalition without the participation of this party. Nevertheless, in the changed situation, the differences of the Brazilian “left” may recede into the background, because at stake is a very high rate.