Bolsonaro and the Shadow of Lula

In the second round this Sunday, Haddad (right) could pay for the corruption linked to Lula, who has been his mentor, to the benefit of the extremist Bolsonaro (left).

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, Havana, 26 October 2018 — If everything goes as the polls predict, on October 28 the far right Jair Bolsonaro could win in the second round of the Brazilian presidential elections.

This possible victory would be underpinned not only by the weariness of a large part of the population in the face of corruption and the inefficiency of the political class, but also by the dead weight that his closeness with Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has represented for the candidate Fernando Haddad.

While Bolsonaro fulminates against everyone, crusades against whomever and, like a chameleon, has toned down his speech to some degree in recent weeks, Fernando Haddad is linked to a fidelity with Lula which, right now, is his principal burden. From the presidential candidate of the Workers’ Party (PT), the shadow of the mistakes made by the former president, now in prison, and also by his successor Dilma Rousseff, colors everything.

Bolsonaro, with his nostalgia for the military dictatorship, has undertaken a slight turn towards the center to appease fears and win a greater number of voters among those areas of Brazilian society who resisted, until recently, to mark his name on their ballots. Their ranks grow every day, however, as people opposed to the PT are willing to punish at the polls the management of a group that began with promises to make a new kind of politics and ended up muddied in the miasma of corruption, patronage, influence peddling and ideological bullying.

Haddad, trapped by his proximity to his mentor, is unable to launch criticisms against the previous administrations of the PT, to promise a radical change with respect to his predecessors or to renege on the figure who has elevated him to these presidential elections. The pulling of strings that control Haddad from the Curitiba prison are too evident and the suspicion that once he rises to the Planalto Palace he could decree an amnesty that would free Lula dissuades many from supporting him.

In Brazil, not only is a new president being elected. If the citizens give the nod to Bolsonaro they would also inflict a devastating blow on the most authoritarian left which, two decades ago, began its ascent to the highest positions in numerous nations in Latin America. That era in which Lula posed in a family photo with Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, Hugo Chavez, Evo Morales, Daniel Ortega, Raul Castro, Rafael Correa and many others, is about to receive the coup de grace at the ballot boxes of Brazil.

The problem is what will come next. When the punishment vote passes to spite the PT, it will be defeated. Can Bolsonaro moderate his behavior and govern for all Brazilians? Will he banish from his discourse the exclusions and dogmatism he has promoted to prevent society from becoming further polarized? Will he be able to give the country back its once thriving economy and lower unemployment? Will his mandate contribute to new Latin American alliances more focused on the welfare of the people than on the ideologies?

The answer to all those questions is a big question. Analysts have not ceased to sound the alarm about what can happen with a man so unpredictable and extremist in the presidency. Whatever happens, much of the responsibility falls on Lula’s shoulders.

This text was originally published by Deustche Welle’s Latin America page.

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2 thoughts on “Bolsonaro and the Shadow of Lula

  1. I think that more than being about Lula, the past, it’s about the polarization happening also in the USA and Europe now.
    Much has beem said about the maturing of Latin America, it becoming more pragmatic and not so beholden to the commodity cycle and ideologies and autocrats, caudillos. However, half a continent is a very big supertanker to turn around, and it’s not done in a jiffy.
    The good news for the emerging world is that it’s much less indebted than the developed countries. The next decades will be much better for the EM than for the DM.

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