SLuiz Inácio Lula da Silva has been Brazil’s president again since Sunday. In the late afternoon, under the eyes of the nation, he walked up the ramp to the Presidential Palace, where he received the presidential sash for the third time after 2003 and 2007. Contrary to tradition, it was not presented to him by his predecessor. Former President Jair Bolsonaro had never considered attending the ceremony and had traveled abroad. Instead, a group of ordinary Brazilians, including an indigenous man, a black boy, a worker, a garbage collector and a disabled person, presented the sash to the president “on behalf of the Brazilian people.”
In his subsequent speech, Lula da Silva tearfully called for Brazilian unity. He will govern for the 215 million Brazilian men and women, and not just for those who voted for him. “I will rule for all and look to our bright future together, and not through the rearview mirror of a past of division and intolerance,” he said to the cheers of tens of thousands of supporters who made a pilgrimage to the capital. At the same time, however, he hinted that he would mercilessly reveal the failures of his predecessor.
Brazil ‘back on the international stage’
Not only the population was present in large numbers. Heads of state and government from 24 countries, including Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, and representatives from over 30 other countries attended the inauguration ceremony. Steinmeier, who met Lula in person on Saturday, expressed his delight that Brazil was “back on the international stage”.
You need Brazil not only for the economy, but also for global climate protection, said Steinmeier. He was happy to see that Lula da Silva wanted to play the role of the country again. For his part, Lula da Silva thanked Steinmeier for coming and spoke of the desired expansion of economic relations between the two countries.
Before the ceremony and the official oath of office in Congress, Lula da Silva, his wife Rosângela da Silva, Vice President Geraldo Alckmin and his wife were chauffeured around the esplanade of the ministries in a traditional Rolls Royce. It was not known until shortly before the ceremony whether Lula da Silva would opt for the traditional open-top Rolls Royce or an armored car.
Safety concerns were raised a week ago after police foiled a bomber’s plan to blow up a fuel truck near the airport. The fanatical supporter of outgoing President Jair Bolsonaro and an alleged accomplice have been arrested. In Brasília and in several other cities, there have been sustained rallies by radicalized Bolsonaro supporters in front of the military installations in recent weeks, who, among other things, had hoped for an intervention by the army to avert the inauguration of Lula da Silva.
However, the hopes had become smaller and smaller in the last few days. Bolsonaro himself also contributed to this. Two days before taking office, he flew with his wife and daughter in a government plane to the United States, where he lives in a luxurious residential complex in Florida. How long he intends to stay there is just as unclear as the motive for his trip. Observers also suspect that Bolsonaro wanted to keep his distance from the Brazilian judiciary with his trip. Various investigations are underway against the former president. With the end of his mandate, however, his political immunity was lifted.
The last two days of Bolsonaro’s presidency were therefore contested by Vice President Hamilton Mourão, who sharply criticized Bolsonaro in a final speech to the nation. Bolsonaro did not unite the country after his electoral defeat, but through his silence allowed a “climate of chaos and social collapse” and maneuvered the army into a position in which it was either blamed by the population for its inaction or for fomenting an alleged coup d’etat was held responsible, said the general of the reserve. His speech was met with fierce criticism from Bolsonaro supporters.
Lula da Silva enjoys great international sympathy, but an icy wind will blow against him and his government in Brazil. The polarized populace will hardly be put off by Lula da Silva, who has almost as much rejection as his predecessor Bolsonaro. At the same time, it is unclear whether Lula da Silva will be able to form majorities in Congress that will allow him to govern. The new Congress, which will not meet for the first time until February, has become more conservative and has a flaming right-wing opposition with Bolsonaro’s party and a few other players that has gained weight. It is unclear what role Bolsonaro himself will play in Brazilian politics in the future.