Public Speech by Ex-President Lula, 10/6/16

On Friday, June 10th, hundreds of thousands of Brazilians came to the streets in dozens of cities in 17 states across the country to protest the Soft Coup against democratically elected president Dilma Rousseff. In São Paulo, where an estimated 100,000 gathered on the coldest day of the year chanting “Fora Temer” (Out Temer) the protest was organised by two new social movements representing a broad based coalition of the organised, Brazilian left, the Frente Brazil Popular and the Povo sem Medo, which between the two of them are made up of the CUT and CTB labor union federations, the PSOL party, the PT party, the PC do B party, sectors of the Catholic Church, the UNE (National Students Union) The MST (Landless Workers’ Movement) and other  social movements such as the CMP (Popular Movements’ Central), UMM (Union of Housing Movements) and the MTST (Homeless Workers Movement). After several hours of music and speeches by people such as CUT president Vagner Freitas and MTST São Paulo leader Guilherme Boulos, former president Luis “Lula” Inacio da Silva took the stage to wild applause and singing. This, to the best of my translating and transcription abilities, is what he said.

“My dear comrades. First of all I would like to thank  the comrades from the Frente Popular, the comrades from the Povo sem Medo, the comrades from the leftist political parties who are here, the comrades from the social movements and above all the women and men who are fighting for democracy in this country who want to fight so that democracy is reestablished. I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart. I was listening to the speeches of the comrades who came before me tonight and I thought ‘why does an ex-president have to speak in a protest like this one´. The young people, like the comrades from the MST (Landless Peasants Movement) and the PC do B (Communist Party of Brazil), Guilermo, Wagner, can speak about a general strike but I don’t work in the factory anymore and retired people can’t go on strike.  But I can speak about a few things that I heard people talking about here. I want to try to make a reflection with you with great tranquility without the need to insult anyone. I come from a generation a little older than you. I was 19 when the Military Coup took place. I worked in a metallurgical plant called Metalurgica Independencia. It was the place where I lost this finger. It’s still there in Vila Carioca near the border with São Caetano near Heliopolis hospital.  When the Coup happened some of the older people who worked with me said that the Military Coup was important because it would end communism in this country and because it would end corruption. I, who didn’t understand anything, saw many people meet the demand of the first military president who ran a campaign called “Gold for the good of Brazil”. A lot of poor people, maybe even your parents or grandparents, gave their wedding rings and gold teeth to help recuperate the Brazilian economy because this was the Military’s campaign in 1964. It took 24 years for civil society to take back the power and return to direct elections after they were initially done through an electoral college after an extraordinary campaign. It started  as a campaign for rights and afterward a group of people of which Fernando Henrique Cardoso made a part of, ended the slogan “Direitos Já” (Rights now) and invented the slogan “Mudanças Já” (Change now).  With this maneuver Tancredo Neves became president instead of Ulysses Guimarães because they believed if they had direct elections Ulysses Guimarães or Lionel Brizola would be elected instead of Tancredo Neves. It was a deal to hand over the elections to the right, and Tancredo was elected and died and Jose Sarney came in. I lived and participated in this episode. I traveled across the entire country together with some of the comrades here tonight. Others here didn’t come because they were too young. Karina wasn’t even born yet. There were millions and millions of people on the streets and when we arrived in the National Congress we lost. And I will never forget the scene. Maria da Conceição Tavares there on the bench crying because we lost our right [to direct elections]. But there was no problem. We lost, but a little while later we got the right to direct elections for president of the Republic and I was a candidate for president. I am telling you this because you have been on the streets for a long time. Extraordinary students. Kids who are 14 or 15 years old occupying schools defending the right to study, defending the right to a quality education. Women are going to the streets fighting against violence against women and the rape culture that is established around us and fighting for the government to recognise that you can’t have democracy if you don’t have a ministry that takes care of women’s problems in this country. The artists are coming to the streets because it is impossible to imagine that we are in the 1950s and you can create a Ministry of Sports, of Education and of Agriculture where they nominate people who don’t understand Sports, Education or Agriculture to lead them. It’s impossible to imagine that someone wouldn’t have the sensibility to understand the black part of our society that was enslaved for 300 years that takes part in the miscegenation that created this extraordinary people, and victimise Catalão who used to serve us coffee in the Presidential Palace and was fired because they said he was a spy for Lula and Dilma. It’s impossible to not take into consideration that more than half of this society is made up of of African heritage and that we are proud to belong to this people. It’s impossible to not recognised the violence on the periphery, violence against women, violence against poor people, the violence spread across the country and eliminate the Ministry of Human Rights. That’s right my comrades. If the solution to this countries problems is to eliminate ministries, it would be better to eliminate the Treasury Ministry, the Planning Ministry and other ministries and leave the ministries for poor people in place. Leave the ministries that take care of society. It’s not the ministry that takes care of statistics, it’s not the ministry that takes care of numbers but the ministries that take care of people, that take care of children, that take care of extreme poverty, of women and men in this country.  There isn’t a greater demonstration of the Coup inside the Coup than what happened after Dilma was taken out of office. Temer caused a coup with the Senate’s decision  to remove Dilma while the process was still being judged by its merits and gave him the interim presidency. Temer took the interim position but he didn’t act like an interim president. He took over as if he had the same liberty, autonomy and authority as Fidel Castro did in Havana after the revolution of 1959. Fidel had authority- he’d led a revolution and won elections but Temer had no authority, hadn’t made a revolution and arrived there through a Coup made by fascists, by conservatives who own this country. It’s important to remember that these people were against our government. It’s important to remember that the people who weren’t content with the political situation, the people who in the surveys even supported Dilma’s impeachment are against the Coup today. The coxinhas who went to the streets in protest are embarrassed to say that they support Temer today. They are embarrassed to say that they wanted a Coup and I hope that they come out to the streets now so that they can see the faces of the people who defend me in this country. I want to tell you that I am very proud that when I was president I was obsessed- I had to prove that a peon from a factory without a university diploma was able to govern with greater competence than this country’s elite (applause).  I had to prove it. Because in truth they don’t want to govern. They just want to sell public patrimony, in other words “everything is really hard so I’m going to sell Petrobras, I’m going to sell the Banco do Brazil, I’m going to sell the Caixa Economico (federal mortgage bank), I’m going to sell Electrobras, I’m going to sell Transpetro, I’m going to sell it all”. My God in heaven we have to be careful with these people because they are going to say we have a delicate problem and they are  even going to try to sell women and families. I am proud. I am proud to know that  the Banco do Brazil is larger than the private banks. I’m proud to know that the Caixa Economico is the second largest bank in this country, bigger than Banco Itau or Banco Bradesco. I am proud that they stayed in the public sector because when the crisis hit in 2008 the private finance system did not want to finance credit, it didn’t want to finance people, but the public banks helped save this country by financing at 7.5% in 2010 thanks to pressure from the government which wasn’t afraid to buy the Caixa Economica from São Paulo, that wasn’t afraid to buy 50% of the Banco Voltoranitin, that wasn’t afraid and let them privatise Banco do Espirito Santo, Banco do Ceara, Banco do Piaui. They are afraid of public things, they are afraid of public banks and public companies because they don’t know how to govern.  They just know how to privatise and you if you privatise everything you don’t need a government. Comrades, they are calling for me to turn around and face the crowd behind me so I am going to do it. You are all democrats so please let me turn around. (He turns to face the crowd behind him).

Comrades it took us years to earn the confidence of society for people to understand that they didn’t have to polish their shoes to go into the Caixa Economica and apply for the Bolsa Familia program. The rural worker didn’t have to put on a tie to get a loan, loans were available in the northeast for small businessmen and entrepreneurs to invest in the things that they most needed. Credit rose from R$380 Billion to R$2.7 Trillion and they learned that when poor people borrow money they pay it back because the character of the poor person, the guarantee of the poor person is his face, his pride and his honor. They learned that it was possible to fix this country by showing confidence in poor people. The poor went from being a problem to being a solution for this country. Recently, after the President was pulled out of office, I spoke to Dilma. I said, “Dilma I know you have some problems” …. I said several times that “whenever you are in doubt, Dilma,  listen to the poor people in this country. When you are in doubt enact policies which interest the most poor. If you lend R$500 million to Gerdau Corporation it will put it in a bank to earn interest but if you lend R$100 to a poor person he won’t put it in a bank he’ll spend it. He’ll put it in his stomach, he’ll buy something to eat and something to put on his feet and these are the people who can save this country.  A country with 204 million people can’t depend on American commerce or Chinese commerce. It’s very important that the world economy is going well, it’s very important that we are exporting to China, it’s very important that we export to the United States and Germany but it’s much more important that we are lending to poor people so that they can become entrepreneurs to be consumers and to make the Brazilian economy come back. And for these reasons I think I am here because there was a coup against Dilma and I think that only the people who elected her should have the right to remove her. It’s not those congressmen who said, “In the name of my son. In the name of my wife, in the name of my mother in law”. All you have to do is look at their faces and perceive that the 300 thieves that I talked about in 1994 increased a little in today’s Congress because its impossible to throw out a president of the republic who hasn’t committed any crime of responsibility. Dear comrades I am proud of what we did in this country. I was the only Brazilian president who participated in all of the G-8 meetings during my presidency. The G-8 is the charter of the presidents of the rich countries and I was invited to all of them. I was invited to all of them not because I was the most handsome or the smartest.  I was invited to all of them because we in this country, thanks to you, not to me, we were able to make the biggest social revolution in the history of this country. We did it. The first thing was to prove that the poor weren’t the problem but the solution. The second thing was to prove that raising the minimum wage doesn’t cause inflation and we raised it by 74%. The third thing was to prove that during 12 years we could give real annual salary raises to the workers without causing inflation and we were able to prove that the people didn’t have to have a mongrel complex to be respected. I saw an interview with the current Brazilian Foreign Affairs Minister on Roda Viva and I remembered something that Chico Buarque said during the start of Dilma’s campaign. He said, “I like Dilma’s government. I like this PT government because they don’t speak grossly to the media and softly to the United States”. The mongrel complex has returned. Minister Serra said that Brazil shouldn’t interfere in big countries’ affairs. We have to know our place. We are in the Third World. We are small, and we have to know our place. The people who have to run things are the Americans and the Europeans and we should keep our heads down. I would like to take the moment to say something to Serra and the others who have the mongrel complex in our country. I want to tell you that what I learned in life is that we are not respected because we are rich, we are not respected because we are big. We aren’t respected because we have an atomic bomb or anything else. The United States would be much more respected if instead of being powerful it was generous with the rest of the world, if it would do more for the poor. There are people who learned to lower their heads to those who colonised us over time, to those who colonised us ideologically, politically and economically. I want to tell you that I am the son of an illiterate woman born in the Pernambuco back country. I have a grade school diploma and a mechanics certificate but I learned to walk with my head high in any country in the world, in front of any government official. I learned that we don’t have to be better or worse we have to be equals and I don’t see anyone better than anyone else in our country. I don’t admit that a Brazilian man or woman is inferior to an American or an English man or woman. We have to raise our heads and say “we are Brazilians and we are proud of this and we will never give up, we won’t ever lower our heads and we will make this country a great power”. I’m not going to say “Out Temer”  because it won’t look good coming from me [Yells of ‘Out Temer’]. I just want to say “you are a demagogue and an opportunist. Temer, you know you didn’t act right when you accepted the position of interim president. Let the people return the government to Dilma so that you can wait for the elections in 2018 if you want to be president”. [Applause, chants of ‘Out Temer’]. And to end, I want to tell you that I am a bit annoyed lately. There are people who write that I am ill. I’m not. I’m in better shape today than I was when I was 50.  I tell Marisa that I am 70 with the vitality of a 30 year old, and we’ve been married for 42 years. But I am annoyed because every day I read an article that says “they want to arrest Lula”. “They want to find something on Lula”, “They want someone to testify against Lula”. I am a very patient person. The patience that I have comes from my mother who, many times, didn’t have food to put on the table but would say that on the next day we would eat. And every day I read an article that says my son is the owner of Friboi corporation, me and my kids own an airplane, that Lula has this or that, that PT is a criminal organization and I think that every Petista in this country should open a lawsuit asking them to prove that the PT is a criminal organization [applause]. Apologies to the other parties that are here today, but this party isn’t Lula, isn’t José Dirceu or Genoino, this party is made up of millions and millions of men and women that help every day and nobody, nobody has the right to say that the PT is a criminal organization. I am fed up that every day they say that the money used to finance PT campaigns is dirty money the only thing missing for them to say is that the PSDB’s money is the salt of the earth. I am tired. I respect the justice system- I’ve appreciated the Public Prosecutor’s Office for my entire life, I’ve appreciated the Federal Police for my entire life. I’ve appreciated the auditing courts my entire life, in fact, nobody strengthened them as much as our government did. And we don’t have the right to interfere because they are institutions that can guarantee the good for democracy, but they’ve become tools of the political parties, acting based on political ideology and trying to penalise one political party. I’m sorry comrades but I can’t hold back from saying this.  I hope that one District Attorney or someone from the Attorney’s Office someday can find one Real of embezzlement in my public career in this country. I am still waiting. And I want to say that the most perverse thing in our country is the slanderous collaboration between some sectors of the State’s Attorney’s Office, not the entire institution, and some sectors of the Federal Police, and not the entire institution, with the press.  When I see this collaboration I imagine that they don’t need the justice system. They don’t want to condemn through the legal channels. They want to condemn people through newspaper headlines. And I would like to tell all of them, humbly, that I learned how to walk with my head high in this country. I proved that it is possible to govern this country for the most humble people. I am proud to be the president who put the highest number of poor boys and girls into the university system [applause]. I am proud to say that the greatest social ascension in history was because of us and you. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for the support that you’ve given.  But I want for everyone to know that I don’t forgive the illicit and illegal leaking of my telephone conversations that was done recently. Sincerely speaking I refuse. This was done with the goal of desecrating my image so that I can’t run for president. And I want to tell you that the more that they provoke me the more I want to run for president in 2018. [applause, chants of “Come back Lula”]. I want to tell you that the only thing I ask for is that they show me the respect that I have for them. It’s the only thing I ask for- that they show for me and my family the same respect I give to them. If they think that they are going to scare me with their threats I want to say that if I didn’t die of hunger before the age of 5 I am not afraid of threats from anyone. Thank you very much. One more time, thank you very much. Thank you to the Frente Brazil Popular, thank you to the Frente do Povo Sem Medo, thank you to the other political parties and thank you to the women and men of this country.” – Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, São Paulo, 10/6/2016.

By Brian Mier

Writer, geographer and former development professional who has lived in Brazil for 26 years. Former directorate member of the Fórum Nacional de Reforma Urbana (National Urban Reform Forum). Has lived in São Luis, Recife, Salvador, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. Author of “Os Megaeventos Esportivos na Cidade do Rio de Janeiro e o Direito á Cidade” (CEPR: Porto Alegre. 2016). Editor of "Voices of the Brazilian Left" (Sumare: São Paulo. 2018). Editor of "Year of Lead: Washington, Wall Street and the New Imperialism in Brazil" ((Sumare: São Paulo. 2019) Irregular correspondent for the Chicago radio show This is Hell.