SAO PAULO: Former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva says he fears a “genocide” in Brazil because of fierce opposition to coronavirus containment measures by current President Jair Bolsonaro, whom he said should be impeached.
In an interview with AFP by video conference from his home near Sao Paulo, Lula – a hero of the Brazilian left who served as president from 2003 to 2010 – attacked the far-right leader who now holds the office.
Lula is a former union leader who fought Brazil’s military dictatorship (1964-1985), then became one of the country’s most popular presidents with an anti-poverty crusade.
The 74-year-old was jailed after his term on corruption charges that he says were trumped up to keep him from running for president again.
He accused Bolsonaro of steering Brazil toward “chaos” with his calls to reopen the economy despite the country emerging as one of those hardest hit by the new coronavirus worldwide, with nearly 14,000 deaths so far.
What do you make of the political tension between Bolsonaro and the governors and lawmakers who have insisted on social distancing
“The administration is turning anyone who’s worried about coronavirus into an enemy, and that’s not the right path. I’m Catholic, so I’ve been praying for the Brazilian people to escape this genocide Bolsonaro is causing.”
When you left prison in November, you said you were against impeaching Bolsonaro. Have you changed your mind?
“No. I said we shouldn’t try to impeach a president who had just been elected. The person has to have committed high crimes. Now, in my opinion, Bolsonaro has done that. He has attacked democracy, democratic institutions and the Brazilian people. He doesn’t even respect those who are dying (of COVID-19).
But I think the movement for impeachment should come from somewhere other than a political party, to avoid any ideological connotation.”
What do you think of Bolsonaro putting military officers in a string of top posts in his government?
“The army has a lot to contribute to peace and order in our country, but they can’t take sides. Their party is Brazil. These days, there are fewer civilians than military officers in the presidential palace. They have even more influence in the government than they did during the military regime.”
Would your party (the Workers’ Party, PT) consider entering a coalition with the center-right to oppose Bolsonaro?
“It’s hard to imagine… If the PT enters a coalition, it would be a left-wing alliance. I sometimes say, ‘Better go it alone than with bad company.’ It applies to Brazilian politics a lot.”