SAO PAULO – Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva told EFE in an interview that he planned to run for his nation’s highest office once again in 2018 and that a far-right majority in Congress was trying to wreck the country through a privatization drive.
Lula, who was sentenced to nine years in prison in one corruption case earlier this year (though he is free pending appeal) and still faces several other pending trials, said he was still the candidate with the best prospect of winning next year’s elections.
He made that assessment even though he will be barred from competing if an appeals court upholds his initial guilty verdict before the October 2018 balloting.
“The Workers’ Party (PT) won’t drop a candidate with chance a winning and try to create a new candidate. I wish we had dozens of people in the PT ready to be candidates, but within the party they understand that at this time my candidacy is the one that can best help Brazil and working people,” Lula told EFE in Sao Paulo.
The former lathe operator and labor leader, who was head of state from 2003 to 2010, said he hoped to prove his innocence before becoming a candidate but that “it’s not the first time that the most reactionary, right-wing sectors have gone after someone.”
Beyond a possible victory at the polls, Lula acknowledged the need to win back a governing majority in Congress and did not rule out reaching agreements with some centrist and right-wing parties that were instrumental in removing his successor, Dilma Rousseff, via impeachment.
“The alliance is formed based on the election result. You can win an election without forging an alliance with political parties, but you need a majority to be able to govern,” he said.
Lula, who leads all voter-preference surveys, slammed the privatization plan proposed by the administration of President Michel Temer, who took power a year ago after Rousseff was removed from office for violating budget laws.
“Here, instead of making investments and creating jobs and wealth, they’re selling things that aren’t theirs without consulting the people. They built a fascist majority in Congress and they think they can tear Brazil apart,” the ex-president said.
Referring to the impeachment process, Lula said he had not forgiven the politicians who supported the ultimately successful effort to remove Rousseff from office but had a different attitude toward people who protested to demand her ouster.
“Those people who took to the streets, who banged pots and pans, are Brazilian voters we need to respect. Those people aren’t enemies because they were against us at a particular moment. It’s possible to win those people back,” he said.
Lula said he regretted not having secured passage of a tax overhaul while in power and admitted that his government “could have evolved more on social matters,” although he said he would address those pending issues if he returns to office.
At the international level, Lula said that the election of Donald Trump was part of a conservative wave that had swept the world but that progressive democratic sectors were in a strong position to win elections in Latin America once again.
Despite his legal woes, the 72-year-old Lula said he felt very happy about what he had achieved to this point and added that “no one can survive in politics if he’s not able to build friendships and good relations.”