Brazil is heading for a brutal political confrontation that will culminate in the 2022 presidential election, the fiercest (and most interesting) in the country. Jair Bolsonaro and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva are on a collision course.
In recent years, Brazilians have suffered the worst recession in national history, one of the highest death tolls from Covid in the world, an increase in violent crime and a global controversy over the large-scale destruction of the Amazon. . President Bolsonaro faces an uncertain future.
Dubbed by some the “Trump of the tropics,” Bolsonaro was elected president in October 2018 with more than 55% of the vote from a deeply polarized nation.
Echoing Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential race, Bolsonaro pledged to ‘drain the swamp’, fight crime and corruption, express shocking positions on social issues and express his deep support for the swamp. Brazilian army.
But since taking office in 2019, he has faced and in some cases sparked one political storm after another. As a candidate, Bolsonaro has vowed to make a fresh start in an economy mired in recession since 2014, but economic growth remains weak and unemployment high.
Part of that is due to the pandemic, of course, but the president’s disastrous handling of the biggest public health crisis in the past hundred years has caused the situation to escalate far beyond what was necessary. Bolsonaro downplayed the severity of Covid, refused to support the use of masks and complicated the distribution of vaccines.
When the pandemic spread, Bolsonaro offered the population emergency aid that temporarily helped the poorest citizens, but in 2020, 55% of Brazilians faced food insecurity. Tens of millions of them still sleep hungry every day.
As for the fires in the Amazon, accelerated deforestation in the region was responsible for a third of the destruction of the world’s tropical forests in 2019. President Trump, skeptical of climate change, was willing to ignore the environmental consequences of all this devastation , but the Biden administration has partnered with European leaders to combine offers of financial aid to Brazil with pressure on Bolsonaro to turn the tide of his Amazon politics.
Now Lula returns to the scene. The former president, the ever popular leftist arsonist, has been released from prison and is preparing to face Bolsonaro in next year’s presidential election. When that happens, the world will witness a bitterly controversial showdown of a new kind.
In recent years, the world has grown accustomed to seeing populist candidates face off against establishment politicians. But the presidential race in Brazil will bring two very talented populists into direct confrontation, one from the right and the other from the left.
Lula represents the poorest Brazilians, those who feel that no one else in power cares about them. His formative experience as a strong and savvy union leader and the popularity he gained as president by investing large sums of public money to create opportunities for the poorest families in Brazil have given him stature and a chance to win that none of Bolsonaro’s other rivals can match. .
President Bolsonaro is more tied to the Brazilian middle class, fed up with the crime and corruption of the period when the country was ruled by the PT, first by Lula and then by his handpicked successor, Dilma Rousseff.
Although Lula portrays himself as a victim of political persecution, his government has found itself embroiled in the largest criminal corruption investigation in the country’s history. As part of the Lava Jato scandal, an investigation began with allegations of bribes involving offers at Petrobras, but it has spread in several directions and crossed borders.
According to the task force that investigated crimes related to Lava Jato, the investigation led to the return of more than 800 million US dollars to the Brazilian treasury and the conviction of 278 people. The former presidents of Peru, Panama and El Salvador went to jail. The same happened with Lula.
But Lula never admitted responsibility for the crimes committed, although he owed his release from prison to a technical legal problem. He insists that he is a victim of political persecution. It’s a great indication of the kind of bitter and caustic campaign Brazil can expect over the next 16 months.
Despite all the setbacks and failures suffered by the two heavyweights of Brazilian politics, opinion polls indicate that each has managed to retain the support of their loyal supporters. And there aren’t enough likely voters in the country for another candidate to emerge from Brazil’s two dozen political parties to challenge either of them.
Meanwhile, Covid continues to ravage the country, the economy is struggling and attacks on social media are already igniting political tensions. It will be a hot year in Brazil.
Translation by Clara Allain
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