Lula’s Victory Likely Means Big Changes For Brazil, While His Specific Plans Are Unclear

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The election of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is a drastic shift back to the left for Brazil after four years of President Jair Bolsonaro’s far-right administration.

While the former leftist leader has vowed to “reestablish harmony” in the country, his specific plans, have been vague. Mr. da Silva’s stump speech revolved around expanding services for the poor, including more social welfare payments, a higher minimum wage and programs to feed and house more people. To pay for it, he said he would raise taxes on the rich but also simply increase government spending.

How much he will be able to implement is unclear. Mr. Bolsonaro’s right-wing party holds the most seats in Congress and a powerful centrist bloc controls both the House and Senate; the country faces worse economic conditions than during Mr. da Silva’s first administration; and the interventionist policies of Mr. da Silva’s handpicked successor as president led Brazil into a recession in 2014 from which it has still not fully recovered, according to the New York Times.

His election, however, will likely be good news for the health of the Amazon rainforest, which is vital to the fight against climate change. Mr. Bolsonaro championed industries that extract the forest’s resources while slashing funds and staffing for the agencies tasked with protecting it. As a result, deforestation soared during his administration.

Mr. da Silva has a much better track record on protecting the forest, reducing deforestation while president. He campaigned on a promise to eradicate illegal mining and logging and said he would push farmers to use areas of the forest that had already been cleared.

Mr. da Silva’s victory was in part thanks to a broad coalition, from communists to centrists, as the Brazilian electorate sought stability after Mr. Bolsonaro’s volatile term, which was marked by clashes with the courts, a pandemic that killed more people than anywhere but the United States, and frequent attacks on the left, the media, academics, health professionals and the nation’s democratic institutions.

Mr. Bolsonaro, 67, has faced a variety of investigations in the Supreme Court and Congress, including for his statements attacking the election system, his handling of the pandemic and his potential involvement in disinformation operations.

So far, he has avoided any consequences from those probes, in part because of his immunity as president. After he leaves office on Jan. 1, those investigations could gain steam.

Mr. Bolsonaro has also had much of his activity as president shielded from government-transparency laws because his administration effectively classified many records for up to 100 years, including his vaccine status.

Mr. da Silva has vowed to declassify those records once president. “When we lift the carpet, you’re going to see the rot underneath,” he said at Friday’s debate.

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