LatinNews Daily - 11 April 2023

BRAZIL: Lula celebrates first 100 days despite looming challenges

On 10 April, Brazil’s president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, held an event in which he celebrated the government’s achievements during the first 100 days of his third term in office and pointed to challenges ahead.


Lula opened his speech by stating that “Brazil is back” and went on to list the social programmes from his previous mandates (2003-2011) which have been relaunched, even though this apparent attempt to convey nostalgia for old achievements comes amid recent polls showing public pessimism during these first 100 days, especially regarding the country’s economic outlook, with slower growth expected for 2023. Lula’s term so far has also been marked by antagonism with the central bank (BCB), with the government criticising the BCB’s decision to maintain high interest rates for a fifth consecutive month. Meanwhile approval by congress (in which the government lacks a majority) of a new fiscal framework to boost revenue, is also set to be crucial to the success of his third term.

  • Lula hailed the return of programmes such as the healthcare initiative ‘Mais Médicos’, the conditional cash transfer programme ‘Bolsa Família’, and the housing programme ‘Minha Casa, Minha Vida’, old policies which had been vastly popular.  
  • Another achievement that Lula celebrated was the crack down on supporters of his predecessor, former right-wing president Jair Bolsonaro (2019-2023), who attacked government buildings in the capital on 8 January. Lula commended the “harmony” among the branches of government and “swift response”, as the supreme court (STF) opened investigations into those involved.
  • Lula boasted of having created a ministry of Indigenous Peoples and of his administration’s efforts to address the crisis afflicting the Yanomami people, which had been aggravated by neglect under Bolsonaro. The STF has ordered an investigation into whether Bolsonaro’s government was responsible for genocide.
  • While Lula’s speech celebrated the restoration of the Amazon Fund, a mechanism focussed on reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, and the creation of new authorities to tackle deforestation, the government’s efforts to protect the Amazon rainforest remains a challenge. This was highlighted by Marcio Astrini, director of the Observatório do Clima (OdoC), an umbrella group of civil-society organisations, in an interview published on 7 April with Reuters which cited figures which showed that deforestation in Brazil was up 14% year-on-year in March.
  • A key difference from the Bolsonaro administration has been Lula’s commitment to multilateralism, as he hailed the return of Brazil’s “active and benevolent” foreign policy. Lula’s government has sought to restore relations with Latin American neighbours, as seen in the president’s visits to Argentina and Uruguay in January, as well as cooperate with the US and European partners on issues such as climate action.  
  • The markets have also had a mixed reaction to these first 100 days. According to the news website Poder360, the Ibovespa stock exchange index fell from 109,734 points at the end of 2022 to 101,846 points on 10 April which the media states is the largest drop of any first-100-day period of any Brazilian presidency since the first mandate of Fernando Henrique Cardoso (1995-1998).

Looking Ahead: One aspect of Lula’s multilateral approach that might cause friction with the US and its allies would be his engagement with countries such as China and Russia. Lula is travelling to China this week for his official visit which had been postponed, and on 30 March his foreign policy adviser, Celso Amorim, met Russian president Vladimir Putin in Moscow. Lula has sought to position Brazil as a neutral mediator in the war between Russia and Ukraine.

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