He said nothing. It was unnecessary. The expression of the Brazilian Nanci Ramos Menezes, 64, said it all. His face was one of deep disappointment. When he heard that former President Lula da Silva, 74, was not going to arrive, that he was canceling his presence at the event where he had been waiting for him for two hours, he had an instant of disbelief. But yes, it was confirmed. Lula raised at the last minute about 250 people gathered by the Movement of Affected by Dams, a veteran popular movement, in Betim (Minas Gerais) this Friday of strong storms. The politician would be in that city, 27 kilometers from Brumadinho, on the eve of the first anniversary of the most serious industrial disaster in Brazil, which this Saturday remembers the 270 people devoured by a tidal wave of mud in a mine.
It was an opportunity for Lula to meet again, for the first time since he was released two and a half months ago, with his followers from Minas Gerais, to achieve a place at the same time on television and in the national debate. Until the warning came: his security team advised him not to travel to Betim in a storm of heavy rain that has caused at least a dozen deaths.
While a sleepy Brazil enjoys the pre-Carnival summer, Lula is dedicated to reorganizing the Workers’ Party, which he founded almost 40 years ago, and his life. Widowed, he has a girlfriend, plans to get married and is looking for a new home. Disciplined, start the day with walks and weights and try not to lengthen working hours. “He is seeing friends, center-left governors,” explains his spokesman. In addition, he has chaired a PT continuation congress, has been applauded in political-festive events and has played a soccer match with Chico Buarque and members of the Movement of the Landless.
He seeks his place in Brazilian politics after 19 months imprisoned for corruption and two convictions that prevent him from being a candidate. “He must strengthen the left, he must speak to the bases,” said Ramos Menezes de Lula when he was still expected as a star player.
It is not easy for the leftist to find his place because Bolsonaro and his people, with a torrent of controversial decisions and explosive statements, leave almost no one in political discourse. The only one who occasionally peeks into the headlines is the president of the Chamber of Deputies. As happened in the United States when Trump arrived with his groundbreaking uses for the Presidency, the Brazilian press is with his tongue out trying to cover Bolsonarism, which covers the classic news channels and networks.
An example. The 24 hours prior to Lula’s act began with a racist comment. Bolsonaro said that, “increasingly, Indians are human beings like us.” He also threatened to downgrade the ministry run by his most popular minister, Sergio Moro. The former judge was silent publicly, but made it known through third parties that if it were consummated he would leave; and an Instagram account was opened that had nothing more than half a million followers. Bolsonaro rushed off from India, where he is on an official visit. No, Moro’s ministry remains as it is. Meanwhile, a veteran soap opera lady celebrates her seventh day considering whether to accept the presidential invitation to be Minister of Culture to replace Goebbels’ plagiarist. It seems logical that Brazilians love memes.
Doctor in Political Science Flavia Bozza Martins argues that Lula can now better gauge how things are in public opinion and institutional politics. “It is important because perhaps he did not see clearly from his cell in the Federal Police that public opinion is disconnected.” One of the difficulties he faces is that the rallies are attended only by militants and “the lack of space in the traditional media prevents Lula from reaching the ears of ordinary citizens as he would like.”
He also has a difficult relationship with the press, including the ubiquitous Globo network. The former president has stated that he would like to give a live interview but “no media from the Globo group has asked to interview him,” according to Lula’s spokesman, who upon regaining his freedom only spoke to foreign media -including this newspaper- and some Brazilian blogs.
The political scene, with municipal elections in October, is another challenge. “Despite the fact that important figures of the PT have declared that it is a crucial moment for Brazilian democracy and that it has to join forces with other forces to stop the growth of the right, (the party) has great difficulty in stepping back and resigning to hegemony or broad prominence in the name of a more electorally viable candidacy ”, explains this political scientist from the Rio de Janeiro State University. Because of corruption, a part of Brazil hates with all its soul the party, Lula and even the red that symbolizes them.
On Friday in a hotel in Belo Horizonte, the worker who made history by presiding over Brazil met with the leaders of the PT in Minas Gerais. His message was clear: at the municipal level, all possible candidates must be presented. He insisted that “we need the claw of the beginning, the claw of the eighties” in the face of the “criminalization of the PT”, explains Andrea Cangussu, 37 years old, secretary petista of a woman in Minas. He tells it in Betim, after Leonardo Boff, 82, father of Liberation Theology, and those affected by the dams have finished their interventions. A live band and the snack distribution liven up the wait for Lula.
He “is returning to his role as a political coordinator with the local PT groups. It works in a dialectical process with the party. Listen, speak, argue … He does not impose, but his opinion counts a lot, he is a voice with political experience that carries a lot of weight, “says his spokesman.
Sentenced to 25 years for corruption, he has several pending cases. “There are many legal ramifications, so Lula can go back to prison or his trials can be annulled,” says the political scientist. That is why he considers that the largest party in Brazil – and the largest parliamentary group – makes a fairly risky bet by insisting on the name of Lula. He adds that if the idea was to bet on a new leader, it should already be being built. But there is no hint. Lula’s figure outshines his party and the Brazilian left. Oliver Stuenkel, from the Getulio Vargas Foundation, agrees: “Every day that passes is a lost day to build new leadership.”
He was awarded in Spain this Friday, 43rd anniversary of the Atocha massacre, by the foundation that remembers the murdered lawyers. Award that thanks in a video. Meanwhile, one of the confessed murderers, the ultra Carlos Garcia Juliá, awaits his impending extradition from Brazil. Lula would like the first trip abroad in this new stage to go to France to collect the title of Honorary Citizen of Paris awarded by Socialist Mayor Anne Hidalgo while in prison.
Once she accepted resignedly that she would not see their leader in Betim, the pedagogue Ramos Menezes said: “We have to encourage the people because they are going to be frustrated.” He trusts that the municipal campaign will give him a new opportunity to listen live to his admired Lula.