Still in the legal woods and not daring to project as a revolutionary leader, Lula should nonetheless never be underestimated
A surprising Supreme Court decision that, while not definitive, restores Lula’s political rights has hit Brazil like a semiotic bomb and plunged the nation into a reality show being played in a wilderness of shattered mirrors.
At first, it looked like three key variables would remain immutable.
The Brazilian military run the show – and that would not change. They maintain total veto power over whether Lula may run for president for a third term in 2022 – or be neutralized, again, via whatever juridical maneuver might be deemed necessary, at the time of their choosing.
President Bolsonaro – whose popularity was hovering around 44% – would now have free rein to mobilize all strands of the right against Lula, fully supported by the Brazilian ruling class.
Pinochetist Economics Minister Paulo Guedes would continue to have free rein to completely destroy the Brazilian state, industry and society on behalf of the 0.001%.
But then, 48 hours later, came the Lula tour de force: a speech and press conference combo lasting a Proustian three hours – starting with a long thank you list on which, significantly, the first two names were Argentina President Alberto Fernandez and Pope Francis, implying a future Brazil-Argentina strategic axis.
During those three hours, Lula operated a masterful pre-emptive strike. Fully aware he’s still not out of the legal woods, far from it, he could not possibly project himself as a revolutionary leader. In the complex Brazilian matrix, only the evolution of social movements will in the distant future create the political conditions for some possibility of radical revolution.
So Lula opted for the next-best play: he completely changed the narrative by drawing a sharp contrast to the dreadful wasteland presided over by Bolsonaro He emphasized the welfare of Brazilian society; the necessary role of the state, as social provider and development organizer; and the imperative of creating jobs and raising people’s incomes.