On Sunday, October 30, relief and joy swept through the streets of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro as the Brazilian Supreme Electoral Court announced Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s victory, according to Reuters, in a grueling race for the Brazilian presidency against Jair Bolsonaro.
With 50.9 percent of votes in favor of Lula, the margin of nearly two points is the closest presidential race in Brazil’s history, reports The Washington Post.
For many Brazilians, October 30 marks the end of one of the most divisive and controversial periods in Brazil’s history and symbolizes a step toward reconciliation. But for others, Lula’s return to power renews old fears of corruption and a tainted image of what once was a successful presidency back in 2011.
At the center of Operation Car Wash, a corrupt large-scale scandal that “ensnared scores of politicians and business executives,” a court removed Lula from the presidential race in 2018, according to The Washington Post. After serving nearly nineteen months in jail for bribery, the Brazilian Supreme Court released Lula early after it identified an issue with its legal procedure. Soon after, a court nullified his charges after discovering Sergio Moro, the judge presiding over Lula’s case, was biased in his ruling.
While many rejoice in Lula’s victory, some cannot make peace with his tainted political history. Despite being acquitted of his charges, fears continue to loom, manifesting in protests such as those of Brazilian truck drivers. According to Reuters, truckers in favor of Bolsonaro’s policies on diesel prices blocked key routes in all 26 states of Brazil. Many fear that these blockades will affect cargo movement, but Reuters explains that tensions have alleviated after Bolsonaro directed the striking truckers to allow individuals to freely move on the roads.
In an election that has exposed the deep divisions among Brazilians, one thing remains clear: Brazil has a desperate need for reconciliation. Lula, despite his political scandals, has proven that he can bring healing to a country that is hurting. Leading a political campaign fueled by unity rather than the leanings of his political party, according to Deutsche Welle, Lula banded with his former rival Geraldo Alckmin and other political figures that saw the hope of Brazil’s reconciliation with Lula. Tied in with his efforts to magnify the silenced voices of Brazil’s indigenous peoples, he demonstrates his capacity to unite Brazilians from all diverse origins and political ideologies.
reports “Lula has vowed to undo Bolsonaro’s legacy, including pro-gun policies and weakened environmental protections in the Amazon rainforest, which have left Latin America’s largest nation increasingly isolated on the global stage.” While the opposition harshly criticizes Lula’s approach to the critical issues that affect Brazil, he does not diminish nor villainize Bolsonaro’s supporters. Rather, at the announcement of his victory, he swore to “govern for 215 million Brazilians, and not just for those who voted for [him],” adding that “there are not two Brazils. We are one country, one people, one great nation.”
At a time when political polarization seems to have reached its extremity in Brazil, Lula brings hope to many Brazilians. Nonetheless, Al Jazeera reports that healing a broken Brazil will be no easy task, as right-wing politicians dominate Brazil’s parliament. But after two years of havoc and division, Brazil’s only hope lies in unity and its future lies in Lula’s hands. Perhaps total reconciliation is unattainable in Brazil. Yet, we must hope that Lula will lay the foundations for necessary change. Because hope is Brazil’s last option.
Image Courtesy of Wilson Dias/Abr, Wikimedia Commons