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Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva officially launches his run for presidency. Picture: BLOOMBERG
Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva officially launches his run for presidency. Picture: BLOOMBERG

Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva officially launched his bid to return to Brazil’s presidency on Saturday more than a decade after he left office.

The widely expected announcement, marked by an official event in Sao Paulo, kicks off a new phase of the campaign, in which Lula and his running mate Geraldo Alckmin will start travelling across the nation trying to gather broad support to defeat President Jair Bolsonaro in the October vote. 

“The serious moment that the country is going through, one of the most serious in our history, forces us to overcome possible differences to build together an alternative path to the incompetence and authoritarianism that govern us,” Lula, 76, said at the event.

His speech focused on the recovery of Brazil’s sovereignty, its international role and the defence of democracy. He sought to attack recurring issues in Bolsonaro’s speeches, such as insinuations of institutional disruption. The candidate also vowed to defend the Amazon “from the current government’s policy of devastation”.

“We want to return (to office) so that no-one ever dares to challenge democracy again. And for fascism to be returned to the sewer of history, where it should never have come out,” he said.

Lula’s decision to pair up with Alckmin, a former Sao Paulo governor and old political foe, was seen as a sign the left-wing leader is trying to move closer to more moderate views, though he has yet to name an economic adviser to spell out his programme for Latin America’s largest economy. So far, Lula’s Workers’ Party has made alliances mostly with the left-wing, with several of the major parties in the centre still trying to launch their own candidates — though most fail to get more than 10% of voter support. 

Alckmin, whose name on the ticket was made official last month, had to skip Saturday’s event after being diagnosed with Covid-19. 

While he leads early polls, Lula’s advantage over Bolsonaro has shrunk in some recent surveys, which show widespread resistance to both. The former president has made controversial statements on everything from abortion to the war in Ukraine over the past few weeks, leading to widespread backlash and retractions. 

Flavio Dino, a close ally and one of Lula’s campaign managers, said earlier this week that even experienced politicians make mistakes, adding that the leftist leader will launch a centrist government program in July after a handful of internal discussions between the Workers’ Party and a group of four allied parties. That includes the PSB, home to Lula’s running mate Alckmin and Dino himself. 

On Saturday, Lula stuck to reading his speech. In one of the few improvised lines, he thanked former president Dilma Rousseff but signalled that she should not be part of a future ministry if elected.

His speech also focused on economic issues such as inflation and Brazil’s return to the hunger map. Lula again criticised the privatisation of state-owned companies such as Petrobras and Eletrobras, and what he called their dismantling. 

“The result of this is that we are self-sufficient in oil, but we pay for one of the most expensive gasoline in the world, quoted in dollars, while Brazilians receive their salaries in real,” said Lula.

The former president, who ran the country from 2003 to 2010 and was later jailed in the huge Carwash probe, is still seen by many Brazilians as the face of corruption. Lula’s convictions, which barred him from the presidential election in 2018, were tossed out on procedural grounds in 2021, clearing him to run for office again. 

Bloomberg News. More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com

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