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Hot year for Brazil

POLITICAL FUTURES - Ian Bremmer (The Philippine Star) - June 10, 2021 - 12:00am

(Last of two parts)

Lula represents Brazil’s poorest people, those who feel that no one else in power cares about them. His formative experience as a tough but savvy trade union leader and the popularity he earned as president by investing large amounts of public money to create opportunities for Brazil’s poorest families give him a stature and a chance to win that none of Bolsonaro’s other challengers can match. President Bolsonaro is better connected to Brazil’s middle class, which is fed up with the crime and corruption during the period when the Workers Party, led first by Lula, and then by handpicked successor Dilma Rousseff, governed the country.

Though Lula presents himself as a victim of political persecution, his government was eventually caught up in the largest criminal corruption investigation in Brazil’s history. As part of the so-called Car Wash scandal, an investigation that began with charges of contracting graft at Brazil’s national oil company but expanded in multiple directions and across borders. According to the task force which investigated Car Wash-related crimes, the investigation led to the return to the Brazilian treasury of more than $800 million and the conviction of 278 people. Former presidents of Peru, Panama and El Salvador went to prison. So did Luis Inacio Lula da Silva.

But Lula has never accepted responsibility for wrongdoing, though he owes his release from prison to a legal technicality. He insists he’s the victim of political persecution. That’s an excellent indicator of the kind of vitriolic campaign that Brazil can look forward to over the next 16 months. Despite all the setbacks and failures that Brazil’s two political heavyweights have suffered, polls show that each has managed to keep the support of hardcore followers. And there aren’t enough other likely voters in Brazil for any other candidate to emerge from Brazil’s two dozen political parties to challenge either man.

In the meantime, COVID continues to ravage the country, the economy is sputtering and social media attacks are already inflaming political tensions. It’s going to be a hot year for Brazil.

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Ian Bremmer is the president of Eurasia Group and GZERO Media and author of Us vs. Them: The Failure of Globalism.

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