It wasn’t necessarily a good thing.
Rather than flaunt what has always been his greatest political talent – a dazzling oratory – Lula, 76, made unusual gaffes. The politician who has always found a way to get himself out of trouble is now increasingly talking about it.
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In recent weeks, he has insulted the police, who have called the Brazilian elite “slave traffickers” and accused Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky of wanting the war that devastated his country, potentially the most damaging in an election that could be decided by Brazil’s big evangelical vote, and said abortion should be legalized. and treated as a public health issue.
“Everyone should have the right and not be embarrassed: ‘I don’t want to have a child, I will make sure not to have a child,'” Lula said last month in Sao Paulo. “What is not true is that the law requires that she have the child.” As is the case In most of Latin America, abortion is illegal in Brazil, except in cases of rape or when the mother’s life is in danger.
Lola’s comments came at an inopportune time. Recent polls show that it still has a significant lead. But Bolsonaro, 67, whose supporters say Lula’s comments show he represents a “death culture” has gained ground. With the epidemic receding and unemployment declining, Racing can become more competitive.
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Prominent voices across the media have drawn increasing criticism of Lula:
One prominent Brazilian newspaper said: “Lola the Silent is a poet.”
Another added, “He showed himself confused by the global picture.”
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Lula’s campaign did not address questions about the candidate’s recent comments but disagreed that the race was tightening.
“I don’t think Bolsonaro is gaining traction in the polls,” said Jose Crespignano, a Lula spokesman. “Lula proposed to reunite Brazil, including those who oppose him or oppose him and do not like him.”
Lula is widely considered to be among the most talented politicians Brazil has produced. He grew out of extreme poverty in the Northeast to found a national political party that won four presidential elections and helped define leftist politics in Latin America for a generation. With little formal education, he built His career in outsmarting the country’s political elite and giving a voice to millions of Brazilians historically ostracized from power.
But he hasn’t run a presidential campaign in 16 years. From 2018 to 2019, he spent 18 months in prison on corruption charges, before being released for technical reasons and eventually cleared of any wrongdoing. The country he was ruling over is different from what he used to be: more polarized, more digitally connected, and less economically secure.
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And there’s a concern that Lula is different, too, bitter about his time in prison and Revenge of the charges against him.
“He can’t give up on it,” said Alexandre Bandera, a political analyst in Brasilia. “It appears that he wants to use the campaign as another trial to clear himself. His preoccupation with this is a fatal mistake. We need to hear more about the concerns facing the Brazilian people.”
The last time Lula ran a presidential campaign, George W. Bush was still in office. Twitter was not a force in politics. Nor TikTok, WhatsApp, and Telegram. Not every word Lula uttered during the election campaign was recorded on mobile phones and was instantly transmitted to thousands or millions. The risks of saying something harmful were much lower.
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“The question is how fast the learning curve will be,” said Kriomar de Souza, a political analyst and consultant in Brasilia. His party knows how to run a traditional campaign. They know how to build infrastructure and make commercials for television. But do they know how to run a digital campaign and win on social media?
“This would be the biggest difficulty Lola.”
The challenge could be particularly high against Bolsonaro, whose team has mastered the more feisty elements of social media, pumping out viral memes and shocking commentary (and in the process, getting tangled up in the FBI’s alleged fake news). Bolsonaro commands a digital army that he supports with weekly appearances on Facebook Live, combative tweets and frequent updates on Telegram, which has looser controls against disinformation.
“It is clear that Lula’s contact team does not understand electoral dynamics in the context of social media,” said Giuliano Cortinhas, professor of political science at the University of Brasilia. “They’re still adjusting to this new political world, and it’s an adjustment period that brings with it mistakes.”
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In Brazil’s supercharged digital ecosystem, where any word can be amplified and distorted, no wrong move will fade. For this reason, with both Bolsonaro and Lula attempting to co-opt the voices of evangelicals, Lula’s comments on abortion could be particularly harmful. Evangelicals represent about a third of the electorate. Their weight increasingly swings elections.
Esther Solano, a sociologist at the Federal University of São Paulo, said social issues are some of the most important for them. She polled evangelical voters and found cause for concern among Lula’s supporters.
“This part of the population is looking for security – physical, economic, jobs and income – but it is also looking for moral security, and the issue of abortion is central to this,” she said.
Bolsonaro has made abortion a key component of his re-election strategy. So, when Colombia this year decriminalized the procedure for the first 24 weeks of pregnancy, Bolsonaro saw an opening. We will not let legalization happen in Brazil, he said. “I will fight to the end to protect the lives of the children,” he said.
Lula seems to understand the importance of this issue. He quickly retracted his comments, saying that he was personally against abortion.
“He talks more about family issues,” Solano said. “Abortion is an issue that may, in fact, cost him the election.”