By SILVIO CANTO, JR.
The results from the presidential election in Brazil on Sunday, Oct. 30, show a deeply divided nation. The map of voter breakdowns was reminiscent of that Bush-Kerry map from 2004, when one region voted one way and the other the other way.
As NPR pointed out, “In just three years, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has gone from prisoner to president-elect.”
After being jailed on corruption charges, the left-wing Da Silva engineered a stunning political resurrection on Sunday by winning Brazil’s presidential runoff election — in a nail-biter — over right-wing incumbent President Jair Bolsonaro.
Official returns gave da Silva, who is a former two-term president, 50.8 percent of the vote, compared to 49.2 percent for Bolsonaro. Da Silva will be sworn-in for a four-year term on Jan. 1.
With that, a full 86 percent of Latin American and Caribbean citizens will be under a socialist or communist government, a fact that Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) could not help gloating about in his daily press conference on Monday, Oct. 31.
On Sunday night, I spoke with a friend in Sao Paulo and he confirmed just how divided Brazil is politically today. He accepted the results of the election, but said he wonders what President-elect Lula is going to do next.
Yes, Lula won, but he has no mandate and the regional divide is astonishing. Bolsonaro won the states of Río de Janeiro and Sao Paolo, Brazil’s two financial hubs.
As expected from a candidate of the left, Lula promised to increase the minimum wage and jump-start the economy. But how is he going to accomplish that?
The Brazilian economy was gravely hurt by the covid-19 pandemic, and unlike AMLO, Lula does not enjoy a strong base of support from Congress, sop he will be hard-pressed to get much of his proposed legislation passed.
Also, Lula pledged to protect the Amazon rainforest, but no one is sure of how he will keep that promise and jump-start the economy at the same time.
With limited financial resources, and an inflation rate pushing 9 percent, Lula has a Herculean job ahead.
Personally, I would have voted for Bolsonaro, but I admit that his personality was often his biggest enemy. At the same time, maybe Brazilians will miss his personality when Lula starts governing.
We all wish Brazilians the best, but it will be rough down there for the foreseeable future, as it is in most other Latin American countries these days, especially with the slowdown of the U.S. economy.
Some 120 million people voted this weekend in Brazil, and they had a winner by 7 p.m. Is there, perhaps, a lesson there for the rest of the world?