Lula’s victory: a triumph of the will of ordinary people

By Jeremy Corbyn

The day before voting is part of a non-campaigning period in Brazilian law.  The interpretation of non-campaigning is, shall we say, “interesting”. Parties cannot make speeches promoting their candidate. However, there is nothing to stop their supporters being out on the streets festooned in party colours and placards.

On Saturday 29th, the main huge street in Sao Paolo was full of hundreds of thousands of people waiting for a float with Lula and Fernando Haddad, the candidate for the governorship of Sao Paolo. A second float passed with newly elected members of both the federal and state congress. This was a moment of pure joy for people who scented the possibility of Lula being elected president of Brazil.

As I was standing on the processional float down the street, I reflected on how just 3 years ago, Lula was in prison, wrongly condemned for corruption. Removed from office, he spent 535 days behind bars. His supporters and international supporters never gave up; Lula was eventually freed by a combination of popular demand and a legal team – spearheaded by Geoffrey Robinson KC and John Watts – which insisted that international law must guarantee Lula’s freedom.

Polling day itself was quiet. but beset by reports of roadblocks in the poorest North Eastern states to deny Lula supporters access to voting sites. The Left Alliance of parties led by the PT immediately went to the Supreme Court, and successfully insisted that the police make the roads useable to ensure all Brazilians could vote safety.

I visited a polling station in Sao Paolo in the afternoon. It was empty and quiet. I asked the extremely helpful staff why this was the case. I was told everyone had already voted; a good sign I thought.

That evening, we went to the hotel where the PT and Left parties had assembled to hear the results. I was in the international room, which felt extremely tense as the early returns showed Bolsonaro ahead, with Lula gradually increasing his support.  After two thirds of the votes had been counted, Lula narrowly went ahead by 50.1% to 49.9%.  From then on, Lula’s lead increased. Lula won by almost 1% – approximately 2 million votes.

Lula’s victory speech was well prepared, balanced yet inspirational. Unlike Bolsonaro, he promised to unite the country, and said his priorities were to tackle poverty; he asked how it was possible that Brazil was a major food exporter yet many of its children went hungry. He also pledged to deal with the environmental crisis by guaranteeing the preservation of the Amazon rainforest, promising to put an end to its destruction, and launching a Green revolution to bring about sustainable energy.

His international message was clear: Brazil would seek good relations with the USA, Russia and China and would not be part of a new cold war.  This was very well received by the enormous number of international observers for the election, most of whom came from Latin American and Central American countries. Hardly any were present from the United States and very few from Europe, with small delegations from Germany, Spain, France and Britain. Our delegation consisted of myself, Zarah Sultana MP and Laura Alvarez.

Lula’s victory was a triumph of the will of ordinary people. It was not achieved by triangulation, but by uniting the many left groups, unions and social movements to deliver an historic victory against a very well-funded right-wing president.

2 days before the election, we visited a homeless project on the outskirts of Sao Paolo where they had managed to build a large number of good quality flats for themselves, and a community centre-cum-communal kitchen to ensure no child went hungry in the area. It is the spirit of determination that is behind Lula’s will, a determination that did not depend on approval of the right-wing press.

Our solidarity must be with all those trying to build a more socially just and sustainable Latin America, which has faced miliary coups and lawfare. Every radical government is constantly under threat from established wealthy forces. We must be prepared for what comes their way. Let’s congratulate Lula and dedicate ourselves to support transformative change around the world.

Jeremy Corbyn MP is joint President of Liberation, founder of Peace and Justice Project and former Labour Party leader

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