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Lula, the boy who returns, seeks the most important position in Brazil at the age of 76

Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva hopes his record as the most popular president in Brazilian history will overcome the ignominy of a corruption conviction to give him a third term in office, 12 years after his last.

After overcoming childhood poverty, cancer, profound personal loss and a controversial jail term, the 76-year-old former metalworker and trade unionist goes head-to-head in a first round election on Sunday with far-right incumbent Jair Bolsonaro.

Known for his political savvy and folksy touch, Lula left office in 2010 as a blue-collar hero who presided over a commodity-fueled economic boom that helped lift 30 million people out of poverty.

His approval rating stood at an unprecedented 87 percent.

But then he was embroiled in a massive corruption scandal that engulfed some of Brazil’s most influential politicians, business executives and the Workers’ Party (PT).

Lula was jailed in 2018, effectively eliminating him as the favorite in that year’s presidential race, which Bolsonaro won.

He spent more than 18 months in prison before being released pending appeal.

Their convictions were overturned last year by the Supreme Court, which found the lead judge in the case biased. Lula has led Bolsonaro in opinion polls ever since.

The icon on the left has rejected any idea of ​​seeking revenge if re-elected.

“I kept calm, preparing myself as Mandela prepared for 27 years, as Gandhi prepared his whole life, to get out of prison without anger,” he told supporters in Sao Paulo last week, describing himself as a man of ” peace and love”. “

– Workers’ Party –

Lula has traversed Brazil on the campaign trail, avoiding large crowds for security reasons, and never without his bulletproof vest.

As much as he is loved among the poor, Bolsonaro’s supporters test Lula in equal measure as the very embodiment of Brazilian corruption.

However, he recovered better from the reputational blow than his Workers’ Party: mistrust in the party was one of the main reasons for Bolsonaro’s victory in 2018.

Despite fears at the time that his brand of leftism would be too radical, the Lula administration between 2003 and 2010 mixed pioneering social programs with pro-market economic policy.

He earned a reputation as a moderate and pragmatic leader.

Lula also made Brazil a key player on the international stage, helping them secure the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

– ‘Most popular politician’ –

Lula was once called “the most popular politician on Earth” by none other than Barack Obama.

But just as he settled into the role of elder statesman, he was defeated by “Operation Lava Jato,” the sweeping investigation that uncovered a massive web of corruption centered on the state-owned oil company Petrobras.

Prosecutors struggled to prove that Lula masterminded the scheme.

Instead, he was sentenced to 26 years for accepting a triplex beach apartment and renovations on a ranch property as bribes to increase access to lucrative Petrobras contracts.

Lula has always denied the accusations.

– From poverty to president –

Lula grew up in deep poverty, the seventh of eight children in an illiterate farming family in the arid northeastern state of Pernambuco.

When he was seven years old, his family joined a wave of migration to the industrial heart of São Paulo.

Lula worked as a shoe shiner and peanut vendor before becoming a metalworker at the tender age of 14.

In the 1960s, he lost a finger in a work accident.

He rose quickly to become the leader of his union and led major strikes in the 1970s that challenged the then military dictatorship.

In 1980, he co-founded the Workers’ Party, running as its candidate for president nine years later.

Lula lost three presidential candidacies between 1989 and 1998, finally winning in 2002 and again four years later.

This is his sixth presidential campaign.

The father of five survived throat cancer and in 2017 lost his wife of four decades, Marisa Leticia Rocco, to a stroke.

In his trademark gravelly voice, Lula has said that he is again “in love as if he were 20 years old” with Rosangela “Janja” da Silva, a sociologist and PT activist whom he married in May.

If he wins, Lula has said he will not seek a second term.



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