PanaTimes

Friday, Feb 03, 2023

Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva: the former shoe-shine boy hoping to reclaim Brazil’s presidency

Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva: the former shoe-shine boy hoping to reclaim Brazil’s presidency

The country’s first working-class president seeks to return to power after corruption scandals and a jail term

He is one of Latin America’s most influential and enduring politicians – a silver-tongued statesman Barack Obama once hailed as “the most popular president on Earth”.

But had it not been for a chiding from Fidel Castro nearly four decades ago, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva might well have abandoned what would prove one of the most storied political careers the region has ever known.

“He gave him a bollocking,” Lula’s biographer and friend, Fernando Morais, said of the moment the Cuban revolutionary took the Brazilian unionist to task for considering throwing in the towel after failing in his bid to become São Paulo’s governor in 1982.

“Listen, Lula … you don’t have the right to abandon politics. You don’t have the right to do this to the working class,” Castro told the Brazilian during a trip to Havana, according to Morais’s bestselling biography. “Get back into politics!”

Lula’s chronicler believes it was a pivotal moment in the life of his 76-year-old subject, who took his Cuban host’s advice to heart.

Four years later, in 1989, the former shoe-shine boy and factory worker, launched his first, ultimately unsuccessful bid to become Brazil’s first working-class president. He lost two more presidential elections, in 1994 and 1998, before finally achieving his goal in 2002 – a historic triumph that sparked a nationwide outpouring of emotion and of hope.

“I cried so much,” Morais remembered of the moment he saw Lula address crowds on São Paulo’s main avenue, Paulista, after his victory. “They were tears of joy and of fulfilment,” said the writer. “It moved me profoundly.”

The story of Lula – who is now on the verge of reclaiming the presidency – begins in the north-eastern state of Pernambuco where he was born into rural poverty in 1945.

Age seven, Lula migrated south with his mother, Dona Lindu, and six siblings in search of a better life, ending up near the port city of Santos on the São Paulo coast. Three years later Lula’s family moved to the state capital and, strapped for cash, rented the backroom of a bar which Lula remembers as a “pigsty”.

“In the middle of the night [drunks] … would come in to piss or to puke. When it rained … rats and frogs would be swept in from the street and the next day they’d have to clear it all up,” Morais said.

Lula’s biographer believes those hard-knock experiences were – and continue to be – what made millions of Brazilians place their trust in a leader whose own life story reflected their own.

“[People think], this guy’s just like me. He’s faced all the same tragedies I’ve faced. He’s shared a two-room house with 27 other people,” Morais said.

In São Paulo, a teenage Lula worked as an office boy before training as a lathe operator during the early 1960s as Brazil was plunged into two decades of military dictatorship.

Lula greets supporters during a campaign rally on the eve of the presidential election in São Paulo.


According to Morais, who met Lula in the late 1970s in São Paulo’s manufacturing heartlands, in those days Brazil’s future president was more interested in football than politics. When an agent from the then underground Communist party tried to recruit him on a bench outside a church, “Lula was livid”.

But the grind of factory work and the repression of Brazil’s 1964-85 military regime served as a wake-up call.

“It was only through witnessing the daily suffering of being a Brazilian worker – the low salaries, the worst imaginable working conditions – that his mind began to change,” Morais said.

When Lula’s brother was kidnapped and tortured by security forces in 1975, that was the final straw. “It was a watershed moment,” Morais said.

Lula immersed himself in the labour movement and in 1979 led a series of historic strikes, cementing his position as Brazil’s most famous union leader and paving the way for the creation of the Workers’ party (PT) Lula leads to this day.

After claiming power in 2002, Lula used the windfall from a commodities boom to help millions of citizens escape poverty and became a respected international statesman, helping Brazil secure the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics.

“He made Brazil a significant player on the world scene … Brazil was a serious country – it helped create the G20, it established relations … with the Brics [Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa]. Brazilians were nominated to run the WTO and the FAO,” said Richard Bourne, Lula’s British biographer.

Lula left power in 2010 with approval ratings nearing 90%. But the following decade was a brutal one for the leftist and his party. The PT became embroiled in a series of sprawling corruption scandals and was blamed for plunging Brazil into a savage recession. Lula’s successor, Dilma Rousseff, was impeached in 2016 in what many supporters called a political “coup”.

Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva after his 2002 victory.


Two years later Lula was jailed after being convicted on corruption charges that were last year quashed, paving the way for his sensational bid to reclaim the presidency.

Lula would spend 580 days behind bars, during which time the far-right former soldier Jair Bolsonaro was elected, ushering in an era of Amazon destruction and international isolation.

But the veteran leftist appears to have used his jail time wisely, plotting what just a few years ago seemed an unthinkable return to the presidential palace in Brasília.

On Saturday, Lula said he would hit the streets of São Paulo on election night to party. “To rise from the ashes as we have risen,” he said, “is cause for great, great joy and celebration.”

Newsletter

Related Articles

PanaTimes
Close
0:00
0:00
EU found a way to use frozen Russian funds
First generation unopened iPhone set to fetch more than $50,000 at auction.
WARNING GRAPHIC CONTENT - US Memphis Police murdering innocent Tyre Nichols
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said he will block Reps. Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell from serving on the House Intelligence Committee
Almost 30% of professionals say they've tried ChatGPT at work
Interpol seeks woman who ran elaborate exam cheating scam in Singapore
What is ChatGPT?
Bill Gates is ‘very optimistic’ about the future: ‘Better to be born 20 years from now...than any time in the past’
Tesla reported record profits and record revenues for 2022
Germany confirms it will provide Ukraine with Leopard 2 tanks
Prince Andrew and Virginia Giuffre Photo Is Fake: Ghislaine Maxwell
Opinion | Israel’s Supreme Court Claims a Veto on Democracy
Moonwalker Buzz Aldrin Gets Married On His 93rd Birthday
Who’s Threatening Israeli Democracy?
Federal Reserve Probes Goldman’s Consumer Business
China's first population drop in six decades
Microsoft is finalising plans to become the latest technology giant to reduce its workforce during a global economic slowdown
Tesla slashes prices globally by as much as 20 percent
1.4 Million Copies Of Prince Harry's Memoir 'Spare' Sold On 1st Day In UK
After Failing To Pay Office Rent, Twitter May Sell User Names
Lisa Marie Presley, singer and daughter of Elvis, dies aged 54
FIFA president questioned by prosecutors
Britain's Sunak breaks silence and admits using private healthcare
Hype and backlash as Harry's memoir goes on sale. Unnamed royal source says prince 'kidnapped by cult of psychotherapy and Meghan'
Saudi Arabia set to overtake India as fastest-growing major economy this year 
Google and Facebook’s dominance in digital ads challenged by rapid ascent of Amazon and TikTok
FTX fraud investigators are digging deeper into Sam Bankman-Fried's inner circle – and reportedly have ex-engineer Nishad Singh in their sights
TikTok CEO Plans to Meet European Union Regulators
France has banned the online sale of paracetamol until February, citing ongoing supply issues
Japan reportedly to give families 1 million yen per child to move out of Tokyo
Will Canada ever become a real democracy?
Hong Kong property brokerages slash payrolls in choppy market
U.S. Moves to Seize Robinhood Shares, Silvergate Accounts Tied to FTX
Effect of EU sanctions on Moscow is ‘less than zero’ – Belgian MEP
Coinbase to Pay $100 Million in Settlement With New York Regulator
FTX assets worth $3.5bn held by Bahamas securities regulator
A Republican congressman-elect is under investigation in New York after he admitted he lied about his education and work experience.
Brazilian football legend Pele, arguably the greatest player ever, has died at the age of 82.
Hong Kong to scrap almost all its Covid rules
EU calls screening of travellers from China unjustified
US imposes Covid testing for visitors from China
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy Addresses Joint Session of Congress - FULL SPEECH
Where is Rishi? Chancellor Jeremy Hunt's excuses about the UK's economic challenges just don't make sense
Former FTX CEO Bankman-Fried finally arrested in Bahamas after U.S. files charges
Corruption works: House Financial Services Chair Waters doesn't plan to subpoena her donor, Sam Bankman-Fried, to testify at hearing on FTX collapse
Ronaldo's new contract...
Prince William's godmother resigns honorary royal role after exposing her/their racism
Tax fraud verdict again exposes illusion of Trump the master businessman
Tax fraud verdict again exposes illusion of Trump the master businessman.
Yellen hints at ‘national security’ probe into Twitter purchase
×