Lula is Brazil’s president again: How Castro pulled him from obscurity

Lula is Brazil’s president again: How Castro pulled him from obscurity

Monday, January 2, 2023 3:39 pm

Lula and Castro

Ademola Adegbamigbe

Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Lula for style, is like a cat with nine lives. On Sunday, he was sworn in as Brazil’s new president for the third time. He held the same office twice, between 2003 and 2010. In other words, like a political phoenix, he has risen from his ashes thrice. In the October elections, he defeated Jair Bolsonaro.

Lula, in his speech, promised to rebuild a country in “terrible ruins” and condemned the policies of Bolsonaro who, to avoid the ceremony, had skittered to the United States.

Lula da Silva sworn in as Brazil’s President again

Lula has always been a friend of the poor. He rose from the same background. Now, he should not forget them.

As reported by The Guardian of London, had it not been for a chiding from Fidel Castro nearly four decades ago, Lula 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!”

The report has it further: “Lula’s chronicler believes it was a pivotal moment in the life of his 77-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 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 fulfilment,” said the writer. “It moved me profoundly.”

The story of Lula – who has reclaimed the presidency following a close-run victory over Jair Bolsonaro on Sunday – begins in the northeastern state of Pernambuco where he was born into rural poverty in 1945.

At 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.

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 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.

Continue reading from the source: The Guardian of London

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