Lula da Silva is sworn in as President of Brazil and Bolsonaro departs for the United States
- Katie Watson in Brasilia – Alice Davies in London
- BBC News
Lula da Silva has been sworn in as Brazil’s new President, holding the country’s highest office for the third time.
Crowds gathered in the capital, Brasilia, for the inauguration ceremony.
The veteran left-wing politician, widely known as Lula, led the country from 2003 to 2010, defeating Jair Bolsonaro in last October’s election.
In his first speech, Lula vowed to rebuild a country in “terrible desolation.”
He denounced the policies of his predecessor, Jair Bolsonaro, who traveled to the United States on Friday to avoid the handover ceremony.
More than 60 artists, including samba legend Martino da Vila, took part in the performance of their songs at the inauguration events.
The words “Love Conquered Hate” appear on a banner held by a man dressed as Lola.
“Brazil needs this change, this transformation,” said another supporter of the new president as she queued to attend the celebrations on Sunday.
Juliana Barreto, from Lula’s hometown in Pernambuco state, told the BBC her country was living in a “disaster”.
Lula and new Vice President Geraldo Alcamin paraded around town in a convertible before heading to the Capitol to take the oath at the start of the official dedication ceremony.
The two men had spent the last few days selecting cabinet members and placing their supporters in key state-owned companies.
“Rebuild the Nation”
After being sworn in, Lula tried to inspire a sense of hope and vowed to “rebuild the nation and make Brazil for everyone”.
Lula’s speech was full of emotion, and his most emotional moment was when he spoke to the Brazilians after the swearing-in ceremony and began to cry while talking about the beggars at the traffic lights who are in dire need of food.
And perhaps no one, not even himself, would have believed that day would ever come – a return to the country’s highest office after two decades, despite his prison sentence after being found guilty of corruption. Those convictions were later overturned in 2021.
Much of his speech to Congress revolved around unity and reconstruction. The two words are important in a deeply divided country that has been badly hit by the consequences of the corona epidemic and suffers from political polarization to a large extent.
Lula knows his ultimate challenge will be to convince those who believe he is a corrupt politician in prison that his place is back in the presidential palace and that he can be their leader too.
The man vowed to reverse the legacy of his predecessor’s government, which he said had cut funding for education, health and the preservation of the Amazon rainforest.
To much cheering from the congress audience, he also pledged to immediately repeal controversial gun laws of his predecessor Bolsonaro.
Lula went on to say that his government will not be motivated by a “spirit of vengeance” but that those who have made mistakes will be held accountable for their mistakes.
In particular, he referenced Bolsonaro’s COVID-19 policies and accused him of causing significant deaths in Brazil during the pandemic, which requires a full investigation.
In a notable political change from the Bolsonaro government, Marina Silva – one of Brazil’s most prominent climate activists – was reappointed as Minister of the Environment and Climate. It aims to fulfill Lula’s pledge to achieve “zero deforestation” in the Amazon by 2030.
Many in the reveling crowd waved banners or wore T-shirts that read “Love conquers hate,” a reference to a phrase many believed to be Bolsonaro’s.
But diversity and inclusion also played a big role in Lula DaSilva’s inauguration. With Bolsonaro resigning his last official duty of passing the President’s sash to his successor, it was left to Eni Souza, the garbage collector, to assume the honour.
Beside Lula were an indigenous chief, a black boy and a disabled activist.
The state of Brasilia deployed its entire police force – some 8,000 police officers – to the city amid fears that some Bolsonaro supporters would try to disrupt the ceremony.
Brazilian military police said a man was arrested when he tried to enter the inauguration area with a knife and firecrackers.
Last week, police arrested a Bolsonaro supporter accused of planting explosives on a fuel truck near an airport in the capital on Christmas Eve. The man said he was hoping to “sow chaos” ahead of Lula’s inauguration.
Other supporters of the outgoing president stayed two camps in front of army headquarters, calling for a military coup by the army. Police tried to remove the protesters on Thursday but retreated after they responded violently.
But Bolsonaro condemned the protests over his election defeat and called on his supporters to “show that we are different from the other side and that we respect norms and the constitution”.
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