Defiant Lula Stops Short of Announcing Brazil Presidential Run

Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva bashed President Jair Bolsonaro, defended more aid to the poor and spoke against privatizations in his return to Brazil’s political scene.

The former president stopped short of announcing plans to run in the 2022 election in his first speech after corruption convictions were annulled by a Supreme Court justice, clearing the way for his comeback.

“I don’t have time to think about a candidacy in 2022,” Lula said at a press conference on Wednesday. “That’s a discussion for the future.”

Lula added that he’s focused on uniting the left around a name for 2022, which didn’t happen in 2018.

If confirmed, the candidacy of the 75-year-old former president is likely to drive a wedge in a country already grappling with with another devastating wave of Covid-19 and its ensuing economic toll. It would also increase chances that moderates may be again squeezed out of the competition and could add to concern that Bolsonaro will abandon his market-friendly reform agenda and push for populist measures instead.

Defiant Lula Stops Short of Announcing Brazil Presidential Run

Speaking for over an hour at his former union headquarters in a working class suburb of Sao Paulo, Lula thanked left-wing politicians for the support and reaffirmed his innocence. He also bashed Bolsonaro’s views and policies, including his handling of the pandemic.

“This country has no government,” Lula said. “Do not listen to any idiotic decisions from the president or the health minister. Get vaccinated.”

Lula, flanked by close allies, had as background an image of himself being carried by supporters, taken before he was sent to jail in 2018. The poster had sayings of “vaccines for all” and “emergency aid now.”

Carwash

Lula, who ran the country between 2002 and 2010, is revered by millions for fighting poverty. He oversaw an economic boom during his years in office, helped by higher commodity prices and his plans to redistribute income. Though the left-wing leader remains popular among Brazilians, he saw his star power fade in recent years as his handpicked successor was impeached in 2016, and a massive corruption probe tarnished his Workers’ Party and landed him in jail.

On Monday, a Supreme Court justice annulled Lula’s convictions stemming from the Carwash investigation on technical grounds, clearing the way for him to run for office again. In order to be deemed ineligible by Brazilian law, as it happened in the 2018 presidential election, he would have to be convicted and have the ruling upheld by an appeals court.

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