How important is Lula's return to Brazilian politics?

The annulment of Lula's Lava Jato-related convictions puts him back on the main stage of Latin American politics .

Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva

Recently, the Supreme Court of Brazil decided to annul the sentences against the former Brazilian president. Photo: TW-LulaOficial - Ricardo Stuckert

LatinAmerican Post | Ariel Cipolla

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Leer en español: ¿Qué importancia tiene el regreso de Lula a la política brasileña?

Lula's judicial situation has changed. Recently, the Supreme Court of Brazil decided to annul the convictions against the former Brazilian president, which implied a possible money-laundering scheme, in what is known as the Lava Jato case. According to the Supreme Court, the actions that led to the conviction of Lula Da Silva, who was initially sentenced to 12 years in prison , could not have taken place in Curitiba, because the events are not related to the scheme of diversions of Petrobras.

Precisely, the former candidate for president by the PT was accused of benefiting the construction company OAS (one of the 16 companies that defrauded Petrobras) in exchange for a three-story luxury apartment in Guarujá, a purchase that never materialized. However, through a statement, Minister Luiz Eson Fachin ruled that the cases should be restarted in the Federal Court of Brasilia.

This new decision results in the return of Lula to the political arena against Bolsonaro, current president of Brazil. In this way, one of the leaders of the Latin American left, who is currently 75 years old, could be one of the main competitors for 2022, seeking an eventual return to power and becoming an alternative to the ruling party.

Lula's return to Brazilian politics

The first thing to keep in mind is that Lula is an extremely popular politician in Brazil. The former metalworker, who ran the country from 2003 to 2011, was a truly successful politician at the time. For example, in 2008, a study by Datafolha mentioned that 70% of Brazilians were sympathetic to his policies.

Although the popularity of the ex-president decreased due to the causes of corruption that weighed on him, the trend continues to be positive. A recent poll carried out by the IPEC Institute said that Lula would have a voting intention of 50% in the face of the 2022 presidential elections, making him the clear favorite at the polls. The current president, Jair Bolsonaro, would have the sympathy of 33% of the electorate, facing possible re-election, according to the same poll.

However, the weakening of the Workers' Party (PT) could also create complications for his candidacy. Not only for having lost the presidential elections in 2018, when Fernando Haddad was defeated by Jair Bolsonaro but also for the municipal elections of 2020.

In that case, for the first time since 1985, the Workers' Party failed to govern in any of the Brazilian capitals. For example, he lost the elections in the cities of Recife and Vitoria, lands generally favorable to these candidacies. However, those elections were also a setback for the ruling party, since 11 of Bolsonaro's 13 candidates lost in the second round of the regional elections.

Also read: Women take to the streets of Latam and Lula returns to politics

For this reason, when his sentences are annulled, from the legal point of view Lula can stand for the next elections in 2022. However, the question will be if he is a candidate strong enough to defeat Bolsonaro. In an interview for the UOL news portal, he had mentioned that, to be a candidate again, he would have to "be one hundred percent healthy", as it would not serve him to do so "being an old man", since he has already rendered his services to the country .

However, the support seems to come not only from within the country but also from abroad. For example, the current president of Argentina, Alberto Fernández, celebrated the annulment of the sentences against Lula and communicated with him, describing the fact as an act of "justice".

The same happened with other political leaders, such as former Bolivian president Evo Morales, US Senator Bernie Sanders and even the current president of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro. That is all international politicians who, in one way or another, expressed support for the annulment of the sentences that weighed on their figure.

What is clear is that, for some sectors of the population, Lula represents a “return” to the “golden years” of Brazil. His popularity in this territory was due to the fact that 30 million people were able to rise above the poverty line, with a booming economy and an extremely low unemployment rate, which represented his greatest achievement in Government.

At the same time, it would imply changes in Latin American politics. For example, La Vanguardia highlighted that Lula asked to recognize Maduro as the “only and legitimate president of Venezuela”, unlike Jair Bolsonaro, who condemned his mandate by saying that he is a “dictator” who seeks to perpetuate himself in power.

In the same way, an eventual return of Lula would mean better integration with the BRICS, since the president had criticized the confrontation with “friendly countries”, since, from his perspective, Bolsonaro always sought to get closer to the United States. This change in political perspective also has its trajectory in Latin American territory.

For example, the famous story of "No to the FTAA", where Lula, Kirchner and Chávez expressed their disagreement at the IV Summit of the Americas in 2005, paralyzing the United States project. This implied total leadership and consolidation within UNASUR and MERCOSUR, which was able to position the country as a regional power, until it was succeeded by Dilma Rousseff.

It remains to be seen how it will work within PROSUR, as this international body was founded in 2019 and supported by right-wing governments and an alternative to UNASUR. Definitely, the return of Lula represents the possibility of changes in Brazil and in the entire regional political scene.