[News] Interview with Brazil’s Ex-President Lula From Prison, Discussing Global Threats, Neoliberalism, Bolsonaro, and More

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed May 22 11:18:47 EDT 2019


  Interview with Brazil’s Ex-President Lula From Prison, Discussing
  Global Threats, Neoliberalism, Bolsonaro, and More

Glenn Greenwald - May 22, 2019

      Read the full interview:

*Glenn Greenwald: Good morning, Mr. President. It’s good to see you 
again, and thank you for the interview. This interview is for a 
Brazilian audience as well as for an international audience. Everyone 
outside Brazil already knows that you’ve been unjustly sentenced, a 
point we’ll get back to in a moment. But many people have also been 
asking me how you’ve been treated in prison, and you’ve said many times 
that the authorities here are humane and professional. Is this still the 

Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva: I don’t know what humanitarian treatment in a 
prison means. I’m locked up, and I’m in solitary confinement — and it 
really is solitary, because most of the time I’m completely alone. I 
meet with my lawyers, and that’s it. And with my family once a week. I 
don’t know whether to consider this decent. What allows me to endure all 
of this without loathing it, and with a brighter outlook, is knowing 
that there are millions and millions of Brazilians living in freedom 
who, even so, are in worse conditions than I am. At least I have the 
opportunity to have lunch, to have dinner, you know?

*But Brazil is the country you ran for eight years, and there are plenty 
of people in jail. How do you compare your treatment here to the 
treatment common prisoners receive in common prisons?*

Take the Brazilians who have to live in stilt houses above swamps: 
They’re living as second-class citizens. A citizen who has to live in a 
single 9-square-meter room, who has to have lunch, dinner, has to cook, 
make love, go to the bathroom, and do everything within those 9 square 
meters — they’re not living any better than I am here. That’s why I’m 
less concerned about my own situation and more concerned with that of 
millions of people …

*I get it, but are you being abused or tortured? That’s what people want 
to know.*

No, listen: We’ve been fighting for many years to end torture. These 
days, torture has more sophisticated forms. It’s based on plea 
bargaining, on the thousands of lies told simultaneously over and over, 
and people imprisoned for two or three years until they say what the 
prosecutor or police commissioner wants to hear. I could cite the 
example of [Antonio] Palocci’s plea bargain, where he’s lying in the 
most unbelievable manner. Or take Leo [Pinheiro], for example, who’s in 
prison and lying through his teeth to get out. The secret is to talk 
about Lula. This has been going on for five years.  You know that I’m 
here even though neither the judge, the prosecutor, or the Federal 
Police commissioner who launched the investigation have any proof 
against me. They know that the apartment isn’t mine, they know that the 
ranch isn’t mine, but they keep up these lies …

*So are they mistreating people in order to elicit accusations against 

Yes, and it continues to this day. I joke with my lawyers that I’d like 
to plea bargain and denounce Sérgio Moro, denounce the TRF4 [the 4th 
Regional Federal Court], to be a whistleblower against the commissioner 
that launched that deceitful investigation, I’d like to denounce 
[Deltan] Dallagnol. I’d love to, you know, but nobody would accept my 
plea bargain. Let’s see if you arrange for my whistleblowing to see the 
light of day, Glenn, because I need to make something clear. There’s 
this phrase by an English philosopher, that the curse of the first lie 
you tell is that you spend the rest of your life telling more lies to 
justify the first one. Do you remember when I went for my first 
deposition with Moro? I said to his face, “You’re condemned to condemn 
me,” given the huge amount of lies they’ve told, you know, in this 
agreement between Operation Car Wash and the Brazilian press 
Because Operation Car Wash would be nothing without press coverage. But 
it’s a collusion between media, television, radio, and newspapers, where 
the press editors get the material before even the lawyers do. Before 
the defense lawyers received any news, the press already had. Thanks to 
this collusion, you’ve woven a gigantic lie. Every day, every hour I 
keep wondering, will GloboNews ever use the Jornal Nacional to say, “We 
made a mistake with Lula’s case”?

*In the **interview* 
we did in 2016**, you harshly criticized Operation Car Wash, insisting 
that it was selective and an operation dedicated to destroying PT — as 
you said just now. But Operation Car Wash went on to imprison Eduardo 
Cunha, who led the **impeachment process against Dilma* 
and also Michel Temer, who became president after Dilma’s impeachment 
(though he’s been released, he then went back, was released again, but 
at least he’s on trial), and also Sérgio Cabral, the governor of the 
state of Rio de Janeiro. And now they’re aggressively going after Aécio 
Neves, Dilma’s center-right opponent in 2014. After all this, can you 
really say that Operation Car Wash was launched to destroy PT?*

Glenn, let me tell you something: Operation Car Wash has been selective 
most of the time it’s been running. You’re a foreign journalist, so you 
can investigate impartially. Check out who made donations to PSDB [the 
Brazilian Social Democracy Party], and who made donations to PT. How 
much did PSDB receive, and how much did PT receive? And what about other 
parties? Conduct a thorough study, an impartial one, and figure out why 
only [João] Vaccari of PT was sentenced for campaign finances. What 
about the other treasurers from the other parties??

*But isn’t Aécio on trial?*

But Aécio isn’t a campaign treasurer. I’m talking about campaign 
finances to show you that there’s been a focus on going after PT from 
the outset. Why? Because they needed to take out PT from the government, 
and since they didn’t manage to do so over the course of nearly four 
elections, they needed to create clear ways to stir up hatred of PT. 
Historically in Brazil, and I think the whole world over, this kind of 
loathing increases once you accuse someone of corruption.

Listen, let me be crystal clear: I think if someone steals, they should 
go to jail, whether they’re PT or not, whether they’re Catholic or 
evangelical, you know? You steal, you go to jail. If the sentence has 
been pronounced, if the facts have been established, and if it’s been 
proven that you stole, you must go to jail. This is the kind of lawful 
state we want to establish. Now, I want to challenge the people who 
imprisioned me to show the world a single shred of evidence against me. 
I’m not asking for anything else.

*But do you agree that Operation Car Wash is going after other 
politicians, including your opponents from the center-right?*

Glenn, Operation Car Wash has been gradually changing into a political 
operation that benefits whoever participates in it. I’ll give you a 
tip-off here, a bit of whistleblowing that you can help investigate: Not 
long ago, we found out that there was an agreement made by the U.S. 
Department of Justice with what Dallagnol was handling for the Federal 
Public Ministry, for Operation Car Wash, to the tune of $600 million.

*From the U.S.?*

 From the U.S. And afterwards, it surfaced that Sérgio Moro had 
authorized another agreement to the tune of $1.6 billion from Odebrecht, 
here in Brazil. We also know that there are other monetary agreements 
funding Operation Car Wash, but right now we don’t have access to the 
figures. In fact, PT is demanding that the leader of the House of 
Representatives get the Federal Savings Bank involved to help us find 
out who’s made agreements with Operation Car Wash. Because in fact, any 
time someone makes an agreement like this involving hundreds of millions 
of dollars, they’re trying to build a political machine, they’re setting 
up a racket..

      Because in fact, any time someone makes an agreement like this
    involving hundreds of millions of dollars, they’re trying to build a
    political machine, they’re setting up a racket. 

*All right, well, I promise you that we’re working on these issues, and 
investigating these …*

Just let me finish, Glenn, I don’t want to stop in the middle of saying …

*Go ahead.*

The only thing I really want, the only thing, is that my case be judged 
objectively. I don’t want anything else. I want the judges at some point 
to care about having hard evidence, either from the side of the 
prosecution or from the defendants. Did you know I had 73 witnesses but 
that Dallagnol didn’t even show up to the hearings? He made up that 
deceitful PowerPoint presentation and then vanished. The only person he 
talks to is Miriam Leitão from Rede Globo news, and once in a while, he 
grants an interview. He’s probably going around now on lecture tours to 
make money. Anyway, I don’t want his beliefs to be the last word. I want 
evidence to be the last word. If he can prove that I own what he says I 
own, that shouldn’t cost him anything. In the meantime, I’ve been 
completely demoralized in the face of public opinion.

*We won’t be able to settle this right now. You’ve got your accusations, 
but it’s a question of evidence …*

Listen: When PT denounced the foundation that was set up with these 
funds, Dallagnol went to Caixa Economica [federal bank] to try sign a 
document and take over the foundation. Let’s put it this way: I’m being 
convicted without any foundation, without any dollars behind me, without 
any funds, and he’s walking free, trying to seize $2.5 billion. We 
denounced him to the National Justice Council. But who’s going to judge 
the case? The Council, which consists of, you know who? 8 members of the 
Federal Public Ministry. So what do you think the result will be? Is 
there any doubt?

*During the 2018 elections, we spent a year trying to get an interview 
with you, like other journalists, but nobody was authorized to interview 
you, even though some of the most violent people behind bars in the 
country, including Nem, the head drug trafficker in Rio de Janeiro, were 
interviewed in prison. But now that the elections are over and Bolsonaro 
has won, all of a sudden the courts are allowing some journalists, like 
Folha de São Paulo, El País, and Kennedy Alencar for the BBC to 
interview you. How would you explain this?*

I have no doubt, Glenn, that everything that’s happened in connection 
with Operation Car Wash has been to prevent Lula from running for 
president. Nowadays I’m certain of this, the same way that I’m certain 
that the U.S. Department of Justice is behind this, and the same way 
that I’m certain …

*Is there evidence of that?*


*Is there evidence? Is there proof?*

I can only have strong beliefs, you know, about everything. The same way 
that I’m absolutely certain that it’s interest in the petroleum 
resources of Brazil’s pre-salt layer that’s behind everything that’s 
happened to me and Dilma. Namely, the coup against Dilma, my 
imprisonment, the accusations. You see, Operation Car Wash could have 
had an important role in punishing the businessmen — if they’re guilty — 
and allowing the businesses to keep on creating jobs, paying salaries. 
They could have kept Petrobras from going broke, from being sold, from 
being divvied up as it is. Anyway, I’m very glad that today they’ve 
allowed this interview, and I’m grateful to you all for demanding this 
in the courts 
I should have been allowed to have interviews before the elections.

*Well, we requested the interview a long time ago, before the elections.*

I know. And I’m grateful that you requested one. But it was denied. 
First, Minister of the Supreme Court [Ricardo] Lewandowskiallowed it 
but then it wasvetoed by [Dias] Toffoli 
I think,as president of the Supreme Court. I knew that it was a game 
they were playing, and that the game was: Let’s prevent Lula from 
competing in the elections. Why? Because the worst nightmare of the 
Brazilian elite is Lula returning to the presidency. But why exactly, if 
they made so much money during my presidency?

*Yes, and isn’t it true, for example, that bank profits went through the 
roof during your presidency?*

I don’t know if they went through the roof, but they grew significantly.

*They did, didn’t they?*

But the truth is that the poor ascended a whole rung on the economic 
ladder. And as the lower classes began to go to university, to go out to 
the theater, to go out to eat at restaurants, to travel more by 
airplane, this began to bother part of the elite.

*But the upper classes also saw great improvements during your 
presidency. So why would this upper class, who profited so much while 
you were president, be so against your return to office?*

It’s because this isn’t just an economic question; it’s a cultural 
issue. One has to remember that it was only a little over a hundred 
years ago that slavery was legally abolished, and that it continues in 
the minds of many. That’s why the greatest victims of police violence 
are black, that’s why those who are black earn 50 percent less than 
those who are white, and that’s why black women earn less than white 
women. That’s why those who are black have a lower average level of 
schooling than those who are white. Why? Because slavery is still 
prevalent deep within people’s consciousness. It’s a harsh thing to say, 
but it’s true. And this doesn’t change overnight. If we think about 
civil rights in the U.S., things began to change in the 1960s, but how 
many people had to die, including Martin Luther King Jr., in order to 
guarantee that black people would be treated with dignity? Really, I 
think deep down, it’s not an economic question. It’s set of a cultural, 
political, and sociological issues.

*Well, let’s talk about some cultural issues. Your government was 
responsible, for example, for approving the changes in drug laws in 
2006, which were a great advance in differentiating between drug users 
and drug traffickers. But as a result of these laws, the number of 
incarcerations rose, specifically of black people and of women. Looking 
back, how would you judge the policies of your government, given that it 
led to increase incarcerations during your presidency and Dilma’s too?*

Let me tell you something. Between 2003 and 2014, we rolled out a range 
of strategies and approved as many laws as possible to improve the 
system of policing in this country, to reduce the rate of corruption, 
and to put more criminals behind bars. If you look at anything that’s 
functioning well in the Ministry of Justice, you’ll realize that these 
advances were put in place specifically during PT’s government. Exactly 
then. Now listen, we didn’t manage to solve the problems of public 
safety in Brazil, but we did create the mechanisms, including more civil 
ones, for the police to act more professionally, and we equipped the 
Federal Police, we set up the National Police, all with the objective of 
getting things done. And all of this is going down the drain now. I 
remember when Minister of Justice Tarso Genro approved PRONASCI, the 
National Program for Public Safety, which was a great initative for 
reducing crime and helping out young adults. It no longer exists. I 
think what’s really needed is a series of public policies to help 
resolve the overall situation. What are two extremely important components?

First, take PAC, the Growth Acceleration Program. You mentioned Nem 
earlier, and I remember in one of his interviews with a magazine 
I think it was Istoé, he said that the president who got the most 
criminals off the streets was Lula, because during PAC, they lost 20 
percent of their crooks who instead went to go work in PAC programs. In 
other words, if you want to reduce violence, you shouldn’t hand out 
weapons; you should hand out education, jobs, salaries, opportunities, 
and hope.

*But did this actually work during your presidency? Because for many 
people, the problem was that violence and crime increased during the PT 
government. These problems were exactly what Bolsonaro exploited in his 
rhetoric. Isn’t it true that the problems of …*

It did not increase during the PT government. During the PT government, 
we enacted the greatest policies of social mobility in 500 years of 
Brazilian history.

*But did crime increase or decrease?*

It decreased, definitely. It decreased. And there’s something one has to 
take into account when discussing this in the context of Brazil. One 
thing is being serious and keeping records of every case that happens, 
and another thing is just making the crime rate look lower by hiding the 
crimes. What we emphasized was greater transparency, with the goal of 
avoiding the same old trend of poor people being the victims. When you 
can guarantee that a young person will have a job, you know, then he 
won’t have to steal someone’s cellphone or tennis shoes. He won’t have 
to kill someone to steal their jacket. This is a no-brainer. When you 
give a young person the opportunity to dream, to dream “I can have a 
job, I can go to a technical school, I can go to university,” then this 
young person will grab and hold on to such opportunities..

*I see what you mean.*

What kinds of dreams do they have today?

*I’d like to turn to discussing the political situation here in Brazil 
and its relation to international politics, because the whole world is 
interested in understanding Brazil after Bolsonaro took power. In 2015 
in the U.S., it was unthinkable that Trump would win the elections, and 
nobody believed it would happen, but he’s now president. The same thing 
in the U.K. with Brexit. The same thing in Europe with nationalist and 
far-right parties. A year ago in Brazil, nobody believed that Bolsonaro 
would be elected. It was unthinkable, but he won. Now I know that you 
believe that Bolsonaro’s victory was due to causes and factors unique to 
Brazil, like the media’s attack on PT, but right now, can we see 
Bolsonaro’s victory as part of a larger global pattern in the democratic 
world of far-right parties overturning center-left parties?*

Well, as part of the democratic process in the whole word, shifts and 
alternations in power are a normal pattern. This holds in the U.S., it 
holds in Germany, and it holds in Brazil. In one election, the right 
wins, in the next one the left wins, and in the next one …

*But the right-wing is gaining ground in many countries.*

Now, look: We had a very extraordinary period in Latin America. The 
period with the most growth, the greatest distribution of wealth, and of 
the most social inclusion in Latin America happened between 2000 and 
2014 with the elections of [Cristina] Kirchner, [Ricardo] Lagos, Lula, 
Evo Morales, [Hugo] Chavez, Rafael Correa — it was a golden age for 
Latin America. We’re now in a far-right phase that’s failing in absurd 
ways. Macri is a disaster for Argentina, and he was supposed to be the 
answer. There’s this book …

*Why is this happening?*

Well, there’s this book by the Mozambican writer Mia Couto, with the 
following phrase: “In times of terror, we choose monsters to protect 
us.” Now, when you create hatred within a society 
<https://theintercept.com/2018/04/11/prisao-lula-odio-golpes/>, when you 
create anti-political sentiment, when you take away any kind of hope in 
people or in existing institutions, then, well, anything goes. I know 
that Americans thought Trump had no chance. So why did he end up winning 
the elections? It wasn’t with Putin’s help, as everyone’s saying. It was 
because of the lies of fake news, just like here in Brazil.

*Was that the only reason?*

That’s not the only reason, it was because of unemployment, because of 
despair, and because of this discourse of the shrinking the government, 
which is always a concern in the air. You know what I mean? When Reagan 
and Thatcher created so-called globalization, the fad in the 1980s was 
to say that being modern was being globalized, and opening the economy 
up to the whole world and letting capital transit freely — even though 
people could not freely transit. Now that globalization has caused 
problems for developed countries, above all for the U.S., Trump found an 
easy line of discourse: “The U.S. is for Americans, and jobs are for 

*Well, it’s not very well known that many people who voted for Obama in 
2008 and 2012 then went on to vote for Trump in 2016. In Brazil, the 
same thing happened: Many people who voted for you and then for Dilma 
went on to vote for Bolsonaro. How do you explain this?*

Glenn, let me share something with you: I know Hillary Clinton pretty 
well. It would have been very easy to find someone more popular than 
her. She’s not an appealing personality. Trump’s victory was due to him 
having the right kind of discourse for the white blue-collar workers, 
you know, from the automobile industry, who were unemployed. He promised 
the obvious: more jobs for Americans. He promised to fight the Chinese 
to create more jobs, and this won him the elections. Now it’s obviously 
possible that many people who voted for Obama voted for Trump, just like 
many people who voted for Lula voted for Bolsonaro, especially since 
Lula wasn’t running for office. If Obama was running, I don’t know if 
Trump would have won. Concretely, I don’t know if, even in spite of the 
extraordinary performance by [Fernando] Haddad — if I were to have run, 
would the people have voted, would PT voters have elected Bolsonaro? 
Concretely …

*I know people who voted for you, and then for Dilma, and then for 

Well, maybe if I’d been a candidate, these people wouldn’t have voted 
for Bolsonaro. Glenn, since you’re a journalist, you know what’s 
happened in Brazil. First of all, Brazil has always had politics based 
on a monolithic “conventional wisdom.” Fernando Henrique Cardoso had 
eight years of conventional wisdown that was favorable to him, I had 
eight years of conventional wisdom that was against me, and Dilma had 
favorable conventional wisdom when the press tried to create a rift 
between Dilma and Lula, but then that didn’t work out, so they were 
against her. And as soon as the idea of impeachment came about, they 
were 100 percent against her.

There was this climate of hatred running throughout society, trying to 
blame PT for all of the misfortunes of Brazil, but when the elections 
were on the horizon, there wasn’t a single viable right-wing candidate. 
(I mean, normal right-wing, because as for Bolsonaro, he’s comparable to 
Nero standing by while Rome burned down to the ground.) And in fact, 
Bolsonaro’s been in office for five months and we’ve never heard the 
words “growth,” “development,” “investment,” “job creation,” 
“distribution of wealth” — these words have simply vanished from the 
dictionary. The only thing you see is everyone making this gun gesture 
with their fingers all the time, and this is actually the same shape 
they used before to make an “L” for Lula. I guess Bolsonaro borrowed 
this gesture from when it was used in my presidential campaigns. The 
point is, our country is abandoned, everyone only speaks of budget cuts 
and welfare reform, and promising the society …

*Abandoned by who? I mean, during your interview with El País, you 
chalked up the rise of the global right to the failures of 
neoliberalism. I’d like to know more about this issue of neoliberalism 
failing here in Brazil and internationally as well. What’s the relation 
between the population suffering and their sudden embrace of far-right 
leaders like Bolsonaro and others throughout the democratic world?*

Neoliberalism, as it arose during the era of globalization, is losing 
ground everywhere. It’s not just losing ground to the left, but also to 
the right, as it lost to Hitler and to Mussolini. At the same time, 
we’ve had two recent examples, in Spain and Portugal, of the left coming 
back during the elections. And even in Germany, where Angela Merkel is a 
very strong politician, if she hadn’t formed coalitions with the Social 
Democrats, she wouldn’t be in power.

*But even there, the far-right is growing.*

I know, it’s growing the whole world over, and I think it’s a warning 
call for the left, yes. But the right-wing won’t … you can be sure that 
after Bolsonaro and Macri, Cristina [Fernández de Kirchner] will win the 
next elections. You can be certain that if Evo Morales runs for 
president, he’ll win in Bolivia, and that the same will happen in many 

I hope that Americans will have the good sense to prevent another term 
of Trump as president, because he’s not just a problem for the U.S., 
he’s a problem for the whole world. He has to learn that given the 
importance of the U.S. on the international stage, he can’t make 
impulsive decisions without reflecting on their global consequences. He 
can’t threaten to wage war on everyone, threatening to attack all the 
time. Enough is enough! We’ve had enough lies, like in Vietnam, like the 
lies about Iraq, like the lies about Libya.

It’s time to stop this, you know, the world needs peace, the world needs 
schools, the world needs more books, and not more weapons, the world 
needs jobs. Sometimes I get really upset thinking about the G20 meeting 
we had in London, the first one that Obama went to, where we reached 
important decisions to deal with the 2008 financial crisis, and one of 
the suggestions was that richer nations, in accord with the reduction in 
their internal consumption, could enable financial means for poorer 
countries to develop and to modernize, to buy newer machines, to have 
greater access to technology and science. But this didn’t happen, and 
protectionism is back.

*But Mr. President, it’s a common criticism, for PT as well, that while 
you and Dilma have a reputation and a political past as left-wing, your 
form of government was neoliberal, and there are a number of examples 
which we’ve already discussed, **like the**increase in bank profits* 
your presidency**. The same way that the Democratic Party in the U.S. is 
financed by Wall Street and Silicon Valley, PT was financed by the 
richest corporations in Brazil, such as **Odebrecht* 
OAS, JBS, and lots of banks. You implemented a welfare reform in 2004, 
and Dilma implemented austerity in 2014 and went ahead with the 
hydroelectric dam in Belo Monte that environmental and indigenous 
activists were against, and you implemented tax cuts for the rich. If 
you think that Bolsonaro’s victory was due to the failures caused by 
neoliberalism, don’t you think that PT built it up?*

Oh, no, no. No, Glenn, I won’t answer your question before responding to 
all of these things you’ve just said about PT and my government.

*I don’t want you to respond to those …*

It’s important to keep in mind that …

*It’s a common criticism, that’s why I’m asking.*

During my presidency, I never said that my government was socialist. 
First of all, when you win an election, you have to figure out the 
relations between the forces that you’ll have on your side in order to 
implement political decisions. It’s important to remember, Glenn, that 
when I was elected president of the republic with a parliament of 513 
representatives, I had 91 representatives from my party. Collor and 
Bolsonaro, they had 50. He’s going to need, much more than I did, to 
construct allegiances with forces who will be amenable to approving what 
he wants. There’s no point in his talking of “old politics” when he’s 
the old politician himself! He’s been in office for 28 years. He’s the 
old politician, and I’m the new one. I had only been a representative 
for four years, and I didn’t want to be a representative anymore, and he 
was one for 28 years. So enough of this “old politics” nonsense. And if 
you want to run a country, you have to work with what you have!

I ran the country that I happened to be in. I wasn’t running France, or 
Germany or the U.S., I was running Brazil. And when I arrived in office, 
there were 54 million people dying of hunger, who couldn’t afford to eat 
breakfast, and I pledged that by the end of my term, every person in 
Brazilian would have breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I didn’t get the 
chance to go to college, but I made it my duty to see to it that, since 
I didn’t have the chance go to college, the workers would. For all these 
reasons, even though I’m the only president without a college degree, I 
wouldn’t switch places with many people who have one, you know? I’m the 
president who sent the highest number of students to university, who 
opened the most public universities, who launched the most technical 
schools in the history of the country, who had the largest policies of 
distribution of wealth, who raised the minimum wage the most, and who 
helped the most in settling the landless.

*So how do you explain the suffering that people felt that brought 
Bolsonaro to office, after 14 years of PT in power?*

Why did I do all those things that I just mentioned? Because I 
understand that if one wants to solve the problems of Brazil, we have to 
use the word “people.” We have to look at people and see human beings 
instead of just seeing numbers or debt figures. Do you want to reduce 
the government debt in Brazil? Grow the economy. Do you want to reduce 
the welfare debt? Create jobs. Why was the welfare at a surplus in 2014? 
Because we created 20 million jobs with regularized work contracts, and 
because we legally approved six million individual microenterprises. We 
got the economy functioning. Just talking about cuts, cuts, cuts won’t 
hack it; one needs to speak of growth, development, and look toward 
people, not toward the banks. Come on, what kind of growth can our 
country expect with a president who goes around saluting the American flag?

*No, what I’m trying to ask is why you blame the rise of Bolsonaro and 
other extremists on neoliberalist ideologies. I’m trying to understand 
the difference in how you ran the country, how Dilma ran the country, 
and those ideologies. What differences do you see?*

Glenn, when we started this interview, I said clearly that PT’s biggest 
problems come not from its errors, but its successes. Every time that a 
president tries to enact socially-minded policies in Latin America, 
they’re eventually ousted. The elite in Brazil and in other countries 
don’t accept economic development policies that contain social 
inclusion. PT managed to enact — and this is according to the U.N., not 
me — the greatest changes in social inclusion in the history of this 
country. It’s important to remember that during our mandate, it was the 
only time in history that the poor had a higher rate of economic upturn 
than the rich. The rich made gains too, but the poor at an even greater 
percentage. It was the only time in history, and this bothered people. 
You should have heard it in the Rio de Janeiro airport, in the São Paulo 
airport, when people said, “This airport is beginning to look like a bus 
station, with these poor people all around, people who have never taken 
a plane in their life.”

*Yeah, so why is there so much anger in this country, leading to 
Bolsonaro’s election?*

Well now, you’re giving me the opportunity to explain to the Brazilian 
people what happened. Let’s take the case of Bolsonaro. He had 39 
percent of the total votes, not of those who went to the polls, but 39 
percent of the total.

*In the first round?*

No, in the second round runoff. If you do the math, he had 57 percent of 
the votes of people who picked a candidate, but only 39 percent of the 
total number of voters.

*But he won by a large margin.*

It was a third, but yes, he won. He won the elections, but the majority 
of the people did not vote for him. But why did anyone vote for him? 
They voted for him because of that phrase I said earlier: “In times of 
terror, many people choose a monster to protect them.” So there were 
people who preferred to believe in a lie called Bolsonaro, in a man who 
preached hate, who preached violence, in a man who hates black people, 
who hates gay people, who hates poor people, in a man who said that 
killing was the answer, yes, they voted for him. Why? Because the 
opposition was PT, and PT had been demonized.

Who knows, Glenn, you know that when they ask me, I say that maybe God 
didn’t want me to win the elections back in 1989. Why? I lost in 1989, I 
lost in 1994, I lost in 1998, and I never got angry, nobody ever saw me 
infuriated about losing. I went back home and got ready for the next 
election. The hatred all started with Dilma’s victory in 2014 — no, 
actually with the demonstrations in 2013, and came to a head when Aécio 
lost, and then rants against Dilma began, and the hatred, the hatred …

*They couldn’t accept this loss. But I want to ask you something 
important, because you just said that PT was demonized and talked about 
the hatred of PT. And there’s a common criticism that I often hear about 
your strategy in 2018, which is that you did everything possible to 
weaken the candidacy of Ciro Gomes of the center-left, who many think 
had a better chance of beating Bolsonaro than the candidate who you 
chose from your party, Fernando Haddad.*

*Because of the hate and loathing of PT in Brazil, because Haddad was 
unknown outside of São Paulo. And now this is for the international 
audience: In the first runoff, Haddad ended up in second place, while in 
the second runoff, Bolsonaro defeated your PT candidate by a huge 
margin. The critics say that you preferred to lose to Bolsonaro and 
maintain control over the left with PT, than to have a better chance of 
beating Bolsonaro if it meant letting another party, namely Ciro’s, 
represent the left. Is this a valid criticism?*

Do you believe this?

*Well, I’m asking what you think.*

I’m asking if you believe this, you know why?

*I’ll tell you what I know. I know that the candidate who you endorsed 
so that he could make it to the second round ended up losing by a large 
margin to Bolsonaro, and I’m asking whether this was the right strategy. *

I’ll try to explain. My main strategy, my most basic strategy, goes back 
to 1989. In 1989, [Leonel] Brizola, who I remember fondly, thought he 
would win the elections. Brizola came back from exile ready to be 
president, but I was the one who went to the second round runoff. Did 
you know Brizola asked me to give up, so that he and I could support 
Mario Covas instead? So I said, “Brizola, if the people wanted to elect 
  Mario Covas, they would have voted for him, so why didn’t they? How 
would I look for the voters who wanted me in office? Should I give up to 
support Mario Covas who is way behind?” Really, if the people wanted 
Ciro to win the second round runoff, why didn’t they vote for him in the 
first round?

*Because you endorsed Haddad and not Ciro, and because your party also 
blocked his alliance with the PSB [the Brazilian Socialist Party], and 
gave up a possible candidacy for the governor of Pernambuco all to help 
the PT candidate. You’ve heard all these criticisms.*

Come on, does Ciro really complain because PT had the political means to 
bring in PCdoB [the Communist Party of Brazil] and PSB [the Brazilian 
Socialist Party]? What did he want PT to do? Nothing? He wanted PT to 
talk to PSB, because …

*You were the one who said that PT was demonized, was always under attack …*

Listen, let me tell you something. Ciro’s gotten learn something, this 
is important in politics, and if you ever want to go into politics, then 
learn this: If you want someone to like you, then you’ve gotta learn to 
like them back. If you want someone to respect you, then you’ve got to 
respect people. So if Ciro really wanted PT’s support, he could have 
come and discussed things with PT. I’m gonna tell you a story that you 
might not know, that nobody’s ever told, and that Ciro never told 
anyone. There was a time that Mangabeira Unger came to my office and 
said, “Me, Haddad, and Ciro had a meeting, and we agreed that Haddad 
would be Ciro’s vice president.” And I said, “Mangabeira, don’t you 
think you should’ve discussed this with PT first?” What do you think? 
Mangabeira, and now this is back in 1994, I was at a dinner at his house 
in Boston with him, with the beloved Marco Aurelio Garcia, with his 
beloved wife, and he says to me, “Brizola’s gonna win the election.” I 
had over 20 percent of the votes, and Brizola had none, and he says, 
“Brizola’s gonna win.” So I said, “Why do you think so, Mangabeira?” And 
he says, “Because as soon as Leonel Brizola gets in front of the 
cameras, all of the workers will vote for him!” And I said, “Mangabeira, 
you must be out of it, this isn’t gonna happen.” Well, the elections 
came, and I don’t know if you remember what happened that year. They 
banned the use of outside images, and only allowed candidates to speak 
directly in front of the camera. So how many votes did Brizola get? He 
lost to Enéas Carneiro. I ran again in 1994 and had 27 percent of the 
votes, but there was no second round. Ciro went to the elections, and 
didn’t run — no, he did, and he got 11 percent of the votes. He then ran 
again in 2002, and got 11 percent or 12 percent, and last year he ran 
again. So I lost four times before winning, and Ciro has already lost 
three times, maybe he’ll have to lose once more. If Ciro wants to make 
alliances, he has to learn to have conversations, he has to learn how to 
convince people, and he has to assume certain programmatic commitments.

*Well, Ciro will definitely hear this interview.*

I think Ciro knows what kind of relationship I have with him. I’ve 
always had a great deal of respect for him, and I thank Ciro for working 
with me in my government, and I’ll tell you something else: I thought 
Ciro shouldn’t have even run for the House of Representatives, because I 
invited him instead to be the president of BNDES [the Brazilian 
Development Bank].

*Well, this is exactly the reason that he thought he had a better chance 
than the candidate that you endorsed in the second round runoff. But 
anyway, I want to take this opportunity to talk a little bit about the 
challenges that the left faces internationally, because it’s really 
important, and you are one of the few great leaders of the left in the 
past twenty years, who managed to win national elections in a huge 
nation and to reach out to the most destitute and marginalized.*

*I think it’s really important to hear what you think of the problems 
that the left is facing worldwide, because in the majority of countries 
in the democratic world, including Brazil, the left is facing great 
difficulties in attracting support from lower socioeconomic classes, but 
at the same time is seeing increased support for higher classes, people 
with higher education, and university degrees. So I want to ask, what’s 
needed in order for the Brazilian left and the left worldwide to be able 
to reconnect with the people, as you were able to do? *

Listen, during the economic crisis in 2008, I discovered that the world 
was lacking leadership. I went to meetings with the 20 main leaders of 
the world, and I realized that nobody knew what to do. I was worried, 
for example, about the EU, because the EU had become very bureaucratic, 
and it was no longer the politicians who spoke, it was the bureacrats, 
it was this committe and that commission, and everything was a committee 
or commission without the politicians deciding anything. I thought this 
was pretty bad, you know.

And in the U.S., Obama also had no way out. I remember calling up Obama 
during the automobile industry crisis and telling him my plans with the 
BNDES, with the Bank of Brazil, with the Caixa Economica — with three 
public banks that enabled us to kickstart economic growth in Brazil and 
prevent the crisis from strangling us. Obama regretted that in the U.S. 
there was no way to have such bank involvement, but there were ways to 
create development banks. Anyway, here’s what I think the left has to 
do: First, the left needs, you know … there are left-wing parties with 
100 years of experience, with 150 years of experience, with 80 years, 
and PT has 40 years of experience, and I think PT has had a very 
successful experience.

Now, some folks have said that PT has gotten too far removed from the 
people. Listen, I would say that PT needs to take a step back but not to 
its origins — because you don’t govern for the sake of a party, you 
govern for the sake of the whole society. When you win an election, you 
have to govern for the sake of everyone, and of course you can choose 
who you want to focus on serving more or less, but you have to govern 
for the sake of everyone, you have to respect everyone, you have to like 
everyone, you have to serve everyone, and this was how I did things. I 
doubt, Glenn, that you’ll find any other country, during my presidency, 
I doubt you’ll find a mayor, a governor, or a representative from an 
opposition party who had anything bad to say about my government, 
because we treated everyone with decency.

*I agree, and you left office with an 86 percent approval rate, and one 
of the most important aspects, in my opinion, of your political appeal 
was your childhood and background: that you came from poverty, that you 
only learned to read at age 10, and that you were a laborer at age 16, 
like millions of other Brazilians. I want to know whether you think it’s 
important for left-wing parties to be represented by people who learned 
about poverty not only in theory while in college, but who grew up in 
poverty themselves and, therefore, have that experience in their bones 
and can speak with credibility to the people about poverty and about 
their experience. Do you think that the Brazilian left, or the left 
internationally, can manage to do this the way you did?*

Well, I think the left hasmany peoplewho have studied very hard 
<https://theintercept.com/2018/10/02/noam-chomsky-visita-lula/>and who 
are serious intellectuals who can achieve this. What we need is …

*But is that the same has having experienced it?*

What’s really needed is to be committed to these causes. There’s no way 
to govern a country if … Do you remember my attitude when I won the 
election? Do you remember that I put every minister on a plane and took 
them all to the four most destitute places in Brazil? Why did I do that, 
anyway? I wanted [Henrique] Meirelles, a banker, and [Antonio] Palocci, 
a doctor, and [Luiz] Furlan, a businessman — I wanted them to see a 
stilt house above a swamp up close, I wanted them to see a man and woman 
having to defecate in the same room they eat in, I wanted them to see 
the vast number of young girls with two or three kids and no dad around, 
I wanted them to see the poverty of Jequitinhonha Valley, I wanted them 
to see the real world as it is, not just the world as it is in Brasilia. 
What the left needs is this kind of commitment.

You’re not going to manage to govern if you can’t define which part of 
the population it’s your priority to serve. So I might like everyone, I 
might like Glenn, I might like Lula, I might like anyone, but I have to 
choose. Does Glenn manage to eat three meals a day? Does Glenn have 
access to education? Does Glenn own a car? Well, then Glenn isn’t my 
priority. The priority are those who are downtrodden, who don’t have 
what Glenn has, but who need to.

*But to make this happen, do you think it’s important to have candidates 
coming from these neighborhoods that have real poverty and that don’t 
seem overly academic?*

No, what we have to do is prepare ourselves. I prefer that we find 
candidates who come from backgrounds with popular struggles in their 
blood, in their veins, but obviously there are many good people out 
there, not necessarily from poor backgrounds, who are committed to the 
cause of the poor.

*But most important is having the candidates. Do you think this is 
what’s missing in Brazil?*

Definitely. This is why the party … I think what’s missing is more 
people being involved, more women, more black people, more Indigenous 

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