Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is set to be inaugurated Sunday for a third term as Brazilian President.
The ceremony has however been snubbed by outgoing President, Jair Bolsonaro, which compounds the deep divisions the veteran leftist, Lula, inherits. The swearing-in will cap a remarkable political comeback for 77-year-old Lula, who returns to the presidential palace in Brasilia less than five years after being jailed on controversy, since-quashed corruption charges.
Security is expected to be tight following a brutal election showdown between Lula and far-right ex-army captain Bolsonaro in October. Some 8,000 police, including more than 1,000 federal officers, a record deployment for a presidential inauguration in Brazil are expected to provide security.
The beefed-up security come after a Bolsonaro supporter was arrested last week for planting a tanker truck rigged with explosives near the Brasilia airport, a plot he said aimed to “sow chaos” in the South American country.
Bolsonaro himself left Brazil for the US state of Florida Friday, December 29, 2022, reportedly to avoid having to hand the Presidential sash to his bitter enemy, as tradition dictates. The snub has hardly dampened the party spirit for Lula and the 300,000 people expected at the ceremony and a massive concert that will feature acts ranging from samba legend Martinho da Vila to drag queen Pabllo Vittar.
Meanwhile, thousands of Lula supporters have been flooding the capital, traveling by plane, car and even bicycle to camp out near the Esplanade of Ministries. Foreign dignitaries including 17 heads of state will also be in attendance as Lula, who previously led the country through a watershed boom from 2003 to 2010, takes the oath of office for a new four-year term at 3:00 pm (1800 GMT).
Events will kick-off early in the capital and more than 60 artists – including Samba legend Martinho da Vila – are due to perform on two giant stages decorated in the national flag as part of a music festival dubbed “Lulapalooza”.
Lula’s win comes after a divisive campaign which saw two bitter rivals on opposite sides of the political spectrum go head-to-head, Lula won 50.9% of the votes. It was enough to beat Jair Bolsonaro, whose supporters had been confident of victory.
But the division which this election has highlighted is unlikely to vanish. It is a stunning comeback for a politician who could not run in the last presidential election in 2018 because he was in jail and banned from standing for office. He had been found guilty of receiving a bribe from a Brazilian construction firm in return for contracts with Brazil’s state oil company Petrobras.
Lula spent 580 days in jail before his conviction was annulled and he returned to the political fray.
Bolsonaro adamant in attending swearing-in ceremony
Prior to this, Mr Bolsonaro repeatedly revealed he did not wish to attend the inauguration of his successor.
Additionally, other supporters of the outgoing leader have remained camped outside army headquarters, where they have been urging the army to launch a coup. Police attempted to remove the demonstrators on Thursday but withdrew after they reacted violently.
However, Mr Bolsonaro has condemned the protests against his defeat, urging his supporters to “show we are different from the other side, that we respect the norms and the Constitution”.
In a noted change of policy from the Bolsonaro administration, Marina Silva – one of Brazil’s best known climate activists – was re-appointed to head the environment and climate ministry. She will be expected to achieve Lula’s pledge to reach “zero deforestation” in the Amazon by 2030.