By Nina de Ayala
Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is known colloquially by many as “Lula”.
Lula’s win is massive - the result is a gleam of hope. Massive for indigenous rights, massive for the protection of the Amazon and absolutely gargantuan for the people of Brazil, electing a leader with a track record of caring for climate, and peoples alike. Finally, we have seen hope in the world of politics.
Brazil’s election was arguably the most pivotal election this century. Why? Well, for many reasons, but first and foremost due to the climate crisis, and what it would have meant for the future of the Amazon, the lungs of our planet, had Jair Bolsonaro survived another term.
Thankfully, the climate conscious of the world let out a sigh of reprieve as the result tipped in favour of Lula on Sunday 30th October 2022. Brazil, like many states is still split politically as can be seen by the incredibly tight result with a 1.8% difference in vote share, with Lula at 50.9% of the vote compared to Bolsonaro at 49.1%.
This stark reality of political division has been particularly poignant over the last decade from Brexit to the US elections. However, if we home in on Latin America, can one be so bold as to say a leftist tide is sinking the politics of the far right, right and centre right, resembling the early 2000s? Yet, a clear difference between the 2020s and 2000s, is of course, the number of crises Latin America, and the rest of the world have experience from economic troubles, devastating effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the ongoing climate crisis.
Honduras, Bolivia, Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, and now Brazil. Arguably, this overthrow of right-wing governments has been torpedoed forward by those intent on addressing such crises, like the climate crisis, which, arguably, transcends national politics.
Whilst many are describing Lula’s victory as one of the most spectacular political comebacks this century, this is not Lula’s first rodeo. In fact, Lula served two successful terms as president from 2003 to 2010, where his government lifted millions of Brazilians out of poverty through building a welfare state. He is also a “working class hero” and a union man.
Pictures of Lula as a young man passionately protesting for justice, heralded alongside fellow Brazilians, shed light on Brazil’s adoration for a man who many can relate to, and are inspired by. He went from metal worker to trade unionist, and eventually, to president.
Along the campaign trail Lula has also pledged to protect the Amazon rainforest, a forest which is not just the lungs of our planet, but home to more than 30 million people, subdivided into nine different national political systems.
Admittedly, while the number of indigenous people living in the Amazon is poorly quantified, according to the Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin (COICA), approximately 9% (2.7 million) of the Amazon’s population is made up of indigenous people – 350 different ethnic groups.
A promise to limit deforestation and a promise to end illegal mining all sounds great, but only time will tell if Lula and the Partido dos Trabalhadores aka “PT” - translated in English as “the Worker’s Party” - can turn such abundant promises into concrete policy and law. But tough political opposition, as well as the difficulty of policing vast areas, and many international states inaction to help could make fulfilling his promises a challenge, analysts say.
Despite this Lula has consistently shown commitment to ending the deforestation of the Amazon. If we rewind to the 2009 Amazon Summit in Copenhagen, a slightly younger Lula, still with the same energy and voracity, offered some home truths to the western world:
“We want to preserve, but they will have to pay the price for this preservation because we never destroyed our forest like they mowed theirs down a century ago”.
Fast-forward, and he is now back at the seat of influence, able to once again take action, and push for climate, and social justice.
Nina de Alaya is a Labour Councillor in Camden, a budding lawyer and environmental advocate. She is campaigning to get 'ecocide' recognised by the ICC.