Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva vowed to fight for the poor and the environment as he assumed his third term as Brazil’s president on Sunday.
He also promised to “rebuild the country” after the split administration of far-right leader Jair Bolsonaro.
The 77-year-old left-wing veteran, who previously led Brazil from 2003 to 2010, took the oath before Congress, ending the metalworker’s landmark political comeback, less than five years after he was imprisoned in a controversial case, as – Charges of corruption are dropped.
A sea of red-clad supporters braved the scorching heat to flood Brasilia, cheering Lulu boisterously as he drove through the ultra-modern capital in a black Rolls-Royce convertible, accompanied by First Lady Rosangela “Gianja” da Silva and Vice President Geraldo Alkmin.
Giving a brilliant overview of the last four years of Bolsonaro’s rule, which has flouted the ceremony in a break with tradition, Lula said his government will work to address the legacy of economic recession, growing poverty and cuts in funding for health care, education and science.
“At these terrible ruins, I promise to rebuild the country together with the Brazilian people,” he said, vowing to fight for poor Brazilians, for racial and gender equality, and for zero deforestation in the Amazon rainforest, where destruction soared under Bolsonaro.
The swearing-in began with a moment of silence for Brazilian football legend Pelé and former Pope Benedict XVI, who both passed away a few days ago.
Wearing a blue suit and tie, the charismatic but controversial Lulu was then driven from Congress to the Planalto presidential palace, escorted by dozens of bodyguards.
There, he received the presidential sash from eight citizens chosen to represent the Brazilian people, including a school teacher, a disabled, precocious 10-year-old and a well-known indigenous leader, Raoni Metuktire.
An emotional Lula burst into tears, thanking the Brazilian people for believing in him and vowing to fight for a more just country.
He also extended an olive branch to the many Brazilians who did not vote for him in an election in which he won by a narrow margin of 50.9% to Bolsonaro’s 49.1%.
“I will manage all 215 million Brazilians,” he said.
“There are no two Brazils. We are one country, one people.”
For the first time since the end of Brazil’s military dictatorship of 1965-1985, a new leader did not receive a yellow and green presidential sash from his predecessor.
Bolsonaro, who did not bluntly admit defeat or congratulate Lulu, left Brazil on Friday for the US state of Florida.
The snub did little to dampen the spirit of the party at the New Year’s Eve ceremony, which included a massive concert featuring samba legend Martino da Vila and drag queen Pabllo Vittar.
Red-hatted Lourdiana Araujo called it a “rebirth” moment – both for Brazil and for Lula, who became a political pariah until the Supreme Court overturned his corruption charges in 2021, ruling that the chief judge in the case was biased. .
“For the last four years we have suffered. We are now witnessing a resurgence of democracy,” said the 51-year-old.
The event was attended by dignitaries of foreign states, including 19 heads of state.
Among them were the presidents of a number of Latin American countries, Germany, Portugal and the king of Spain.
French President Emmanuel Macron, who was not present, tweeted a photo of himself with Lula, saying “Order and Progress” – the words that adorn the Brazilian flag.
He added: “Brazil lives up to its motto. Congratulations, dear President, dear friend.”
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken tweeted his congratulations, writing: “To a bright future for our nations and the world.”
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also attended the swearing-in ceremony.
“Attended the swearing-in ceremony for @LulaOfficial, President of Brazil. Conveyed President Erdogan’s congratulations,” Cavusoglu tweeted on Monday, sharing photos of him attending the ceremony.
Security for the ceremony has been exceptionally tight after a Bolsonaro supporter was arrested last week for planting a tanker truck filled with explosives near the capital’s airport.
But no serious incidents were reported.
Bolsonaro’s policy change
Lula immediately set to work with a raft of measures to strengthen the gun control rules Bolsonaro had cut, repeal the ex-president’s environmental protection measures, and revive Amazon’s internationally backed rainforest fund.
Lula faces multiple pressing challenges in Latin America’s largest economy, which bears little resemblance to the commodity-driven dynamo he led in the 2000s.
These include resetting economic growth, curbing rampant deforestation, and pursuing his ambitious agenda to fight poverty and inequality.
Meanwhile, markets are nervously watching Lula fund her promised social spending, given Brazil’s public finances are overstretched.
He will face a Congress dominated by Bolsonaro’s conservative allies.
Meanwhile, according to a poll released on Saturday by the Datafolha Institute, just 51% of Brazilians believe he will do a better job than Bolsonaro.