Politics, Business & Culture in the Americas

Lula’s NYT Op-Ed: A “Corrected Version”

Reading Time: 2 minutesWhat a more honest column for the New York Times by Brazil’s former president might have looked like.
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Victor Moriyama/Getty Images

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Esse artigo foi publicado em português na Folha de S.Paulo

“Sixteen years ago, Brazil was in crisis; its future uncertain. Markets were crashing because they feared I would be elected president. But my once-radical views had evolved, and I had a dream of turning Brazil into one of the world’s most prosperous and democratic countries.

“After I triumphed at the ballot box, my presidency was on balance a successful one. We cut poverty by more than half in just eight years. The minimum wage increased 50 percent. Earnings for banks and other companies soared. Though some may deny it now, the truth is that almost all Brazilians prospered. I left office with approval of nearly 90 percent.

“Then this progress was interrupted. Like most countries, we struggled to respond to the 2007-08 financial crisis. My chosen successor Dilma Rousseff made matters worse. Not only was she a terrible politician, but she sabotaged the “economic tripod” of fiscal and monetary policy discipline that I had worked so hard to maintain, sending Brazil into a profound recession. For her deceitful management of our budget accounts, Congress impeached Rousseff in 2016. While this was legal under our Constitution, I believe it undermined democratic stability while doing nothing to solve our core ills.

“There was also the problem of corruption. While my lawyers have advised me not to comment on the specific accusations against me, I can say that corruption has been endemic in Brazil since it was colonized some 500 years ago. We took office with ambitious goals  namely, reducing our country’s terrible legacy of misery and inequality. Achieving those goals meant working within the existing system in Brasília. It was not a system that I created; dozens of politicians and executives have been indicted or jailed for their actions.

“I regret any mistakes that I, or my party, may have made.

“Still, I would ask the international community  and my fellow Brazilians  to judge us by the totality of our actions. It was our Workers’ Party that approved many of the legal reforms, such as a 2013 law expanding the use of plea bargains, that made detecting recent corruption cases possible. My government was not just an economic success story  it also saw indisputable progress on deforestation, education, racial justice, and more.

“The government that succeeded ours has also suffered from extensive corruption  including charges against the president, Michel Temer, who may face trial after he leaves office. Meanwhile, many of the indicators where we made progress  infant mortality, unemployment and hunger  are now sliding backwards on his watch. This pains me greatly. 

“This October, Brazil faces a stark choice. Because my conviction disqualifies me as a presidential candidate under a law I signed while president, the leader in polls is now Jair Bolsonaro, a retired Army captain who insults women, minorities and the poor. I believe he would return us to an era when only the elite reaped the gains from economic growth. His plan to add justices to the Supreme Court reflects a broader disrespect for the institutions that successive Brazilian presidents have worked to build since 1985.    

“Our party will soon nominate one of our youngest and most moderate leaders, a former mayor of São Paulo, to replace me as our candidate. But the important thing is that Brazil’s next president, whoever it may be, resume the democratic and egalitarian progress that our country enjoyed not so long ago. So let the Brazilian people decide. I have faith that justice will prevail, but time is running against democracy.” 


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Winter is the editor-in-chief of Americas Quarterly and a seasoned analyst of Latin American politics, with more than 20 years following the region’s ups and downs.

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