Lula . Bolsonaro: election campaign marked by the climate crisis

Lula, who governed Brazil from early 2003 to late 2010, demanded that no more trees should be cut down to plant soy or corn or to raise cattle. “If the world is willing to help, preserving a tree in the Amazon can be worth more than any (other, ed.) investment.”

In addition, the environmental and control authorities should be strengthened again, said the presidential candidate of the Workers’ Party (PT) in conversation with international journalists in Sao Paulo at the end of August. The topic of the environment and protection of the rainforest also took up a large part of Lula’s speaking time in the first televised debate of the presidential candidates. In addition to Bolsonaro and Lula, four more of the twelve presidential candidates took part in the three-hour debate.

candidacy after allegations of corruption

In 2018, Lula was sentenced to a long prison term for corruption and money laundering, spent 580 days in prison and was therefore unable to take part in the 2018 presidential election, which the right-wing extremist Bolsonaro won. Last year, a Supreme Court judge reversed the ruling and Lula regained his political rights — and soon after, successfully re-entered the political arena.

If he wins the election, he will declare war on corruption, Lula recently told TV Globo. In the first TV debate, however, Bolsonaro accused Lula of saying that his government was “the most corrupt in Brazil’s history”. Lula denied the incumbent’s accusation, stressing that many social reforms were initiated during his tenure from 2003 to 2010. Bolsonaro is now in the process of “destroying” the country, Lula said.

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Lula wants Ministry of Indigenous Peoples

When asked by the Guardian what steps Lula would take as president to combat the destruction of the Amazon, the ex-president pledged to create a ministry for indigenous peoples and rebuild the environmental agency IBAMA, which Bolsonaro believes should be replaced deliberately dismantled by critics since taking office in 2019.

He also called for a crackdown on the illegal miners and loggers ravaging the Amazon after the “barbaric” murders of indigenous expert Bruno Pereira and British journalist Dom Phillips.

Brazil plays a key role in global climate protection

Whoever is elected president in Brazil on October 9 will not only decide on the future of the country, but also on the achievement of global climate goals. Brazil is considered the sixth largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world – and the increasingly rapid destruction of the forests under Bolsonaro also has serious consequences for the rest of the world, as the Amazon rainforest stores significant amounts of the greenhouse gas CO2.

Stripped rainforest areas next to an existing rainforest

Reuters/Paulo Whitaker

Deforestation in the Amazon rainforest hit a new record in the first six months of the year

It is considered one of the tipping points that can throw the world’s climate out of balance. According to the online platform Global Forest Watch, a total of 34.5 gigatonnes of CO2 were emitted into the atmosphere between 2001 and 2021 due to the loss of trees in Brazil. This week alone, according to official data from the INPE space agency, the number of forest fires reached 3,358 on Monday, the highest level in almost 15 years.


Illegal fires have increased under Bolsonaro

According to experts, most fires are set illegally by farmers and speculators – a practice that has increased under Bolsonaro. He had announced several times that he wanted to develop the Amazon region more economically and repeatedly opened protected areas for agriculture and mining, which brought him international criticism.

With Bolsonaro running for re-election, the destruction could accelerate, said the head of the Amazon environmental research institute IPAM, Ane Alencar. “We know from previous years that there is a connection between elections and deforestation.” Officials and law enforcement agencies are distracted by the election campaign, Alencar warned.

Deforestation has already started under Lula

However, Brazil’s rise to become the world’s largest meat exporter and the associated deforestation began under Lula, who had set himself the goal that meat should not remain a privilege for the rich. Lula’s government channeled millions from the Brazilian Development Bank into meat processing companies, which have become a major contributor to deforestation in the Amazon, according to the New York Times (“NYT”). There had also been severe fires during Lula’s tenure, which is why the Amazonia Fund was founded in 2008.


Lula also refused to support legislation that would have required Brazil to phase out fossil fuels. But at 76 and more than five decades in politics, Lula is now adjusting and positioning himself as a counterpoint to Bolsonaro, who railed against environmentalists, according to the Financial Times (“FT”). “He’s looking at the issue with a modern mindset,” Izabella Teixeira, who was once Lula’s environment secretary, told NYT.

“It is one thing to correct the past and undo mistakes. It’s another thing to say yes to new ways.” He has broadened his perspective and wants vegetarians who “promote healthier agriculture in our country” to be able to eat a good organic salad, Lula said himself on Twitter.

Bolsonaro focuses on economic aspects

Bolsonaro dismissed reports that deforestation in the Amazon region had increased sharply under his leadership. “I took over the country in a bad economic situation, which was exacerbated by the corona pandemic, the war in Ukraine and a severe drought,” he told TV Globo in one of his rare interviews. The “great vaccination” was economic reforms.

In his speech at the start of the election campaign in the state of Minas Gerais, he highlighted issues such as Christianity and family values ​​and warned that if Lula were elected, it would be a “step backwards” that would turn the country into “communism” and a “gender ideology”. would lead. In his re-election program, he pledged to maintain a monthly cash payout of 600 reais ($150) and, in the event of a second term, a simplification of the tax system, a reduction in corporate taxes and import tariffs to boost trade.

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Three months before the vote, the government spending cap was also lifted, allowing Bolsonaro to spend more on social benefits. A tactic strongly reminiscent of Lula and described by Bolsonaro’s economy minister Paulo Guedes as a “kamikaze” project. This is made possible by declaring a state of emergency.

Environmental issue could decide the outcome of the election

The “NYT” predicted that the fundamentally different topics of the two candidates could be decisive for the outcome of the election. A survey from September would show that climate protection is a major concern for voters. For example, 80 percent of respondents believed that protecting the Amazon rainforest should be a priority for presidential candidates. A majority also said that a concrete plan to protect the Amazon would increase their willingness to vote for a candidate.

But hunger, unemployment, inflation and the CoV pandemic will also be important issues in the election campaign. According to a Gallup poll, 36 percent of the population does not have enough money for food, which is why Bolsonaro could score points with his support for the poorest in the run-up to the election.

Bolsonaro and Lula on election posters

Reuters/Ueslei Marcelino

Former shoeshine boy and metalworker Lula is still considered a leading figure among Brazil’s political left

So far, Lula is ahead of Bolsonaro in all major opinion polls, even if the race is getting tighter. According to the FT, if Lula were to be re-elected president in October, he would be faced with a completely different set of circumstances – after all, his first term in office coincided with an upswing in Brazil’s economy driven by raw materials.

Justice opens investigations against Bolsonaro

Meanwhile, Bolsonaro has caused public doubts about the South American country’s electoral system and has now called the judiciary into action. In a preliminary investigation, videos should first be viewed and evidence checked, announced Deputy Attorney General Lindora Araujo after a report by TV Globo.

At a meeting with ambassadors in mid-July, he expressed doubts about the security of the ballot boxes and the correct counting of the votes – but he did not provide any evidence. The opposition filed a criminal complaint because of the statements and accused Bolsonaro of wanting to abolish the democratic constitutional state and inciting the armed forces against the constitutional bodies.

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