This year is an election year for the fourth biggest democracy in the world, the people of Brazil are between a rock and a hard place when it comes to deciding who will win the presidency of their country in October. Brazilians will more than likely choose the candidate that they view as the lesser of two evils. During this year’s election, Brazil’s current president Jair Bolsonaro is running for reelection and his opponent is no other than Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva who served as Brazil’s president from 2003 to 2011.
Jair Bolsonaro took control of the Brazilian presidency in 2019 and is described as a far-right populist leader. Bolsonaro gained popularity because he had pledged to the Brazilian people that he would be hard crime rates, fight political corruption, and fight the economic crisis that the country faced. Throughout the last three years of his presidency, Bolsonao’s popularity has decreased due to him not following his campaign promises and especially due to his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to John Hopkins University as of May 4, 2022, Brazil has recorded a record of 300 Covid deaths for every 100,000 people and has almost 700,000 recorded deaths since 2020.
Many of these deaths could have been prevented if the president had taken immediate action, providing aid and shutdowns. Instead, President Bolsonaro called coronavirus “a small flu”, spread false information on social media, did not follow COVID regulations, and was a factor in the slow rollout of COVID-19 vaccines in the country. The people that were mostly affected by the mishandling of the pandemic in Brazil were people from poor and indigenous communities. Bolsonaro who ran his campaign on the idea of ending corruption has turned blind eye to it when it was uncovered that the country’s health ministry signed a contract to purchase $323 million for the Indian Covaxin vaccine. This price was almost ten times more than it was originally and it was yet not an approved vaccine. This brought up suspicion because previously the Bolsonaro government regretted Pfizer’s vaccine offers because it was yet not approved. In October 2021, the Brazilian Senate Commission approved criminal charges being issued against Bolsonaro for his handling of the COVID crisis, these charges included genocide and homicide.
At the beginning of the pandemic, Bolsonaro was able to hold on to people who voted for him because he was able to get approved for a social welfare program that almost doubled the income of Brazilians and that for many was the most money they have ever seen. However, that money has run out and brazil is now facing the highest unemployment rates in almost twenty years.
Bolsonaro’s opponent Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, also known as Lula is considered to be one of the most popular presidents Brazil has ever had. In the 2018 election, Lula was ahead of Bolsonaro in the polls, however, he was not able to continue the race which can be seen as a big factor in Bolsonaro’s win. Lula was not able to continue his race in 2018 because he was convicted of political corruption and sentenced for his part in “Lava Jato” also known as “Operation Carwash”. This was one of the biggest corruption scandals in Latin America, this scandal involved Petrobras, a state oil corruption, whose executives would issue contracts at higher rates to construction companies. Petrobas was paying these companies almost double what the contracts would be originally and then the construction companies would pay bribes to politicians and Petrobras executives.
After such a large corruption scandal that involved two of Brazil’s former presidents, including Lula it is surprising to see the outpour of support that Lula is receiving from a country whose people are tired of crime and corruption. In March of 2021 the Brazilian Supreme Court overthrew Lula’s corruption conviction, and in May 2022 Lula announced his presidential campaign. Currently, Lula is leading in polls against Bolsonaro. This brings forward the question, of why do Brazilians still believe in Lula?
It seems like the distrust is not in Lula himself but in his political party the Workers party, which is a socialist party. In 2018, Lula was winning in polls and when he was not able to run showed support for another Workers’ Party candidate, who lost significantly against Bolsonaro whose views are the opposite of the Workers’ Party. Lula is popular among Brazilians, and this might be due to the memory of how Brazil excelled under his presidency.
During Lula’s presidency, he was able to establish several social programs like “Bolsa Familia” which provided poor Brazilian families with financial assistance, and “Zero Fome” which was an effort to end hunger in the country. These programs increased education and health levels for Brazilians, for example, to qualify for “Bolsa Familia” families had to send their children to school and make sure they obtained immunizations.
Under Lula, Brazil’s economy boomed during this time its trade surplus nearly tripled. Now that Brazil’s economy is facing inflation and unemployment is at an all-time high, some Brazilians are looking at the experienced politician to rebuild the country again and this is what Lula states he will do in his campaign.
Both candidates are far from perfect, yet this October the citizens of Brazil must choose one of these men to once again be appointed as the president of the country. They can decide to trust Lula in hopes of him bringing the country to its economic prime once again or reelect Bolsonaro in hopes that he accomplishes his campaign promises instead of continuing the destruction of Brazil’s democratic institutions. Bolsonaro said that if he were to loss the presidency he will not got out easily and that something like January 6th might occur, but the question is will Brazilian democracy survive this.
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