The first 30 days of Lula's government: resistance of democracy, uncertainty in the economy and ambiguity in foreign policy
At the end of this first month of government, questions and doubts remain, an uncertainty that the market expresses every day with instability
Maria ZuppelloFrom São Paulo, Brazil.
Braz's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva gestures during a meeting with governors, at Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil January 27, 2023. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Barely a month has passed in the government of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, and yet it seems like an eternity given the number of complex events that have taken place and the torrent of declarations that have accompanied them.
The truth is that the true incipit of this new mandate, the January 8 invasion of the palaces of power in Brasilia, showed the world the < b>solidity of Brazilian democracyand the institutions that represent it. The extremist threat was stopped in time and did not spread to the rest of the country. Jair Messias Bolsonaro remained in Florida, he will probably stay in the US until the end of February, or maybe he will never return to Brazil as his son Flávio said. Politically he was not resurrected and perhaps his political career has ended forever.
Meanwhile, the country, after the Christmas holidays, is distracted by the preparations for the imminent Carnival , whose end marks the true beginning of the year in Brazil. Only the press and analysts remain to take stock of the first 30 days of President Lula, now in his third term. Ordinary citizens probably only get a reality check once the Carnival celebrations are over by going to the supermarket or filling the gas tank. And they will understand that the Political pronouncements always affect the national currency and therefore inflation.
At the end of this first month of government, in fact, more than a balance sheet, questions and doubts remain, an uncertainty that the market expresses every day with instability. It is not yet clear what direction, especially economic, Brazil intends to follow, since there have been many contradictory statements that have shaken the stock market more than once. Even a part of the Workers Party, Lula's PT, according to rumors in the Brazilian press, is asking the president to avoid destabilizing statements, especially on the economy.
Lula with his vice president Geraldo Alckmin during a meeting with the governors (REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino)
However, the facts stop there. And the facts show how until now the main promises of the electoral campaign, when they have not been fulfilled, continue to be ignored. In summary, the electoral slogan “the poor in the budget, the rich in the income statement”Up to now it has turned out to be only rhetoric, because the poor and the middle class have taken home little or nothing this month, despite the promises, starting with the increase in the minimum wage, which It will remain at 1,302 reais, that is, 255 dollars, compared to the promised 1,320 reais, about three dollars more. Protesting unions were offered a discussion group to negotiate a solution for the future. Nor has the budget increase been announced so far, unemployed since 2017, for snacks in public schools, which in Brazil often represent the only meal of the day for many poor children, and was one of Lula's workhorses in the last electoral campaign. The same can be said of the resumption of works related to education. According to the Federal Court of Accounts (TCU), Brazil has 3,993 paralyzed and unfinished projects, such as schools and nurseries.
Lula also canceled a planned trip to Bahia to relaunch the housing “My house, my life” that he created in 2009. Most of the houses in the program were in a precarious situation and would need reforms to be delivered. In the electoral campaign, the president had also promised a correction to the income statement to exempt those who earn less than 5,000 reais a month, about $920, and make the richest pay. But for now, apart from some promises from the Minister of Labor, Luiz Marinho, everything continues as before. The reinforcement of the Popular Pharmacy program and the reduction of the queues of the Unified Health System (SUS), about which Lula had attacked Bolsonaro, have not even been announced. Also on the high seas are the tax reforms and the labor reform. Actually, the latter was already done in the government of former president Michel Temer, but the PT wants new legislation “that extends social protection to all forms of employment, occupation and labor relations.” An approach that is likely to create tensions in the coming months with app companies like Uber and their workers. Many have been saved during the pandemic precisely thanks to this autonomous form of work, which has proven to be an opportunity for “economic advancement” even for those without a curriculum vitae, according to what they have told Infobae lots of drivers and food delivery people working with apps.
Regarding tax reform, has now become a kind of wild card that the Minister of Economy, Fernando Haddad, brings out especially when things go wrong and the markets need to be calmed down. But as his last interview last Friday with the daily Valor Econômico demonstrated, the joker does not always save the minister, who sometimes falls into contradictions. On the one hand, Haddad has declared Valor that he wants to prepare an alternative to the spending ceiling so that they can lower the interest rate of the Central Bank, while for another he has pointed to the possibility of higher inflation, as Lula has also mentioned, not without controversy.
Brazilian Economy Minister Fernando Haddad (REUTERS/Agustin Marcarian)
In his first television interview, on January 18, on TV Globo , the president made more than one economist jump out of their chairs, questioning in a few minutes the independence of the Central Bank (a conquest for Brazil since 2019), the current value of the interest rate and the inflation target below 4.5%. Words that, if put into practice, could lead to a war with the Central Bank in the coming months and an economic crisis similar to the one Brazil experienced in the second term of Dilma Rousseff, which ended with her impeachment in 2016.
But 30 days in government is surely too short a time to do it all and also be tried for it. However, given the many uncertainties on the domestic front, Lula has revealed without much doubt in what kind offoreign policy seeks to position Brazil. A ruling by the Federal Justice reactivated in the last few hours the program of Cuban doctors “Más Médicos” and the contracts of some 1,700 Cuban doctors, terminated by the Temer government in 2018. The Havana government's doctor program has also been accused by Human Rights Watchof human rights violations. Instead of increasing the salaries of Brazilian doctors to attract them to difficult areas like the Yanomami, Brazil's strategy now is to use Cuban doctors, who receive 10% of their salary while the 90% goes directly to the dictatorship in Havana.
On Friday Lula also prohibited the shipment of Brazilian munitions to Ukraine, requested by Germany, “so as not to provoke the Russians. On January 13, he authorized the arrival in Rio de Janeiro of two Iranian navy ships, one of which, the Dena, carries Iran's most powerful missiles, with a range of 300 km.
In Argentina, outside the 7th meeting of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), announced that the National Bank for Economic and Social Development (BNDES) would finance risky projects outside of Brazil. Furthermore, instead of distancing itself from cruel dictatorships like Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela, asked for “love” for the island of Fidel Castro and the end of what he called the embargo and not sanctions.
Lula during the CELAC summit in Buenos Aires (REUTERS/Agustin Marcarian)
Regarding Maduro's Venezuela, accused of constantly violating human rights, he limited himself to saying “I ask for the same thing for Brazil as for Venezuela, respect for my sovereignty.” More than “realpolitik”, in short, Lula pursues an agenda that Brazilian journalist Demétrio Magnoli described as “fossil”, in which the president “performed his usual stunts to legitimize tyrannies.” The five-year secret that the new government placed on the list of 3,500 invited to Lula's inauguration also remains a mystery. And although it is a right enshrined in Law 12,527, one wonders who was there to need such a secret.
Finally, there was not a few criticisms aroused by his statements in Buenos Aires, repeated later on his trip to Uruguay about the dismissal of Dilma Rousseff, which Lula described as a “coup”, even stating it on the official website of the presidential palace of Planalto.
However, as Dilma's successor, Temer, also stated, the entire process was carried out with full respect for democratic institutions from Brazil. Lula “despite having won the elections to take charge of the future of Brazil seems to insist on keeping his feet on the stage and his eyes in the rearview mirror, trying to rewrite history with ideological narratives,” Temer wrote on Twitter. “I advise you to govern by looking to the future, defending the truth, practicing harmony and preaching peace,” he added.
It should be remembered that three ministers of the current government voted in favor of impeachment and seven spoke in favour. So who benefits from this government agenda? It certainly does not serve the poor, nor the economy, nor the voters who demand progressivism. Nor does it benefit Lula. Who runs the risk of getting politically burned . In fact, two impeachment petitions have already been filed against him by federal deputies Ubiratan Sanderson, from the Liberal Party, Bolsonaro's PL (which incidentally in 4 years at the Planalto received 152 impeachment petitions) , and Evair de Melo of the Progressive Party (PP), while deputy Kim Kataguiri, of the Unión Brasil party, activated the General Advocacy of Uniao (AGU). All because of Lula's misinformation about Dilma's impeachment.