Lula da Silva: Brazil’s former President leaves door open for return as he slams leaders’ pandemic response

In an exclusive interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, the former leader, often referred to as Lula, said the world is “lacking leadership.”

“The United Nations should have already called for an extraordinary general assembly, a virtual assembly, to discuss Covid 19,” he told Amanpour, speaking from Sao Paulo, Brazil.

“Rulers are not acting like rulers,” he added. “Everyone is thinking by themselves.”

Da Silva also said that the G20 should make coronavirus vaccines immediately accessible across the world, and allow poorer countries to pay for them at a later date. “People, regardless of the amount of money that the country may have…could receive the vaccines… we would pay back [for] that vaccine after we end with the virus, after we win that war.”

‘I will not deny that invitation’

In his first one-on-one interview since a judge last week annulled da Silva’s criminal convictions — effectively restoring his right to run for office — the energetic ex-President gave the most telling signal yet that he might run for office again, telling Amanpour that he would not “deny” an invitation to the 2022 presidential race.

“When it comes to the moment to run for the elections, and if my party and the other allied parties understand that I could be the candidate, and if I’m well in my health, with the energy and power that I have today, I can reassure you that I will not deny that invitation,” the 75-year-old said.

He also said he was inspired by Joe Biden’s successful presidential campaign. “When I saw Biden being elected, I thought, he’s 77! I’m still 75 and I say every day that I have 75 years of age, but the energy and power of 30.”

Elected President in 2002 as the Workers’ Party candidate, da Silva stayed in power until 2013, when his chosen successor Dilma Rousseff became the country’s first female president. An attempted comeback in 2018 was quashed after the country’s “Car Wash” investigation culminated in his convictions for corruption and money laundering, which he has denied.
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Da Silva was released from prison in 2019. Ruling to annul his convictions last week, Supreme Court Justice Edson Fachin said the Curitiba city court that convicted him had acted outside its jurisdiction. Fachin ordered a retrial in the Federal Court of Brasilia.

In his interview with Amanpour, Da Silva called his case “the greatest judicial farce in the history of 500 years of Brazil.” He would have “no issue” with being tried or judged again, he added. “There’s only one Brazilian that in this moment wants to know the truth and only the truth: It’s me.”

If the leftist former leader is still in the clear come October 2022, he’ll be free to challenge rightwing incumbent President Jair Bolsonaro at the ballot box.
Former Brazilian President Lula attacks Bolsonaro as his path to a political comeback clears

Whoever runs, the former president said the pandemic-stricken country could not continue with Bolsonaro at the helm. “We need to call to elect, or re-elect, someone that has the mindset that is different from Bolsonaro.”

Bolsonaro has been widely criticized for his handling of the pandemic, as Brazil faces a devastating resurgence of the coronavirus. One of the worst hit countries in the world, Brazil reported 2,648 additional deaths and 90,303 new Covid-19 cases on Wednesday — the highest daily case increase since the pandemic began.

Da Silva savaged the efforts of the current administration to contain the outbreak, saying “there is no control in Brazil.” He described lockdowns as “necessary” — something that Bolsonaro has frequently rejected — and unfavorably compared the country’s current coronavirus strategy to that of former US President Donald Trump, saying “here in Brazil and also in the US with President Trump, the lack of responsibility was tremendous.”

“[Bolsonaro] prefers to wake up at 4 o’clock in the morning, tell his lies through his mobile phone, through the social media, and we have been producing fake news as we’ve never seen in the history of Brazil, and he’s not dealing seriously,” da Silva said.

Da Silva also said Bolsonaro should have “put aside money for health care and a part of our budget to fund small and medium sized enterprises, and part of the money to investments in infrastructure works that could create jobs”

Brazil's Covid-19 resurgence is pushing hospitals to overflowing

Bolsonaro has previously accused da Silva’s criticism of being politically motivated, and defended his management of the coronavirus pandemic, saying that local officials were empowered to take necessary containment measures and that he was acting in citizens’ economic interests.

As CNN has reported, some members of the Brazilian public have failed to embrace social distancing measures, following an example set by the current President. In a message for Brazilians, da Silva implored them to stay at home “for the sake of humanity and of the nation.”

“We cannot allow that a citizen… thinks that he has the right to go out without masks to the streets, to go to gatherings and party without taking [into] account that he can go back at home, too, with the virus and transmit it to the mother, father and grandmother.”

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