Lula and his supporters are taking to the streets to rally for democracy and against hunger in Brazil, writes KEN LIVINGSTONE
PRESIDENTIAL elections due in October in Brazil have the potential to not only transform that country, but also the whole of Latin America, and indeed the world.
As part of the build-up to those vital elections, the former president, historic leader of the Workers’ Party (PT) and candidate for the Together for Brazil coalition, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, is fronting up massive rallies and other campaign events, whose central themes are the defence of democracy and the fight against hunger.
I met Lula during his previous time as Brazil’s president when I was mayor of London, and his anti-poverty programmes plus support for a Latin America free from US-domination made him in the words of US president Barack Obama the most popular politician in the world.
Highlighting the importance of the elections, Lula has recently said that the situation in the “country is worse than in 2003,” when he became president for the first time.
To illustrate this he pointed out that “inflation and unemployment are higher,” but arguing that there is an alternative to failed extreme neoliberalism, “our solution is to put the poor in the budget and the rich in the income tax.”
Extending these themes, Lula pointed out that “after the Workers’ Party put an end to hunger in the country,” during his and Dilma Rousseff’s previous terms, “now 33 million Brazilians go to sleep without eating.”
As Lula himself asked: “How can this be explained in a country that is the third largest food producer in the world?”
The answer of course is the disastrous policies developed by the current far-right president and candidate for re-election, Jair Bolsonaro.
The fault for the current crisis the giant South American country is experiencing lies firmly at the feet of Bolsonaro, who has combined a disastrous Covid-denial pandemic “response” with severe austerity policies that are like Thatcherism on steroids.
The good news is that Lula, according to the opinion polls, is the overwhelming favourite to win the presidential elections in October.
And that is why he and other progressive forces in Brazil are also campaigning for the defence of democracy, which is under threat from the far right in the country, including the current President Bolsonaro.
He and his cabinet ministers, nearly half of whom are military generals, have made repeated threats against the integrity of the elections and seem unlikely to accept a Lula victory.
As well as some openly advocating for a coup to stop Lula returning to the presidency, there have been several serious incidents of political violence against the left recently.
As is pointed out in an early day motion put to the British Parliament by Brazil Solidarity Initiative chair Richard Burgon MP, examples include “the July 9 killing at a birthday party of Marcelo Arruda, a Workers’ Party official in the city of Foz do Iguacu, by a Bolsonaro supporter who chanted ‘we are Bolsonaro here’,” and that “Bolsonaro’s supporters have also attacked pro-Lula rallies including with a home-made bomb and the use of drones to drop faeces onto crowds.”
It is clear that the threats, intimidation and extreme hate speech by Bolsonaro and co create a context in which such acts of political violence are becoming more and more likely.
Internationally now then is the time to stand with Lula, and all those fighting for democracy, equality and social progress in Brazil.
The extreme right can be defeated. Then hopefully a Lula victory will add to the growing “second pink wave” across Latin America which has seen the right wing defeated in poll after poll — from Mexico and Argentina, through to Bolivia, Chile and now Colombia.
With US sanctions also failing to force “regime change” in Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela too, Latin America’s left is again leading the way.
Join the Brazil Solidarity Initiative at www.brazilsolidarity.co.uk.
This article originally appeared in The Morning Star