Lula in Le Monde: I am running to give back the poor and excluded their dignity

Former President and leading 2018 Candidate Lula featured in France’s Le Monde, explaining Brazil’s worrying situation and his determination to run for the Presidency in October, despite his politically motivated imprisonment.

Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva

Le Monde

17 May 2018

I am running for the Presidency of Brazil in the October elections because I committed no crime and because I know that I can put the country back on the path of democracy and development, for the benefit of our people. After everything I did as President of the Republic, I am certain that I can recover the government’s credibility, without which there is neither economic growth nor defense of national interests. I am running to give back to the poor and excluded their dignity, the guarantee of their rights, and the hope of a better life.

Nothing in my life was ever easy, but I learned not to give up. When I got my start in politics, over 40 years ago, Brazil didn’t have elections, there was no right to union or political organizing. We confronted the dictatorship and created the Workers’ Party, believing in the deepening of democracy. I lost three presidential elections before being elected in 2002. And together with the people I proved that someone who came from the common people could be a good president. I ended my presidency with an 87% approval rating. That’s the disapproval rating for Brazil’s President today, who was not elected.

In the eight years that I governed Brazil, until 2010, we achieved the greatest social inclusion in history, which continued under the government of our comrade Dilma [Rousseff]. We took 36 million people out of extreme misery and brought over 40 million into the middle class. It was the period of our country’s greatest international prestige. In 2009, Le Monde named me “Man of the Year.” I accepted this and other awards, not as a reflection of personal merit, but as recognition for Brazilian society, which had come together to promote economic growth through social inclusion.

Seven years after leaving the presidency, after a systematic campaign of defamation against myself and a my party that brought together Brazil`s most powerful press [outlets] and segments of the judiciary, the country is going through something very different. We are experiencing a retreat of democracy, a prolonged economic crisis, and the poorest among us suffer with falling salaries and fewer jobs, with a rising cost of living and the dismantling of social programs.

Every day, more and more Brazilians reject the agenda against social rights of the parliamentary coup that opened the way for a neoliberal program that had lost the last four elections and is unable to win at the ballot box. I lead the polls by a wide margin because Brazilians know the country can be better.

I lead the polls even after having been imprisoned due to a judicial persecution that searched my home and those of my children, my personal accounts and those of the Lula Institute, but never found proof that I had committed any crime. A notoriously biased judge sentenced me to 12 years in prison for “undetermined acts.” He alleges, falsely, that I am the owner of an apartment where I never slept, which I never owned or took possession of, not even the keys. To arrest me and stop me from running in the elections or campaign for my party, they had to ignore the clear letter of the Brazilian constitutional, in a provisional decision with a one-vote margin out of 11 Supreme Court justices.

But my problems are small next to the suffering of the Brazilian people. To remove the PT from power after the 2014 elections, they did not hesitate to sabotage the economy with irresponsible decisions in Congress and a press campaign to demoralize the government. In December 2014, unemployment was 4.7%. Today it is 13.1%.

Poverty has increased, hunger has returned to prowl around people’s homes, and the doors of the university are starting to close to the children of the working class. Investments in research have collapsed.

Brazil needs to regain its sovereignty and national interests. In my government, the country led efforts to protect the environment and fight hunger. It was invited to all the meetings of the G-8, it helped create the G-20, it participated in the creation of BRICS, which united Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, and of Unasul, the Union of South American Countries. Today Brazil has become an international pariah, which foreign leaders avoid visiting, and South America is fragmenting, with ever graver regional crises and fewer diplomatic instruments of dialogue between countries.

Even the portion of the population who supported the fall of President Dilma Rousseff, after an intense campaign by the Globo media conglomerate, which monopolizes communication in Brazil, has realized that the coup was not against the PT. It was against the social ascent of the poor and workers’ rights. It was against Brazil itself.

I have been in public service for 40 years. I started in the union movement. I founded a political party with comrades from our entire country and we fought, together with other political forces in the 1980s, for a democratic Constitution. As a presidential candidate, I promised, I fought, and I kept my promise that all Brazilians would have the right to three meals a day, so as not to go hungry like I did as a child.

I governed one of the world`s largest economies, and I did not accept pressure to support the Iraq War or other military actions. I made it clear that my war was against hunger and misery. I did not submit our country to foreign interests when it came to our natural resources.

When I left office, I went home to the same apartment that I had come from, less than one kilometer from the Metalworkers’ Union in the city of São Bernardo do Campo, where my political career began. I have honor, and I will never make concessions in my fight to [maintain] my innocence and maintain my political rights. As President, I used every means at my disposal to advance the fight against corruption, and I do not accept having a crime like this imputed to me by means of a judicial farce.

The October elections, which will choose a new president, Congress, and governors, are Brazil`s chance to debate its problems and define its future democratically, through the vote, like a civilized nation. But they will only be democratic if all political forces are able to participate freely and fairly.

I was already president before, and it was not in my plans to run again. But in the face of the disaster that has fallen upon the Brazilian people, my candidacy is a proposal for Brazil to embark again on the path of social inclusion, democratic dialogue, national sovereignty, and economic growth, for the construction of a more just and solidary country, one that will once again be a global reference in favor of peace and cooperation among nations.