Former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva pledged Thursday night to renegotiate household debts of Brazilians if he wins October’s election, making another promise seeking to lure support from tens of millions experiencing hardship.
The announcement came a day after U.S. President Joe Biden announced that some Americans will receive up to $10,000 in federal student loan debt forgiveness. Many Brazilians are eager for relief at a time when inflation is running at nearly 10% and the poor are struggling to make ends meet.
“We have almost 70% of Brazilian families in debt and the vast majority are women,” da Silva said in a prime-time interview on the television network Globo. “You can be sure that we will negotiate with the private sector and the financial system.”
The same program interviewed the incumbent, Jair Bolsonaro, on Aug 22.
Da Silva has already hinted that if voters return him to the job he held in 2003-2010, he likely would keep in place the sharp boost to social welfare payments approved recently. Those increases, scheduled to expire at year’s end, are part of Bolsonaro’s efforts to bolster his reelection bid. Whoever wins the October vote will assume office in January.
The leftist da Silva, who is leading the far-right Bolsonaro in opinion polls, also criticized the incumbent for seeking political support by allowing huge chunks of public funds to be used by lawmakers at their discretion as part of what is known as the “secret budget.”
“Bolsonaro doesn’t command anything, Congress is holding him hostage. He doesn’t even control the budget,” da Silva said.
“Arthur Lira is in charge. Ministers call him, not Boslonaro,” he added, referring to the speaker of the Chamber of Deputies.
Da Silva also acknowledged for the first time that errors were made and corruption occurred during his own administration and that of his successor, Dilma Rousseff. Both are members of the leftist Workers’ Party.
“You can’t say there was no corruption if people confessed,” da Silva said when asked about massive corruption scandals under Workers’ Party governments. But he attributed such transgressions to individuals rather than an orchestrated scheme of his party.
Da Silva himself was found guilty of corruption and money laundering and spent over a year in jail, though the Supreme Court later annulled the convictions, paving the way for his presidential run this year. He has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.
In the 2018 presidential race, Bolsonaro placed the fight against corruption, then symbolized by the Workers’ Party and an imprisoned da Silva, at the heart of his campaign.