Lula, president awaited on all fronts

Special correspondence.

Since the pandemic, it has become a ritual. Every day, at the end of the morning, Eliane leaves her house with her four youngest children. She walks the dirt streets of the Suburbio Ferroviário district, a favela in Salvador de Bahia, in northeastern Brazil, where she has lived for more than twenty years. Head to the premises of a charity that distributes “quentinhas” to precarious families, hot dishes made of rice, beans and meat. « These dishes are reserved for children up to the age of 10, » explains this forty-year-old. I thought after the Covid, I wouldn’t have to come here anymore. But the economic situation is still just as difficult. My husband and I have a lot of problems finding work. As we have twelve children and the older ones are unemployed, we often sleep without dinner. That’s why I voted for Lula. He already showed he could fight hunger when he was president, I hope he will do it again. »

Elected as head of Brazil on October 30 with 50.90% of the vote against outgoing Jair Bolsonaro, Lula will not have it easy. He will have to recover a country still marked by the economic and social consequences of the pandemic, where, according to a recent study by the Brazilian Research Network on Food Sovereignty and Food Security, more than 33 million people suffer from hunger and 125 million are in food insecurity. “When I finish this mandate, explained Lula several times during the campaign, if every Brazilian has enough to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner again, I will have accomplished my life’s mission. » As in 2003, Lula will be able to rely on the payment of the family grant (110 euros per month).

In order for Brazilians to be able to eat their fill, it will be necessary to produce. In the semi-arid region of Agreste, in the heart of the state of Paraiba, 800 kilometers north of Salvador de Bahia, we are ready after four difficult years. « During Jair Bolsonaro’s tenure, the agribusiness lobby pushed to end land reform, » explains Adriana Galvão, from the NGO Assistance and Services to Alternative Agriculture Projects. “Public policies, such as the National School Feeding Programme, which obliged school canteens to obtain part of their supply from farmers in the region have been emptied of their substance. » Hence the hope of participating in a new virtuous cycle. “With Lula, the situation will improve, convinced Maria do Ceu, who owns 3 hectares of land in the area. Because he knows that agribusiness is not good for Brazil, that it pollutes the earth and does not create jobs. »

The advance of agribusiness is also a concern for the inhabitants of the Amazon. It is even a nightmare for the 53 families of the quilombo Vila Palmares, near Acará, in the state of Para, whose ancestral lands have been invaded since the 1980s by the Agropalma company. The multinational practices the monoculture of oil palms there, widely used by the food and cosmetics industries, such as for the production of biofuels. “With Bolsonaro, there was a feeling of impunity, assures Joaquim dos Santos Pimenta, the leader of the community. Faced with the desire to assert our rights, the climate has become more violent and our lives are threatened. » According to the annual report of the Pastoral Land Commission, 80% of land-related conflicts in 2021 in Brazil took place in the Amazon. In October, almost the entire community therefore voted for Lula. « This is our only chance for our rights to be finally recognized, emphasizes Joaquim dos Santos Pimenta. And so that the Amazon continues to exist. »

creation of a Ministry of Native Peoples

The preservation of the Amazon is also one of the issues on which the leader of the Brazilian left is expected, who has committed to zero deforestation and the restructuring of the monitoring bodies dismantled by his predecessor (41,000 km² of primary forest disappeared under the Bolsonaro era). For this, it intends to rely on the indigenous peoples through the creation of the Ministry of Original Peoples. A step forward even if caution is required. « Beyond the creation of this ministry, it will be necessary to analyze what will be its prerogatives and its strategic role », assures Kleber Karipuna, cacique of the Yanomami people and coordinator of the Association of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil. “We are eager to know if we will actually participate in governance. »

Another important theme is education. The budget for this sector is down 34% compared to 2019, when Jair Bolsonaro came to power. Insufficient numbers, untrained or poorly paid teachers, dilapidated public schools, universities with no research budget… During his campaign, Lula never ceased to make education one of the pillars of his action. Roberto Leão, international secretary of the National Confederation of Education Workers, nevertheless wants to believe it. “After four years of suffering attacks on public policies, we hope that the people will regain quality, democratic and inclusive public education. »

The blacks and mestizos of Brazil, who represent more than 56% of the population, also aspire to a more inclusive society, in particular through the reinforcement of positive discrimination policies, such as that of quotas at the university, put in place by… Lula, in the early 2000s. But it is also in terms of police violence, particularly in the favelas, that the black movements expect change. “When Bolsonaro came to power, he questioned several public policies that reinforced the process of building racial equity,” denounces Eldon Neves, head of the Unegro association, a defense movement for blacks in the state of Bahia. Twenty years after Lula’s first term, society has changed. And “If Brazil has always been racist, continues Eldon Neves, the results of the elections showed that today, half of the Brazilians who voted for Jair Bolsonaro openly assume it”.


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