leftist victory

Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is elected president of Brazil

Lula is the first Brazilian ex-president to be elected for a new term: remember his political trajectory

Translated by: Zoe PC, with Peoples Dispatch e Flávia Chacon

Brasil de fato | São Paulo (SP) |
Lula being carried by the people after his speech in front of the Metalworkers Union in São Bernardo - SP (2019) - Foto: Reprodução

Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is the first former Brazilian president to be elected to serve a new term in office. At 7:57pm, the PT candidate had 59.563.912 votes and could no longer be reached by his opponent, the current occupant of the Planalto Jair Bolsonaro (PL), consolidating the victory.

It was not an easy path. Neither for him, nor for Brazilian democracy. After a judicial conviction in proceedings riddled with illegalities and conducted by a judge considered suspect by the Supreme Court (STF), Lula spent 580 days in prison and was prevented from running for the 2018 elections, when he was leading the pre-candidacy polls.

After becoming eligible to participate through a Court decision in April 2021, the former president began his journey to return to the Presidency of the Republic at a time in history when the country's very democratic institutions were at risk.

 "There is a fantastic phrase by Paulo Freire, which I used to show the PT militants about the alliance with Alckmin: from time to time we need to be together with the divergent to combat the antagonistic. And now we need to overcome the antagonism of fascism, of the ultra-right," said Lula during the National Journal's interview, held on August 25. 

And the PT candidate put this in practice. To make his victory possible and also to ensure stability in the more than troubled political scenario, Lula put as his vice-president the former governor of São Paulo and one of the founders of PSDB, Geraldo Alckmin, today in PSB, drawing a line between what can be defined as adversary and enemy. 

At the same time that he opened even more dialogue with the popular movements, excluded from any possibility of participating in the elaboration of public policies at the federal level since the overthrow of Dilma Rousseff. He sought dialogue with sectors of society not historically allied to PT. Recall the most important moments in Lula's trajectory up to the election for his third term

First round of voting

In the first round, held on October 2, Lula won 57.2 million votes, which corresponds to 48.43% of the electorate. Bolsonaro was the first candidate for re-election not to lead the vote in the first round.  Since then, the PT campaign has worked to close support among former presidents, other candidates and governors.

Second Round

The third-place candidate in the first round, MDB candidate Simone Tebet, confirmed her support for Lula a few days later. In a statement broadcast on social networks, Tebet read the document she called "Manifesto to the Brazilian People". Citing the nearly 5 million votes she received in the first round, she said she is "not authorized to abandon the streets and squares until the voter's sovereign decision is realized". 

:: Simone Tebet confirma apoio a Lula no segundo turno contra Bolsonaro ::

The fourth place candidate, Ciro Gomes (PDT), did not explicitly support Lula, but followed the decision of his party, which positioned itself for Lula's return to the Planalto. Unlike Tebet, Ciro Gomes did not participate in any of Lula's campaign events.

Simone Tebet and Lula / Reproduction/Twitter - Ricardo Stuckert

Soon after, former president Fernando Henrique Cardoso (PSDB), who ran the country from 1995 to 2003, joined Tebet. In his announcement, FHC declared his support "for a history of struggle for democracy and social inclusion".

FHC posta fotos com Lula e declara apoio ao ex-presidente: "Por uma história de luta"

Between the first and second rounds, voters also watched the presidential debates, which were marked by misinformation and attacks.  

Jair Bolsonaro (PL) made the discussion impossible in the first block of the TV Globo debate, on Friday night (28). Nervous, Bolsonaro tried to force the version that would strengthen the minimum wage, contrary to the information given by his Minister of Economy, Paulo Guedes, who foresaw the deindexation of the benefit from inflation. For much of the debate, Bolsonaro insisted on the theme. 

Leia mais: Guedes planeja proposta que desvincula reajuste do salário mínimo pela inflação

"It seems that my opponent is decompensated. Because he is a one-note samba. I'm saying that President Bolsonaro is the liar who lied 6,498 times during his term, and that only in the television programs we got 60 rights of answers for the lies he tells. That's it," affirmed Lula in reaction.

In another debate, on TV Bandeirantes, Bolsonaro tried to stick to Lula an alleged connection with Marcola, leader of the PCC (First Command of the Capital). The petista, however, reacted: "The candidate knows that who takes care of organized crime is not me. Who has a relationship with militiamen and organized crime, he knows that it is not me, and he knows who has. He even knows that it was organized crime that killed Marielle in Rio de Janeiro. If I had asked for a transfer, we would have done it because I was the one who did the maximum security prison. Five prisons," he affirmed.

In addition to the official campaign acts, which included debates, rallies, and party meetings, the period was also marked by fights between activists. The most recent and that which gained the most repercussion involved the Bolsonarists Roberto Jefferson, former president of the PTB, and federal deputy Carla Zambelli (PT-SP).  

Roberto Jefferson was arrested after attacking Federal Police agents with guns and grenades who went to carry out a court order to arrest the politician in the municipality of Comendador Levy Gasparian, in the interior of Rio de Janeiro, on October 23. 

Jefferson refused to surrender and the negotiations for his surrender lasted more than eight hours and included the presence of the defeated PTB candidate for the presidency of the Republic, Father Kelmon. 

:: Roberto Jefferson attacks Federal Police with gunfire and grenade and leaves agents wounded ::

In addition to the arrest ordered by the STF, Roberto Jefferson also had a new arrest in the act determined by Justice Alexandre de Moraes, on suspicion of attempted murder of two federal police officers as a reaction to the previous arrest order. In the episode, two policemen were injured by shrapnel from grenades thrown by the former deputy against the agents. 

Zambelli, in turn, chased a black man at gunpoint in central São Paulo this Saturday (29). In a video circulating on social networks, the congresswoman appears with a gun in hand, running after a man hiding in a snack bar. Supported by advisors, Zambelli enters the place and orders: "Lie down on the floor.

:: Carla Zambelli pulls a gun on the street in SP and may answer for threat and illegal restraint ::

Zambelli also purposefully disregarded Superior Electoral Court (TSE) Resolution 23.669/2021, which prohibits the carrying of weapons 24 hours before elections. "Consciously I was ignoring the resolution and I will continue to ignore the resolution of Mr. Alexandre de Moraes, because he is not a legislator, he is a member of the STF, he cannot make law, this is judicial activism," said Zambelli.

Recall the most important moments in Lula's trajectory until his third term in office:

:: Lula's coercive conduct was a 'confession of fear' from his persecutors ::

Under ostensible coverage by all the commercial media, Lula was taken to Congonhas Airport, with the apparent aim of being transported to Curitiba on Moro's orders. The spectacle planned by the ex-judge did not come to pass, and Lula gave his testimony for about three hours at the PF office at the airport itself.

He was followed by hundreds of PT militants and popular movements that surrounded the airport to support the former president. Afterwards, at the PT headquarters in São Paulo, he gave a statement broadcasted exclusively by TVT. In his speech, he criticized the "media spectacle" made around the fact and uttered a sentence that, if it sounded historical at the time, today sounds prophetic: "If they tried to kill the jararaca, they didn't hit its head, they hit its tail. The jararaca is alive, as it has always been.


Chosen by Lula to succeed him in the Palácio do Planalto, Dilma Rousseff was elected in her first election, in 2010, with more than 12 million votes ahead of José Serra (PSDB) in the second round. The initial popularity of the president (and of petism in the government) plummeted after the wave of protests of 2013. She still managed to get reelected, in a tight race against Aécio Neves (PSDB), but, in practice, she was unable to govern. The request for a vote recount made by the Toucans after the election gave the tone of what would be Dilma's second term.  

In view of the turbulent scenario, especially after 2013, Lula was even considered as a possible candidate to return to the Planalto, but he remained loyal to the former minister and then president. In an interview with journalist Kennedy Alencar in 2019 he stated that "it may have been my mistake, but it was a mistake in respect of Dilma's right. There were many people who wanted me to be a candidate, and I would say the following: she is the president, she has the right to be a candidate." "It would be very difficult for me to go to Dilma, to the Planalto Palace, to the president's desk, and say 'presidenta, leave because it is my turn now'. Do you think I would do that? Never."

With the advance of the impeachment movement, Lula tried to use his political skill to maintain his ally's mandate. He fought as hard as he could, but his efforts were in vain. The downcast and tearful countenance and the crestfallen posture of the former president drew attention while Rousseff was making a speech as she left the Palácio do Planalto in May 2016, after the Senate vote that confirmed the removal (provisional, at that time). Recognized since the beginning of his political career for his haughty posture, his hoarse voice and his protagonism, Lula presented himself showing fragility and fatigue. Sad, he told reporters at the end of his speech: "now I'm going home.

No impeachment de Dilma Rousseff, Lula apresentou em público sinais de cansaço e desânimo / Antonio Augusto/Camara dos Deputados

Months later, when she was removed permanently, Dilma said she was facing the second coup of her life. "The first, the military coup, supported by the truculence of weapons, repression and torture, hit me when I was a young militant. The second, the parliamentary coup unleashed today through a legal sham, knocks me out of the office to which I was elected by the people." 

In an interview, Lula corroborated. "An eventual majority came together to remove President Dilma from the Presidency of the Republic. A majority in the Senate and a majority in the House decided to remove the president. Which is an absurdity." "What is happening in Brazil is so serious that, even though the 81 senators know that President Dilma did not commit any crime against the Constitution, they decided to remove her politically out of self-interest," he added. 

From then on, he recovered the posture that marked his public life and faced, with open chest and eye to eye, the challenges that were placed before him. 

Depositions to Moro

In May and September 2017, Lula gave depositions to the then judge Sergio Moro, as part of the Lava Jato operation.  

In the first, Lula questioned the processes he was suffering: "As I consider this illegitimate process and the accusation a farce, I am here in respect for the law, for the Constitution, but with many reservations for the Lava Jato prosecutors.  

On several occasions, the former president and Moro held harsh dialogues. Lula accused the operation of making a task force to get statements that would incriminate him. "[May] was the month in which you worked, especially the prosecutor's office, to bring everyone to say a password called Lula. If it didn't say Lula, it didn't count." 

Another point of emphasis was the complaint that the PF seized even the tablets of Lula's grandson. "By the way, I'd like to take advantage, since you mentioned this coercion, to determine that the Federal Police return the iPads of my grandchildren. It's a shame, the iPad of a 5 year old grandson has been in the possession of the Federal Police since March of last year," protested Lula. 

But central to the clash was the use of a PowerPoint presentation given by Deltan Dallagnol at a press conference, which blamed Lula for being the "maximum commander of the corruption scheme identified in the Lava Jato. "By the way, Dr. Dallagnol is not here, to explain that famous PowerPoint. That is a bucket, it fits everything." 

The second deposition took place in September of the same year, after his conviction in the case of the OAS construction company's triplex in Guarujá. The former president's defense argues that the sentence was not based on evidence. 

Lula deposed in person to the then Judge Sergio Moro in the process related to the Guarujá tríplex / Reproduction/YouTube

Lula said that the prosecution "I'm going to get home tomorrow and have lunch with eight grandchildren, and a six-month-old great-granddaughter. Can I look my children in the face and say that I came to Curitiba to give testimony to an impartial judge?". Moro replied, "It is not for you to ask that kind of questioning, but in any case, yes."


But it still wouldn't be the last blow that the jararaca would receive in its ordeal through the Brazilian judicial system, which gathers many remarkable moments. 

One of them happened on September 20, 2016, when the then federal prosecutor and coordinator of the Lava Jato Task Force Deltan Dalagnol officially filed the indictment against Lula for passive corruption and money laundering when he received undue advantages from the OAS contractor. According to the complaint, based on flimsy evidence and uncorroborated testimony, the former president's prize for facilitating the life of the contractor would have been a triplex apartment in the Solaris building in Guarujá, São Paulo coast. 

Not to escape the trend of Lava Jato operation by theatrics, Dalagnol displayed a PowerPoint piece in which he described Lula as "top commander" and "biggest beneficiary" of the corruption schemes investigated by Lava Jato. 

Sergio Moro accepted the accusation, and on July 12, 2017, Sergio Moro sentenced Lula to nine years and six months in prison for the crimes of passive corruption and money laundering in the criminal case involving a triplex in Guarujá.

Read more: Especial: Lula's conviction at TRF4 and the skeletons in Lava Jato's closet 

The indictment was later confirmed in second instance by the Federal Regional Court of the 4th Region (TRF4), in a session on January 24. The trial, which was supposed to be a possibility to evaluate the abuses of Moro's decision, proved early on to be a mere formality. 

On August 6, 2017, less than a month after the release of the sentence in the first degree, the then president of the TRF-4, in an interview with Folha de S. Paulo, classified the piece written by Moro as "irreproachable." "He made a meticulous and irreproachable examination of the evidence in the records and will go down in the history of Brazil." 

The unanimous vote by the 8th Panel resulted in an increase in the sentence handed down by the 13th Federal Court of Curitiba: from nine and a half years to 12 years and one month in prison. 

"I arrived at the court expecting to see a fair trial, but soon saw the prosecutor sitting with the judges, having coffee, chatting, having lunch together. It was unbelievable," said at the time Australian lawyer Geoffrey Robertson, who was acting in the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations (UN) and who followed the second instance trial at the request of Lula's defense. 


Lula had his arrest decreed by then first instance judge Sergio Moro on Thursday, April 5, 2018.  

There was great expectation in the militancy regarding Lula's decision on whether or not to abide by the decision. On Saturday, April 7, in São Bernardo do Campo (SP), at the headquarters of the Sindicato dos Metalúrgicos do ABC, the place where he began his political career in the 1970s, the former president made a historic speech to thousands of supporters on a vigil, and announced that he would surrender to the Federal Police in Curitiba. 

Remember: Read Lula's historic speech in São Bernardo 

"I told my comrades: if it depended on my will I wouldn't go, but I will go because they are going to say, starting tomorrow, that Lula is on the run, that Lula is hiding, and no! I'm not hiding, I'm going there in their beard for them to know that I'm not afraid, that I'm not going to run, and for them to know that I'm going to prove my innocence. 

During the speech, which lasted almost an hour, the petista again denounced the judicial persecution headed by Sérgio Moro.  

"I think that both the TRF4, as well as Moro, the Lava Jato and Globo, they have a consumption dream. The consumption dream is that, first, the coup did not end with Dilma. The coup will only conclude when they manage to convince that Lula cannot be a candidate for the presidency of the republic in 2018." 

The former president sought to motivate the militancy for the period of resistance that was announced, and ended the speech carried by the crowd present.

Lula gathered thousands of people at the Metalworkers Union of the ABC  / Brasil de Fato / Julia Dolce

"I am no longer a human being, I am an idea. Everyone will become Lula and walk around this country. The death of a fighter does not stop a revolution. It's no use thinking that everything will stop. My heart will beat in your hearts and in the hearts of millions of Brazilians.

Attempt to run for office

Even with the conviction, the Workers' Party confirmed Lula's candidacy for the presidency of the Republic on August 4, 2018. The announcement was made by the party's president, Gleisi Hoffmann (PT-PR), after the party's National Convention in São Paulo. 

"This is the most confrontational action we take against this rotten system by Justice, which does nothing but persecute Lula," said the parliamentarian.

Read more: At the National Convention, PT confirms Lula's candidacy and postpones the vice-presidential decision 

On the 15th of that month, the party officially registered its candidacy with the Superior Electoral Court (TSE) in Brasilia. The act was accompanied by a march of activists to the courthouse, in an act for Lula's freedom. 

On the 17th, the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Committee asked Brazil to guarantee Lula the right to exercise his political rights while in prison, including access to his party members and the media and participation in the presidential election. 

The PT's insistence was approved by the electorate. Even in prison, a Datafolha survey released on August 22 of that year showed the former president with 39% of the vote, leading the race for the Palácio do Planalto. Bolsonaro was already in second place with 19%. Without Lula, the current president was ahead with 22%. 

Even so, the rapporteur of the candidacy registration at the TSE, Minister Luís Roberto Barroso went against the jurisprudence established by the court itself and denied Lula's candidacy, being followed by five other ministers on September 1, 2018.


Lula left prison on November 8, 2019, exactly 580 days after being arrested.  

The then ex-president benefited from a decision made one day earlier by the Supreme Court (STF) and which defined that no one should start serving time until the processing of his case is definitively closed. Until then, the Court's jurisprudence determined the imprisonment of those convicted in trials in the second instance of Justice. This understanding had been formed during Operation Lava Jato and, based on it, Lula had his imprisonment ordered while he was still appealing the sentences imposed by the then federal judge Sergio Moro.

The former president spoke to members of the vigil that has accompanied him outside the prison for 580 days / José Eduardo Bernardes/Brasil de Fato

At the time of the trial in the STF on second instance arrests, the expectation for Lula's release was already great. Vaza Jato reports, produced by The Intercept Brasil and partner outlets, showed illegal collusion by Moro and Lava Jato prosecutors against the former president. As soon as the STF concluded its session on the evening of the 7th, members of social movements caravanned to Curitiba and joined the Vigília Lula Livre demanding Lula's release. 

On the morning of the 8th, Lula's lawyers filed an appeal with the Federal Court of Paraná asking for his release based on the STF decision. While a decision was pending, thousands of people organized in front of the headquarters of the Federal Police (PF) in Curitiba already hoping that he would finally leave the place free. 

This occurred around 5:30 pm. Released by the Paraná Court, the same court that ordered his arrest, Lula walked out of the Federal Police accompanied by his lawyers, the national president of the PT, Gleisi Hoffmann (PR), his future wife Rosângela da Silva, Janja, and other politicians. Outside the Federal Police, journalists from all over the world were recording the moment. Militants organized a human corridor for Lula to walk a few meters to reach the vigil. 

There, a stage was waiting for him for his first speech since his arrest. He thanked those who supported him while he was in prison. He criticized Moro and Deltan Dallagnol, who in these elections were candidates and definitively assumed their political interests. He also announced that from that moment on he would travel the country opposing the government of Jair Bolsonaro (PL).


On November 8, 2019, upon leaving prison, Lula's first act was a statement in front of the Federal Police headquarters in Curitiba, to the group of supporters who maintained, for 580 days, the Vigilia Lula Livre 

"You don't know the meaning of my being here with you. I have spent my whole life talking to the Brazilian people, and I didn't think that one day I would be here talking to men and women who for 580 days shouted 'good morning, Lula', 'good night, Lula', no matter if it was raining, 40 degrees, zero degrees. Every single day you were the food for democracy that I needed to resist," he said. 

A mood of great expectation at the Free Lula Vigil in Curitiba / Igor Carvalho

The camp started on April 7, 2018, on Rua Professora Sandália Monzon, in the Santa Cândida neighborhood of the city of Paraná. 

The recognition exposed by Lula in his statement was no exaggeration. Besides all the climatic adversity that the Vigil faced for almost two years, there were many actions that tried to demobilize and expel the militants.  

There were cases of shots being fired against the Vigil, attempts to expel the camp from the site, attempts to cut off the water supply, besides several kinds of verbal attacks. 

MST leader Roberto Baggio, one of the main figures of the mobilization, summed up what the beginning of the encampment was like  

"We had the whole state apparatus, white bourgeoisie coup plotters on the other side. On the 7th we had the first battle, we were extremely violent, with bombs, gas, shots. After two hours of violence and massacre, we erected the Vigília Lula Livre in a collective decision, an oath of faith and politics that created this space." 

All this effort was compensated by the recognition that Lula emphasized in his very first speech after his release and in several other speeches to come. Even during the 2022 election campaign, Lula made a point of remembering the mobilization and thanked the uninterrupted permanence of the supporters.

Annulment of the convictions

On April 15, 2021, the plenary of the Federal Supreme Court (STF) decided, by 8 votes to 3, to uphold the decision of Minister Edson Fachin in Habeas Corpus (HC) 193.726, which recognized the lack of jurisdiction of the 13th Federal Court of Curitiba (PR) to judge the criminal actions of Operation Lava Jato against former President Lula (PT).

With this, the PT president kept his political rights and the possibility of running for president in 2022. The lawsuits that were in Paraná were sent to Brasilia (DF).

Edited by: Nicolau Soares, Thalita Pires, Flávia Chacon, Rodrigo Chagas e Glauco Faria