Lula voters nostalgic for social gains in Brazil

Lula voters nostalgic for social gains in Brazil

Historian Jonathan Raymundo, supporter of Brazilian presidential candidate Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, says he is fed up with President Jair Bolsonaro's Brazil
Historian Jonathan Raymundo, supporter of Brazilian presidential candidate Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, says he is fed up with President Jair Bolsonaro's Brazil. Photo: ANDRE BORGES / AFP
Source: AFP

Former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's social programs helped lift tens of millions of people from poverty and chip away at deep-rooted inequality and discrimination in Brazil -- gains supporters hope will now resume.

AFP spoke to Lula voters about the October 2 election pitting the leftist ex-president (2003-2010) against far-right incumbent Jair Bolsonaro.

Fed-up producer

Writer, producer and cultural commentator Jonathan Raymundo, 33, is fed up with Bolsonaro's Brazil.

"I can't take it anymore. Violence against women, blacks and the LGTB+ community has reached alarming levels in this country. We need love, affection, happiness... and Bolsonaro is the opposite of that," says Raymundo, a black history and philosophy teacher with bright pink hair.

Raymundo is the founder of an Afro-Brazilian cultural festival in Rio de Janeiro, "Wakanda in Madureira," inspired by the fictional kingdom of the Black Panther superhero.

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Explaining his outrage, he cites some of Bolsonaro's most controversial remarks: saying a woman was "not worth raping" because she was "too ugly;" talking about weighing black people in "arrobas," a unit of measurement used for animals and, in centuries past, for slaves; saying he could not do anything about Brazil's soaring Covid-19 deaths because he was "not a gravedigger."

Raymundo is nostalgic for the "fundamental advances" for historically disadvantaged groups under Lula and his Workers' Party (PT), he says.

"Brazil is at a crossroads, with the chance to transform itself into a great country. But that will only happen if it knows how to include its racial diversity in the spheres of power," he says.

Raymundo wants to see a new generation of leaders emerge, but "for now, there's no alternative," he says.

"We need Lula as president again."

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Teacher activist

Messias Figueiredo, 56, is a well-known figure at left-wing protests -- instantly recognizable with his rectangular glasses and an ever-present red boom box emblazoned with Brazilian former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's picture
Messias Figueiredo, 56, is a well-known figure at left-wing protests -- instantly recognizable with his rectangular glasses and an ever-present red boom box emblazoned with Brazilian former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's picture. Photo: Rafael Martins / AFP
Source: AFP

In the northeastern city of Salvador, computer science teacher Messias Figueiredo, 56, is a well-known figure at left-wing protests -- instantly recognizable with his rectangular glasses and an ever-present red boom box emblazoned with Lula's picture.

"It's an instrument of peaceful political struggle," says Figueiredo, who blasts campaign jingles and pro-Lula commentary from his sound system as he marches.

"He enabled millions of Brazilians to escape poverty. He led the best government in this country's history."

Above all, he loves Lula because he, too, is from the impoverished northeast, "a region that has always lagged behind the rest of the country," he says.

He praises the former president for bringing investment to the region, opening universities there and launching construction of a massive canal to bring water from the Sao Francisco river to the semi-arid Sertao region.

"We can't take this fascist, genocidal, inhuman government anymore," he says through his loudspeaker, accusing Bolsonaro of "decimating" the environment and "massacring" Brazil's indigenous peoples.

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Grateful union leader

Aline Xavier, plans to vote for Brazilian former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in upcoming elections, crediting his policies with helping her get an education and make a career for herself, despite being from the poor suburbs of Sao Paulo
Aline Xavier, plans to vote for Brazilian former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in upcoming elections, crediting his policies with helping her get an education and make a career for herself, despite being from the poor suburbs of Sao Paulo. Photo: FLORENCE GOISNARD / AFP
Source: AFP

Public health worker and union leader Aline Xavier, 33, credits Lula with helping her "beat the statistics," get an education and make a career for herself, despite being a black woman from the poor suburbs of Sao Paulo.

The PT "opened the door for me to have a voice... and not be excluded because I was a woman and black," she says.

Xavier, head of a municipal employees' union, believes in "everything Lula does," she says.

A graduate of a public school that opened under the PT, she disdains the Bolsonaro administration for its "neoliberal policies, attacks on workers' rights and intolerance for minorities."

Lula, she hopes, will restore "a government that goes into marginal areas, that gives opportunities to blacks, to working and single moms, that recognizes you can't have meritocracy if you don't have equality."

"Lula is the only one who can get our country back," she says.

Source: AFP

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