Left-wing Brazilian presidential favorite Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has claimed that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy bears the same responsibility as Vladimir Putin for starting the war.
The statement, which puts the ex-president known as Lula “in conflict with Western powers,” was made in an interview with Time and “is likely to raise eyebrows in the US and Europe,” The Guardian reported.
“I see the President of Ukraine speaking on TV, being applauded and getting a standing ovation from everyone [European] MPs,” he said. “This guy [Zelenskyy] is just as responsible as Putin for the war.”
Zelenskyy should have promised not to join NATO and sought a negotiated solution with Putin, he suggested. “We should have a serious talk. OK, you were a nice comedian. But let’s not go to war to get you on TV.”
The comments are by no means Lula’s first exposure to controversy.
A Supreme Court judge in Brazil last year overturned corruption convictions against him, paving the way for his continued run to regain the presidency. A towering figure on the Brazilian left, he remains hugely popular despite his legal woes.
From popular president to convicted criminal
The former steel worker and union leader left office in 2011 with an approval rating of over 80 percent. This was largely due to the rapid economic progress that took place in Brazil under his rule.
But after he resigned, several allegations against Lula and his left-wing party surfaced. In July 2017, he was sentenced to nine and a half years in prison for bribery and money laundering as part of Brazil’s biggest corruption scandal.
In January 2018, an appeals court upheld the conviction and increased his sentence to 12 years and one month in prison. Lula has always denied the allegations, arguing that his trial was politically motivated.
Last year’s cancellation paved the way for him to run against far-right President Jair Bolsonaro ahead of this year’s election, which is due in October.
champions of the poor
A poll released shortly after Lula’s conviction was confirmed in January 2018 showed that had there been an election at the time, he would have led the race with 34% of the vote. Analysts said at the time that his enduring popularity was due to his commitment to social justice, as well as the economic prosperity that ordinary Brazilians experienced during his tenure.
“During his tenure, Lula has pumped billions of dollars into social programs and can justifiably claim to have helped reverse Brazil’s historic inequalities,” the BBC reported. By “raising the minimum wage well above inflation and expanding government aid to the poorest,” he helped some 44 million people and “consolidated his support among the poor,” the broadcaster added.
And this popularity has not faded. Polls by the New York-based Americas Society show him nine points clear of Bolsonaro.
Should he win the election, he would likely seek to rebrand himself as a “key figure on the international stage” who would try to “build Brazil’s diplomatic clout” in response to Bolsonaro’s more combative approach to foreign relations, The Guardian said.
Lula has always portrayed himself as a “bridge builder,” the newspaper said, “who maintains friendly relations with such diverse counterparts as George W. Bush of the United States and Hugo Chávez of Venezuela or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran.”
https://www.theweek.co.uk/92733/why-is-brazil-s-lula-still-so-popular Why is Brazil’s former President Lula so popular?