- Gerardo Lizardi
- BBC News World
Two decades after becoming Brazil’s first president of labor descent, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva will resume office this Sunday, according to experts.
One need only look at the context of the change of command in Brasilia to notice some differences with what happened on January 1, 2003.
Today’s outgoing president is far-right Jair BolsonaroAmid strong political polarization, tension and concern about eventual acts of violence, he chose to travel to the US and avoid handing over the presidential mantle in person to his leftist successor.
The situation is night and day different from the situation 20 years ago when the then President was in office. Fernando Henrique CardosoAmid smiles, hugs and an atmosphere of democratic peace, he sent the order to his adversary, Lula.
At 77, Lula now faces difficulties in governing Latin America’s largest country, which Brazilian political scientist Mauricio Santoro sees as comparable to “time bombs” because of the risk of a virtual explosion if he is unable to defuse them.
Brazil’s new president will have at least four:
1. Radical Bolsonarianism
Since Lula’s election in late October, Bolsonaro’s supporters have protested his return to power through various means, including barricades and encampments in front of barracks to demand the intervention of the armed forces.
Many of them claim that the election was rigged without evidence. Bolsonaro avoided openly acknowledging Lula’s victory and sequestered himself in the presidential palace after his defeat, although he empowered his government to change.
After the arrest of one of them last weekend, the alarm over the extremist Bolsoneristas, who were allegedly trying to plant an explosive device to create chaos ahead of the change of government, increased.
That has led to tighter security for Lula’s inauguration, which analysts say will face more hostile opposition from the right than when he ruled from 2003 to 2010.
“How do we live with these radical groups, even violent ones, who don’t play by the traditional rules of democracy?” asks Santoro, a political science professor at Rio de Janeiro State University, in a conversation with BBC Mundo. .
Bolsonaro’s Liberal Party will have the largest representation (99 of 513 seats) in the new Brazilian Congress, considered the most conservative since the country restored democracy three decades ago: filling half of the overall right chamber. .
Lula and his Workers’ Party (PT) will seek a majority in a fragmented Congress with the rest of the left and center.
In addition, Lula will have to reverse the political influence within the Brazilian security forces that existed under the government of former military leader Bolsonaro, Santoro points out.
“In recent years in Brazil, both the military and the police have engaged in a very worrying ideological radicalization of party politics, and this will not be easy to reverse,” he says. “This politicization risks becoming a threat to democracy as well.”
Another big challenge for Lula will be reducing hunger, which 33 million Brazilians experience, according to a Benson Network study published in June.
That number is 15.5% of the country’s population, a much higher rate than the 9.5% of people who starved in Brazil during Lula’s first government, according to another similar survey in 2004.
“Our most urgent commitment is to end hunger again,” said Lula, a former union leader who grew up in poverty, in his first speech since defeating Bolsonaro.
Indeed, many of those who voted for Lula believe he will repeat the great feat of his first government, when more than 30 million Brazilians rose into the middle class with government social programs.
By contrast, Brazil has seen the highest number of people living in poverty during the past decade under the Bolsonaro government: 62.5 million people in 2021, equivalent to 29% of the population, according to official data published in December.
The new president will largely be judged by his results in this department.
If he again significantly alleviates hunger and poverty, his popularity is likely to grow as it did in his first term.
But things have changed and experts warn that boosting Brazilians’ incomes may now be more difficult for Lula.
“When he took office in 2003, the world grew so much under the influence of China, the prices of raw materials took a big boom, and Brazil benefited,” says Margarita Gutierrez, an economics professor at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. For BBC World.
“Today’s environment is completely different: there is enormous global risk aversion, the world has not yet recovered from the pandemic, we have a war (in Ukraine),” he adds.
To improve social conditions in Brazil, Lula promised in his campaign measures to maintain the bolsa familia, a cash transfer program for the poor that had played a key role in his first government, and to raise the minimum wage.
Congress in December authorized additional government spending equal to about $28 billion in 2023 to fund those programs and an additional $4.4 billion in public investments.
The ratification of the constitutional amendment was a political victory for the government headed by the finance minister. Fernando HaddadIt was later revoked when Lula, a former mayor of São Paulo and former PT presidential candidate in 2018, was convicted of corruption.
But by exceeding established spending ceilings, it also casts doubt on the new administration’s fiscal restraint.
Some economists added that the high interest rate (13.75%) to control inflation is another problem the new president needs to crack down on.
Guterres expects increased spending to boost inflation by fueling demand, the primary deficit (before interest payments) and public debt, which today equals 77% of GDP, well below the emerging market average (65%).
“I would say Lula is dropping a fiscal bomb,” says the economist.
This is the fourth time Lula has faced a ban on logging in the Amazon, the world’s largest tropical forest.
Brazil’s new president has pledged to overhaul his country’s environmental policy by 2030.
It might give Lula credit on the international stage, but it won’t be easy.
During Bolsonaro’s government, the rate of deforestation in the Amazon has increased by 59% compared to the previous four years, according to data from the National Institute for Space Research, a Brazilian public agency that measures the activity by satellite.
Although tree loss in the Amazon slowed by 11% between August 2021 and July 2022, it reached 11,568 square kilometers during that period and was the fourth year running past the 10,000 square kilometer mark.
Experts attribute these records to the disappearance of government controls against illegal logging.
“Remaining public policies in this area are paralyzed, environmental agencies are under-resourced and illegitimate,” warns Suely Araújo, former president of the Brazilian Institute of the IPAMA and senior expert at the Climate Observatory, which unites environmental organizations.
“Parts of the Amazon region have been taken over mainly by crime, both through illegal deforestation and illegal mining or the invasion of indigenous lands,” Araujo told BBC Mundo.
According to him, the incoming government – which will have environment politician Marina Silva as environment minister – must take “very drastic” measures from day one to reverse this situation, which will take time.
“All these problems cannot be fixed in one year. “It was a process that lasted throughout Lula’s government.”
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