Brazil’s newly elected president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has moved to sweep away the legacy of his predecessor Jair Bolsonaro by tightening gun controls and curbing gold mining in the Amazon rainforest.
In the wake of his inauguration on Sunday, the leftwing president revoked a decree that made it easier to buy guns and a decree that allowed for “artisanal” gold mining on indigenous land.
He also ordered his ministers to end studies on the viability of privatising energy group Petrobras and the national post service Correios, and revoked an eleventh-hour decree from the Bolsonaro administration that gave a tax break to large companies. He reiterated promises to abandon the country’s constitutionally mandated cap on public spending, which he called a “stupidity”.
The moves, in line with Lula’s pledge to adopt a more hands-on approach to the management of Latin America’s largest economy, are likely to generate concern among Brazil’s business community after the free market shift of the Bolsonaro administration.
After defeating Mr Bolsonaro by less than 2 percentage points in October, the 77-year-old former metalworker was on Sunday sworn in for a historic third term at a raucous ceremony in Brasília, which featured political pageantry and carnival-like celebrations.
Lula previously served two terms as president between 2003 and 2010 during a period when Brazil enjoyed strong growth on the back of the global commodities boom.
Despite pledging to unite the nation, Lula offered no quarter to Mr Bolsonaro in his first acts, criticising the rightwing populist for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and for economic and social policies the new president said had caused “national destruction”.
“The responsibilities for this [Covid] genocide must be investigated and must not go unpunished,” Lula told Congress in his inaugural address in a clear reference to his predecessor, who on Friday flew to Florida to avoid attending the inauguration.
Since the election result hundreds of Mr Bolsonaro’s most devout supporters – who claim without proof that the ballot was rigged – have rallied outside military bases across Brazil, calling for the armed forces to annul Lula’s victory.
The new Brazilian president said his first objective would be to end the hunger of 33 million citizens and the poverty that afflicts 100 million Brazilians, saying “no nation has risen or can rise on the misery of its people”.
The veteran leftwinger reiterated his pledge to end the destruction of the Amazon rainforest and re-established the multibillion-dollar Amazon Fund, which is used to tackle deforestation but had been frozen during the Bolsonaro administration.
On the international front, Lula has promised to deepen relations with Brazil’s neighbours and pursue regional integration.
The new president was on Monday due to meet 17 heads of state who attended his inauguration, with the leaders of Bolivia, Argentina, Ecuador as well as the king of Spain featuring prominently on the top of the agenda. Meetings were also scheduled with representatives from Venezuela and Cuba.
During his first two terms between 2003 and 2010, Lula oversaw a period of strong economic growth, improved living standards and Brazil’s rise on the international stage. However, his legacy was tainted by corruption controversies and economic mismanagement under his handpicked successor, Dilma Rousseff.
Lula spent 580 days in prison after being found guilty of graft, until his release in November 2019. The convictions were annulled last year by the supreme court. Many Brazilians remain wary of the veteran politician and his Workers’ Party, which was in power for 13 years until the 2016 impeachment of Ms Rousseff. – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2023