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Troubled icon Lula is seeking a comeback in Brazil

#Troubled #icon #Lula #seeking #comeback #Brazil

Charismatic ex-steelworker Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva rose from poverty to become the most popular president in Brazilian history, only to fall spectacularly from grace when he was jailed for corruption.

Now, having wrapped up a life of dramatic tragedy, the 76-year-old leftist icon is seeking his most unlikely turn of events yet: a comeback as president.

Lula, who is due to officially start his campaign on Tuesday, will try to prevent his nemesis, far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, from winning a new term in Brazil’s October election.

Known for his political savvy and folksy touch, Lula left office on January 1, 2011 as a working-class hero who experienced a watershed moment and helped lift tens of millions out of poverty.

But then he became embroiled in a massive corruption scandal that engulfed some of Brazil’s most influential politicians and businessmen.

Lula was controversially jailed in 2018, removing him as a favorite in that year’s presidential race – which Bolsonaro won.

He spent more than 18 months in prison before being released pending appeal.

Then, in March of last year, Brazil’s Supreme Court overturned its convictions, ruling that the lead judge in the case, Sergio Moro, who later became Bolsonaro’s justice minister, was biased.

The verdict hit like a bomb just as Brazil was gearing up for this year’s elections.

Loved and hated with about the same passion in Brazil, Lula has been the number one in opinion polls ever since.

– Fallen Giant –

Lula, Brazil’s first working-class president, enjoyed great popularity during his two terms as a commodity-driven economic boom helped him weather numerous corruption scandals.

Under his government, which blended pioneering welfare programs with pro-market economic policies, some 30 million people have lifted themselves out of poverty in Brazil, where inequality is among the worst in the world.

Lula also made Brazil a key player on the international stage, helping them win the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

Dubbed “the most popular politician in the world” by none other than Barack Obama, he resigned after eight years with 87 percent popularity ratings.

But just as he was settling into the role of senior statesman, he was swept up in “Operation Car Wash,” the sweeping investigation that uncovered a massive corruption web centered on state oil company Petrobras.

Prosecutors struggled to prove their claims that Lula was behind the plan. But he was sentenced to a combined 26 years in prison for accepting a triplex beachfront condo and ranch property renovations as bribes to curtail corporate access to hefty Petrobras contracts.

He has consistently denied the allegations leveled against him and has alleged a conspiracy to marginalize him and his Labor Party (PT).

– From poverty to power –

Lula grew up in abject poverty, the seventh of eight children in an illiterate farming family in the arid northeastern state of Pernambuco.

When he was seven, his family joined a wave of migration to the industrial heartland of Sao Paulo state. Lula worked on the streets as a shoeshine boy and peanut seller before becoming a locksmith at the age of 14.

In the 1960s he lost the little finger of his left hand in an accident at work.

He quickly rose to become the head of his union and in the 1970s was the driving force behind large-scale strikes that challenged the then-ruling military dictatorship.

In 1980 he co-founded the Workers’ Party, which he ran for as president nine years later.

Lula ran unsuccessfully for the presidency three times between 1989 and 1998, each time debunking the establishment notion that a poor, illiterate worker could never lead Brazil.

He did so the fourth time, in 2002, taking office on January 1, 2003, and winning re-election in 2006.

He hopes to repeat that success this year, his sixth presidential campaign.

His wife Marisa Leticia Rocco, married for four decades, died of a stroke in 2017.

In his characteristically husky voice, Lula says he’s now “in love like I’m 20” with Rosangela “Janja” da Silva, a sociologist and Labor Party activist, whom he married in May.

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#Troubled #icon #Lula #seeking #comeback #Brazil

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