Brazil’s former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has officially launched his campaign for presidential election, promising to “rebuild” the Latin American nation after what he called the disastrous administration of far-right incumbent Jair Bolsonaro.
“We’re ready to work not only to win the election on October 2, but to rebuild and transform Brazil, which will be even more difficult,” the 76-year-old left-wing icon told a rally in Sao Paulo on Saturday, making his political comeback official four years after he was jailed on controversial corruption charges.
The 76-year-old left office in 2010 as the most popular president in Brazilian history, after presiding over an economic boom that lifted some 30 million Brazilians from poverty.
While campaigning will start in August, the left-wing icon has been unofficially campaigning since March 2021, when a court annulled the corruption convictions that sidelined him from politics.
“Politics lives in every cell of my body, because I have a cause,” he said two days after the ruling. “In the 12 years since I left office, I see that all the policies I created to benefit the poor have been destroyed.”
A sweeping investigation dubbed “Operation Car Wash” that began in 2014 uncovered an enormous corruption scheme centred on state-run oil company Petrobras. Lula was convicted of multiple bribe-taking charges and sentenced to a total of 26 years in prison.
He started his sentence in April 2018 and was removed from that year’s presidential race, which Bolsonaro won on a wave of outrage against Lula and his Workers’ Party (PT).
The Supreme Court later found bias on the part of the lead judge in the case, Sergio Moro, who went on to become Bolsonaro’s justice minister.
Lula has called the case a conspiracy. He was released pending appeal in November 2019 but was barred from politics until the ruling last year.
Since regaining the status of frontrunner, Lula has made a series of recent gaffes, alienating voters from several key groups with remarks on abortion, the police and the middle class.
He has also looked out of sync with world leaders by saying that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is “as responsible as” Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin for the Ukraine war.
Bolsonaro, 67, has made it clear he will not leave power without a fight. While at one point Lula looked set to beat Bolsonaro outright in the first-round vote on October 2, without needing a runoff on October 30, the president has narrowed the gap in the latest polls.
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