Brazil’s Controversial Lula Sworn In President
By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
BRASILIA (Worthy News) – Brazil’s controversial leftist leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, was sworn in as president shortly after his predecessor left for the United States amid rising tensions.
The 77-year-old veteran left-wing politician, known widely as Lula, faced the daunting challenge of improving Brazil’s stagnant economy.
He also faced pressure Sunday to unite a nation that became polarized under Jair Bolsonaro, the previous president.
In a speech to Congress, Lula said he was receiving a ruined country where hunger had returned under Bolsonaro.
Lula claimed Bolsonaro’s government had depleted resources for education, health, and the conservation of forests and undermined human rights.
Bolsonaro, who denies wrongdoing and has refused to recognize his declared defeat in October’s poll, had left for the U.S. state of Florida on Friday.
Critics said the rightwing Bolsonaro wanted to remove himself from any immediate legal risks related to his time in office.
Lula was sworn in as Brazil’s president for the third time after leading the country between 2003 and 2010 before official results showed him defeating Bolsonaro in October’s poll.
On Sunday, there was tight security for the ceremony, with authorities saying Bolsonaro supporters may try to disrupt it.
Bolsonaro’s supporters have protested for two months that the election was stolen and called for a military coup to stop Lula from returning to office in a climate of vandalism and violence.
Police detained a man on Sunday carrying fireworks and a knife and tried to enter the esplanade for the inauguration, Brasilia police said.
On Christmas Eve, a Bolsonaro supporter was reportedly arrested for making a bomb discovered on a truck laden with aviation fuel at the entrance to Brasilia airport. The suspect confessed he sought to sow chaos to provoke military intervention, authorities said.
Lula said those responsible for anti-democratic acts would be held accountable, though he did not mention Bolsonaro.
As tens of thousands of Lula supporters arrived in central Brasilia for Sunday’s celebrations, authorities deployed 10,000 police and troops to reinforce security and search participants.
Crowds could not bring bottles, cans, flag masts, or toy guns. Carrying firearms by civilians was also temporarily banned.
Security officials reportedly reluctantly agreed on Lula’s insistence to use an open car on his way to Congress for his swearing-in ceremony.
He told legislators that priorities would be fighting poverty and investing in education and health.
Lula accused Bolsonaro’s “negationist” administration of committing “genocide” by failing to respond appropriately to the COVID-19 pandemic that authorities said killed more than 680,000 Brazilians.
However, supporters praised Bolsonaro’s perceived conservative values and backing for Hungary’s initiative to help persecuted Christians, among other policies.
Yet Lula claimed he won October’s election against opponents who had attacked the country’s internationally-praised voting system.
“If we are here, it is thanks to the political awareness of Brazilian society and the democratic front that we formed,” Lula said. “Democracy was the great victor, overcoming the greatest mobilization of public and private resources ever seen and the most violent threat to freedom to vote.”
In the past, Lula’s administration’s flagship welfare program helped lift tens of millions of impoverished people into the middle class.
Many Brazilians traveled abroad for the first time. Lula left office with a personal approval rating of 83 percent.
In the intervening years, Brazil’s economy plunged into two deep recessions — first, during the tenure of his handpicked successor, and then during the pandemic — and ordinary Brazilians suffered greatly.
However, Lula isn’t without controversy.
In July 2017, Lula was convicted on charges of money laundering and corruption and sentenced to nine and a half years in prison.
Critics called it a “controversial trial” as the federal judge of the case, Sergio Moro, later became Minister of Justice and Public Security in Bolsonaro’s government.
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