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Echoes from Brazil

After the four years of power of the far-right populist Jair Bolsonaro, Lula returns to the helm of Brazil and resurrects an immense hope for the left and for all the struggling people relying on politics to change the course of their destiny. His record in eight years speaks for itself, and it would put to shame all of the presidents who had great ideas before caving to the pressure of the advocates of immobilism, all of whom are rested on their privileges.

Lula takes over the leadership of one of the most unequal countries in the world. During his previous mandates, he had undertaken an interventionist social policy and had obtained spectacular results. Thanks to Lula, in eight years, 30 million Brazilians were lifted out of extreme poverty, 15 million jobs were created, and unemployment dropped from 12.6% to 8% of the active population. Lula was the creator of the Bolsa Família program, which became a state law in January 2004. This is a family allowance of about 23,000 CFA francs to about 11 million of the most precarious families, provided that they enrol their children in school. This program inspired the Family Security Grants implemented in Senegal since 2012. Lula left office in 2011 with an exceptional popularity rate of 80%. He repositioned Brazil on the international geopolitical scene, handed over power to a woman, Dilma Rousseff, and opened the way for the progressive movement in several Latin American countries. In his action of economic and social revolution, Lula did not give up on the need to preserve democracy and public freedoms, subjects on which the Latin American left has not always been irreproachable.

Lula is a historical figure of the left and of the international progressive movement. His background is exceptional. As a child from a very poor family, he was a metal worker, an activist and then a trade union leader before entering politics to change the lives of his people. Lula made it his cause to change the course of a painful Latin American history, caught up in the throes of pronunciamentos, the constant threat from the United States and the stranglehold of the political-religious oligarchy on the economy of a country with enormous but fragile potential. The man’s background provides a better understanding of what he accomplished in two terms between 2003 and 2011 and his erection as an enemy of the conservatives and extremists, who managed to fraudulently imprison him, remove his former minister and liquidate his legacy by putting Jair Bolsonaro in power. Lula was re-elected on October 30. It brings an end to four crazy years of Bolsonaro.

The former far right soldier had as his goal, from the moment he was elected, to scuttle the legacy of the left.He has governed with racism, verbal violence and tolerance of physical violence, outlandishness, and division. Among his first decisions was the abolition of the Ministry of Culture. His management of the Covid-19 pandemic made Brazil the second most bereaved country in the world with 700,000 deaths. He did not shy away from crowd bathing during the height of the pandemic, the peremptory remarks about « the flu » and the chauvinistic and macho references to those he called « sissies » who were afraid of a hypothetical virus.

Lula is returning to power to show that history does not stop, that it continues to be written in the sense of transforming the lives of the poor and the oppressed, those whom politics is supposed to defend and protect. He returns, however, to lead a divided country. He won by only 2 million votes against his opponent. With 49.1% of the vote, 58 million Brazilian citizens voted for an openly racist president, a man of the far right who is nostalgic of the dark years of the dictatorship.

The challenge for Lula is to reconcile a divided country. Like Trump, defeated after only one term, Bolsonaro will leave but his ideas will continue to rot the social body of his country. Through violence, excesses and the division of their fellow citizens, authoritarian populists destroy their country after coming to power by means of lies and unrealistic and unattainable promises. They eventually leave, but their ideas remain strong in people’s minds and fuel destinies and ambitions. We must observe how the Republican Party in the United States has become Trumpified. It has become a den of leaders who no longer have any limits, who do not shy away from any racist or even conspiratorial abjection to appease a social base that has become hysterical. Within the GOP, they even manage to purge moderate figures like Liz Cheney, who was pushed out because she opposed Trump.

Bolsonaro was and is supported by the rich and powerful like soccer star Neymar; he only barely lost despite a catastrophic record and extremist orientations. His ideas have become commonplace in Brazil, as all extremist ideas, wrapped in lies, violence, hatred of elites and conspiracy, have become normalised everywhere. In Africa, we are not exempt. Let us learn from the echoes that reach us from Brazil to hope to avoid the precipice of authoritarian populism that can come to power through elections. But then, it devitalises democracy because it is opposed to the plurality of opinions that public freedoms confer and guarantee.

By Hamidou ANNE / hamidou.anne@lequotidien.sn

 

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