Brazil’s Lula woos centrists at unofficial campaign launch

SAO PAULO — In the actual launch of his campaign on Saturday, former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva aimed to lure centrists into his coalition to bolster his bid to topple incumbent President Jair Bolsonaro.

“We want to unite democrats of all backgrounds and colors to confront and defeat the totalitarian threat, hatred,” da Silva told thousands of supporters of his Workers’ Party, union members and political allies gathered in Sao Paolo.

“We want to return so that no one dares to challenge our democracy and that fascism returns to the gutters of history, which it should never have left,” added the former president. “To end this crisis and develop, Brazil must become a normal country again.”

Da Silva’s most concrete effort to break into the moderates so far has been his selection of a rival, Geraldo Alckmin, as his running mate. Alckmin, a center-right Catholic, appeared via video because he tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday. The former governor of Sao Paulo lost his presidential bids in 2006 and 2018, during which he sharply criticized Workers’ Party administrations.

“No disagreement of the past, no difference with the president and not even the possible disagreements of today and tomorrow will allow me to apologize for supporting and defending with determination the return of Lula to the presidency of Brazil”, said Alckmin, adding that the Bolsonaro administration is “the most disastrous and cruel in the country’s history”.

“When President Lula extended his hand to me, I saw more than a gesture of reconciliation between two historic adversaries. I saw a call for reason,” he said.

Alckmin has been compared to former vice-president José Alencar, who died in 2011 and was instrumental in da Silva’s campaign to pivot to the center and win in 2002.

Members of other moderate political parties not aligned with da Silva were also present, including Senator Otto Alencar and Senator Veneziano Vital do Rego.

Da Silva’s efforts to woo moderates are in line with what many analysts say he needs to do to secure victory. Political analyst Bruno Carazza told The Associated Press that polling data showed him consolidating support among left-leaning voters, but he was having less success connecting with people elsewhere on the spectrum. .

For example, da Silva said on April 5 that he views the legalization of abortion as a public health issue and defends the right to abortion. His comments drew an instant reaction from critics who said he risked upsetting the moderates he should be prioritizing.

The following day, da Silva partially backtracked on his statement, stating in a radio interview that he was personally against abortions, but believed they should be legal.

Political scientist Antonio Lavareda told the AP he sees little room for da Silva’s support to grow, given that he is already Brazil’s best-known politician.

Likewise, polls are already reflecting the sentiments of voters who will not support him under any circumstances, especially following his arrest and conviction for corruption and money laundering which left him out of the 2018 race. have since been overturned, as the judge presiding over the cases was found to be biased.

Many da Silva supporters seemed less than enthusiastic about his nods to moderates and the right-wing politician who joined him on the ticket.

“I don’t think we can trust the people who were against us until very recently,” said Eleonora Santos, a 47-year-old bank teller, wearing a da Silva shirt at her premiere. presidential campaign in 1989. While posing for photos in front of a giant poster of Da Silva and Alckmin, she stood in front of Alckmin’s image in order to prevent him from appearing next to her candidate.

“I understand that Bolsonaro gives us different challenges and we need more support. I just don’t think this guy gives us anything,” she said. voters of Lula.”

Most of da Silva’s comments in recent weeks have touted the achievements of his two-term presidency, including lifting tens of millions out of poverty. He did the same on Saturday,” claiming his administration had ended hunger in Brazil, only for Bolsonaro to bring it back.

In a recent interview with Time magazine, he said he would not discuss economic policy until he wins the election – despite the fact that many Brazilians, who are struggling to make ends meet in a climate of double-digit inflation and high unemployment, are eager to hear how the candidates intend to help them.

“It is clear that he will capitalize on the data of his administrations, but Brazil has changed a lot, new demands have appeared,” said Carraza. “The economic situation is much more difficult and much more difficult after the pandemic and with the war in Ukraine. It is a very different context from that of 20 years ago.

For now, however, da Silva’s goal appears to be to portray himself as a protector of democracy amid the threat of authoritarianism. Wellington Dias, one of da Silva’s campaign coordinators, told reporters that da Silva would continue to win moderate votes.

“It will increasingly show Democrats that their choice matters, that they can accept that there are differences, but that democracy must come first,” Dias said. ——— Álvares contributed from Brasília.

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