RIO DE JANEIRO — In 2019, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was spending 23 hours a day in a separate cell equipped with a treadmill in a federal prison.
Brazil’s former president was sentenced to 22 years in prison on corruption charges, a sentence that appeared to end the storied career of the man who was once a lion of the Latin American left.
Now, released from prison, Mr. Lula is once again Brazil’s president, a political revival that once seemed unimaginable.
Mr. Lula, 76, a fiery leftist whose corruption convictions were overturned by Brazil’s Supreme Court after ruling judges in his cases were biased, defeated right-wing nationalist incumbent President Jair Bolsonaro, 67, and took office on Jan. 1. was inaugurated. ,
The victory completed a remarkable journey for Mr Lula, whom former President Barack Obama once called “the most popular politician on earth”.
When he left office in 2011 after two terms, Mr. Lula’s approval rating topped 80 percent. But then he became the focus of a wide-ranging investigation into government bribery, which led to the arrest and jailing of nearly 300 people.
Today, with a mandate to undo Mr Bolsonaro’s legacy, the former union leader is back at the helm of Latin America’s largest nation, with 217 million people.
How did they try to destroy Lula? I spent 580 days in prison because they didn’t want me to run,” Mr. Lula told a crowd of supporters during his campaign, his famously hoarse voice hoarse with age. “And I lay there quietly, preparing myself for 27 years like Mandela.”
Mr. Lula’s return to the presidency cemented his position as the most influential figure in Brazil’s modern democracy. A former metalworker with a fifth-grade education and the son of illiterate agricultural workers, he has been a political force for decades, leading a transformative shift in Brazilian politics away from conservative principles and toward leftist ideals and the interests of the working class. have been
The leftist Workers’ Party he co-founded in 1980 has won four of eight presidential elections since the end of Brazil’s military dictatorship in 1988.
As president from 2003 to 2010, Mr. Lula’s administration helped lift 20 million Brazilians out of poverty, revitalized the country’s oil industry and advanced Brazil onto the world stage, including hosting the World Cup and the Summer Olympics. Hosting included.
But this allowed a huge bribery scheme to spread throughout the government, with several of his Workers’ Party colleagues being convicted of bribery. While the courts dismissed Mr. Lula’s two convictions for accepting a condo and renovations from construction companies bidding on government contracts, they did not confirm his innocence.
Mr. Lula has long said that the allegations were false.
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