Lula Launches Environmentalist And Centrist Campaign

Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva presented his government plan on Tuesday, which includes zero deforestation initiatives and proposals to attract moderate voters with the aim of defeating the current president, Jair Bolsonaro, in the October elections.

The 76-year-old leftist, who governed the South American nation from 2003 to 2010, is ahead of the right-wing Bolsonaro in all opinion polls for the presidential contest.

Lula presented his plan in a Sao Paulo hotel accompanied by former Sao Paulo Governor Geraldo Alckmin, a right-leaning politician turned ally who will be his running mate. Lula said that the 34-page document will be updated later, after meetings with other allies at the national level.

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“Everyone present, even those who are not engineers, know that building a house begins with a good foundation,” he told supporters in a televised address. “These are our foundations. We will build our house over time.”

Lula’s plan includes a promise to “combat environmental crimes promoted by militias, land invaders, timber traffickers and any economic organization that acts against the law.”

“Our commitment is to the incessant fight against illegal deforestation and the promotion of net deforestation equal to zero, which means the restoration of degraded areas and the reforestation of biomes,” the document states.

The plan also ensures that “the standard for mineral regulation must be modernized, and illegal mining will be severely combated, particularly in the Amazon.”

Bolsonaro is a staunch supporter of the miners and says they should have the right to operate on indigenous land, which is some of the most protected from deforestation in the country.

The plan also talks about green jobs in the parastatal Petrobras.

The company should operate “in segments linked to the environmental and energy transition, such as gas, fertilizers, biofuels and renewable energies,” according to the document, which does not mention the amount that would be invested in this initiative.

Lula’s plan, which was drawn up by members of the seven parties that support him, does not include a call to scrap the labor reform approved by Congress in 2007, something that was expected. He only points out that Lula would seek to annul “the regressive parts of the current labor laws.”

The document also fails to mention several other issues it was intended to address, such as regulation of the media, land reform policies, and a clear defense of abortion rights.

Lula’s allies said those drafting the plan sought to appeal to business leaders who have expressed concern about Lula’s bid to return to the presidency.

They said the anti-deforestation stance is aimed at politicians like environmentalist Marina Silva, a moderate who has run for president in the last three elections and has yet to endorse any current candidate.

“Talking about zero net deforestation is what Marina does,” said Senator Randolfe Rodrigues, an ally of Lula’s from the Sustainability Network party. “The rest of the wording is for moderates to pay attention, to see what we are doing.”

Carlos Melo, a political science professor at Sao Paulo’s Insper University, said the plan is “adequately broad and superficial” so that moderates will be attracted to Lula’s candidacy.

“Lula’s challenge is not to cause an impact with this document. She doesn’t say much about what she’s going to do, so that divisive issues don’t become the center of attention,” Melo noted in a telephone interview.

A Bolsonaro supporter briefly interrupted the presentation of the government plan to shout at Lula from a few meters away, a security breach that left the former president’s staff uneasy.

The troublemaker, right-wing politician Caique Mafra, is a friend of legislator Eduardo Bolsonaro, the president’s son, and is running for Sao Paulo state legislator this year.

“He came, he provoked us, but there was no attack,” said Aloizio Mercadante, one of the coordinators of the campaign document. “This incident only underscores the care we must take with security in this difficult campaign.”

In the last presidential campaign, Bolsonaro was stabbed in the abdominal region during a rally. Doctors said his injuries nearly cost him his life, but he recovered in time to defeat leftist Fernando Haddad, an ally of Lula. Bolsonaro has undergone six surgeries due to damage sustained during the attack, most of them to his intestines.

The assailant, Adelio Bispo, has been in a mental institution since the incident.

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