Mexico City, Mexico, October 31, 2022 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro was among the first to congratulate Brazilian President-elect Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva following his victory in Sunday’s second-round presidential election.
“We celebrate the victory of the Brazilian people [...] Long live the peoples determined to be free, sovereign and independent! Today democracy triumphed in Brazil. Congratulations Lula!” tweeted the Venezuelan head of state shortly after the results were announced.
Leading up to the first-round vote, polls placed Lula within striking distance of an outright victory in the first round but the Workers Party (PT) candidate failed to secure a majority of 50 percent plus one, leading to Sunday’s second round vote. His rival, Jair Bolsonaro, outperformed expectations, with the close result raising alarm bells inside of the PT and a stronger-than-usual effort to pull the vote.
Lula defeated his far-right opponent by a narrow margin, with unofficial results giving him 50.9 percent over Bolsonaro’s 49.1 percent. Due to Brazil’s large population, the result nonetheless had the former president defeating the incumbent by over 2 million votes.
Bolsonaro’s defeat makes him the first incumbent in Brazilian history to lose an effort at reelection. Meanwhile, Sunday’s result means the PT has won every presidential election in the 21st century, save for the 2018 election where Lula was unable to run after being imprisoned on trumped up charges. Lula’s conviction was eventually overturned due to prosecutorial misconduct by Sergio Moro, the judge in his case who would go on to become a key Bolsonaro ally.
In his victory speech, Lula said that the top priorities of his government would be eliminating hunger and fighting poverty.
"They tried to bury me alive and I'm here to govern this country," said Lula on Sunday night.
The return of the former union leader to the presidency is expected to have large ramifications throughout the region, consolidating a series of victories by leftist and progressive candidates in recent votes. Regional leaders from Mexico’s Andres Manuel López Obrador to Colombia’s Gustavo Petro sent messages congratulating Lula, with the latter tweeting a four-item bilateral agenda that included a proposal for deeper Latin American integration.
Argentine President Alberto Fernández wasted no time meeting the Brazilian president-elect, traveling immediately to São Paulo to meet with the victorious Lula.
The outpouring of support for Lula was also aimed at preventing a coup by Bolsonaro, who at the time of writing had still not publicly accepted his defeat. The far-right incumbent reportedly locked himself in his own office following the release of results, refusing to meet or speak with anyone, and quickly left the presidential palace in the morning.
By immediately recognizing Lula’s victory, political leaders including Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Joe Biden helped dash any hopes of a successful coup. In the lead up to the election Bolsonaro had tried to sow doubt in Brazil’s electoral system, a move that was widely read as an effort to eventually ignore the results.
Thousands of Lula’s supporters flooded Paulista Avenue in Sao Paulo on Sunday evening as a show of strength, while images of devastated Bolsonaro supporters, crying and praying, were widely circulated on social media. Pro-Bolsonaro truck drivers blockaded roads in some regions of the country in protest over the results.
Sunday’s result additionally marks another defeat for a member of the so-called Lima Group, an ad-hoc group of regional leaders that supported Washington’s efforts to oust Maduro from power. Nearly all of the politicians involved with the Lima Group have been ousted by voters or seen their political parties replaced by leftist or progressive leaders who have sought to cooperate with the Venezuelan government.
Bolsonaro joined several regional leaders in recognizing Guaidó after he declared himself president in January 2019, eventually leading to a breakdown in diplomatic relations between Brasilia and Caracas.
Lula has gone on the record to reject the recognition of opposition figure Juan Guaidó as president of Venezuela, calling him an “imposter”, and said he would instead honor the “self-determination” of the Venezuelan people. The president-elect also praised his relationship with former Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, saying he had an “extraordinary” relationship with Venezuela during his earlier two terms that ran from 2003 to 2010.
Reflecting on the result, top Chavista figure Diosdado Cabello said it was thanks to Chávez and Lula’s leadership that earlier efforts at regional integration were able to flourish.
Ahead of the election the social movement platform ALBA Movimientos signaled that a Lula victory would “open the possibility of building an agenda of integration and unity” in the region in the face of “coups and the constant and direct destabilization by imperialism”.
Edited by Ricardo Vaz in Caracas.
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