BRAZILIA: Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva took office Sunday for a third term as Brazil´s president, vowing to fight for the poor and the environment and “rebuild the country” after far-right leader Jair Bolsonaro´s divisive administration.
The 77-year-old veteran leftist, who previously led Brazil from 2003 to 2010, took the oath of office before Congress, capping a remarkable political comeback for the metalworker-turned-president less than five years after he was jailed on controversial, since-quashed corruption charges.
A sea of red-clad supporters braved the scorching heat to flood Brasilia, exuberantly cheering Lula as he was driven through the ultra-modern capital in a black convertible Rolls-Royce, accompanied by First Lady Rosangela “Janja” da Silva and Vice President Geraldo Alckmin.
Giving a blistering overview of the past four years under Bolsonaro — who snubbed the ceremony in a break with tradition –, Lula said his government would work to undo a legacy of economic decline, surging poverty, and funding cuts in health, education, and science.
“Upon these terrible ruins, I pledge to rebuild the country, together with the Brazilian people,” he said, vowing to fight for poor Brazilians, racial and gender equality, and zero deforestation in the Amazon rainforest, where destruction surged under Bolsonaro.
The swearing-in began with a minute of silence for Brazilian football legend Pele and former pope Benedict XVI, who both died recently.
Wearing a blue suit and tie, the charismatic but controversial Lula was then driven from Congress to the Planalto presidential palace, escorted by dozens of bodyguards.
There, he received the presidential sash from eight citizens selected to represent the Brazilian people, including a schoolteacher, a disabled man, a precocious 10-year-old, and renowned Indigenous leader Raoni Metuktire.
An emotional Lula broke down in tears, thanking the Brazilian people for their faith in him and vowing to fight for a more just country.
He also extended an olive branch to the many Brazilians who did not vote for him in the election, which he won by a razor-thin 50.9 percent to Bolsonaro´s 49.1 percent.
“I will govern for all 215 million Brazilians,” he said.
“There aren´t two Brazils. We are one country, one people.”