Lula takes over in Brazil, vows to reverse Bolsonaro catastrophes and protect rainforest
Brazil's President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and his newly-named Minister of Indigenous Peoples Sonia Guajajara. | Eraldo Peres / AP

Brazil’s Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was sworn in as president, again, on Sunday, Jan. 1.

In his first address, the new president, more commonly known as Lula, expressed optimism about plans to rebuild the country while pledging that members of outgoing Jair Bolsonaro’s far-right administration will be held to account.

Lula is assuming office for the third time after defeating incumbent Bolsonaro’s re-election bid following a tight run-off victory on Oct. 30 last year.

“Our message to Brazil is one of hope and reconstruction,” Lula said in a speech in the Lower House of Congress after signing the document that formally gives him the presidency.

“The great edifice of rights, sovereignty, and development that this nation built has been systematically demolished in recent years. To re-erect this edifice, we are going to direct all our efforts.”

The president said he would send a report about the prior administration to all lawmakers and judicial authorities, revoke Bolsonaro’s “criminal decrees” that loosened gun control, and hold the prior administration responsible for its denialism in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We do not carry any spirit of revenge against those who sought to subjugate the nation to their personal and ideological designs, but we are going to ensure the rule of law,” Lula said. “Those who erred will answer for their errors, with broad rights to their defense within the due legal process.”

Bolsonaro did not attend the swearing in ceremony, choosing to fly to the United States and hide out in Miami instead.

In place of Bolsonaro, a group representing diverse segments of society performed the role of presenting Lula with the presidential sash.

For months, Bolsonaro had sown doubts about the reliability of Brazil’s electronic vote and he has never formally conceded defeat. Many of his supporters gathered outside military barracks in the weeks following the elections to plead with the armed forces to prevent Lula from taking office.

In his first act as president on Sunday, he signed a decree to tighten gun control and set a 30-day deadline for the comptroller-general’s office to evaluate Bolsonaro’s decrees that had placed official information under seal for 100 years.

He also signed a decree that guaranteed a monthly stipend for poor families and re-established the Amazon fund for sustainable development in the rainforest.

He named Amazon activist Marina Silva as Minister for Environment and Climate Change. The move indicates that Lula plans to keep his promise made at the United Nations climate conference in Egypt to prioritize cracking down on the illegal deforestation of the world’s largest rainforest.

Silva was environment minister during most of Lula’s previous administration, where she oversaw the creation of dozens of conservation areas and a sophisticated strategy against deforestation, including major operations against environmental criminals and new satellite surveillance. Her leadership saw deforestation levels drop dramatically.

But Lula and Silva fell out during his second term, and she resigned in 2008. “Brazil will return to the protagonist role it previously had when it comes to climate, to biodiversity,” Silva said at COP27.

The policies would be a sharp turn away from Bolsonaro’s administration, which saw deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon region reach a 15-year-high in 2021.

Communist Party leader Luciana Santos has been appointed Minister of Science and Technology. | Pedro Caldas / PCdoB

Lula appointed Luciana Santos, the president of the Communist Party of Brazil and deputy governor of Pernambuco, to become Minister of Science and Technology in the incoming administration.

Santos said that the role was especially important following the Bolsonaro administration’s anti-scientific denial, especially with regards to climate change and the pandemic.

She said the pandemic had exposed the weaknesses of reliance on globalized capitalist supply chains at times of crisis and vowed to ensure “we are a more autonomous country—after all, the great geopolitical dispute in the world is for technological dominance.”

The Communist Party backed Lula for the presidency and has vowed its members of parliament will now “fight alongside [him] for the reconstruction of the country after the Bolsonarist catastrophe.”

Lula also named Sonia Guajajara as Brazil’s first Minister of Indigenous Peoples.

This article features material from Morning Star.