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Tens of thousands joined former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva on the streets of Recife last Friday for another packed march in northeastern Brazil. This is the poorest region of Brazil. People here felt the real impact of Lula’s policies during his previous governments in the mid-2000s. They voted overwhelmingly for him in the first round. And they are hoping to carry him to the presidency on Oct. 30.
This is Brazil on Fire, a podcast about Brazil’s descent toward fascism under President Jair Bolsonaro. Over six episodes we look at Bolsonaro’s far-right government that has set the country ablaze, and how the United States helped him do it. We visit the birthplace of Brazilian Nazism, evangelical churches, and Indigenous villages in the Amazon.
Hosted by Latin America-based journalist Michael Fox.
This podcast is produced in partnership between The Real News Network and NACLA.
Michael Fox: Supporters of former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva have been in the streets. He’s been campaigning across the country in the run up to and in the weeks after the first round of Brazil’s presidential election. Recently he came home, to the state where he was born: Pernambuco.
In the capital city of Recife, supporters turned out en masse.
Supporters: Lula!!! The hope of Brazil!
Michael Fox: This is Northeastern Brazil, Lula’s largest base of support. They voted overwhelmingly for him in the first round, which took place on October 2. 67% for him, over 27% for his adversary, far-right incumbent Jair Bolsonaro.
Supporters: Lula is our hope. He is our hope!
Michael Fox: People here felt the real impact of Lula’s policies during his previous governments in the mid-2000s. He lifted millions out of poverty and invested in education and development projects across the region.
Edmilson Souza: He’s the father of the poor. He’s the president that Brazil deserves. No one else. He’s done so much for the poor.
Virginia da Silva & Priscila Marinho: He brought us respect. Rights. Dignity. Education. Health. Food.
Michael Fox: In a press conference in Recife, Lula said he’d bring back the good days.
Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva: We are going to rebuild Brazil. It’s an obsession I have to end hunger. Because I cannot allow that the country that is the third largest producer of food in the world and the largest producer of animal protein on planet Earth… And yet we have 33 million people going to bed each night without eating enough each day.
Michael Fox: Bolsonaro also made a visit to Recife last week. But supporters didn’t turn out as expected. That was just days after Bolsonaro said people in Northeastern Brazil didn’t vote for him because they were illiterate. That did not go over well.
Rodrigo Fisher: Bolsonaro is the worst. He’s a piece of shit.
Michael Fox: But Bolsonaro has strong support elsewhere across the country.
Daniel Alexandro: Bolsonaro did a lot for us. There is no more corruption. Bolsonaro has woken up a lot of people, people that didn’t understand politics. Things have really improved.
Michael Fox: That’s not necessarily true. Poverty and unemployment have risen. Many experts say corruption has likely gotten even worse under Bolsonaro, as the president now allocates billions of dollars through a secret budget so no one knows where the money’s going. Regardless , millions of Bolsonaro supporters up and down the country believe they’re better off. And the president is hoping they can lift him to power once again.
According to the latest polls, Lula currently leads Bolsonaro by 7 points. If Lula wins, it will be because of his overwhelming support in Northeastern Brazil.
Carlos Henrique: Lula is for the poor, man. And Bolsonaro is for the rich. Lula always helped people. The prices of things were more reasonable. Everything’s gotten so expensive with Bolsonaro, and we’ve had enough. Lula again!
Michael Fox: The second round vote is on October 30th.