Yesterday I had the honor of meeting one of the world’s greatest champions for working people, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, better known as Lula.
During our meeting Lula and I discussed the importance of defending democracy, advancing worker’s rights and increasing environmental and climate cooperation around the world.
Lula came to Washington to meet with President Biden, but what he did during the rest of his visit speaks loudly to who he is and has always represented. He spent time, not only with me, but also with members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and with labor leaders at the AFL-CIO.
When world leaders visit our nation’s capital, almost all of them focus their attention on establishment figures: wealthy and powerful individuals, corporate CEOs or mainstream politicians. Lula did it differently. He met with progressive and labor leaders, because that is where he comes from and who he has represented throughout his entire life.
Lula, who left school after the second grade, was a metal worker who became president of Brazil’s steelworker’s union. At the time a CIA-backed military dictatorship ruled Brazil. Those who opposed them were jailed and often tortured. Lula risked his life leading strikes and protests against the undemocratic regime. In 1980 he founded the Workers Party. Remarkably he was elected president of Brazil in 2002. Because of the policies he put in place as president, 20 million Brazilians were able to rise out of poverty, while inequality, infant mortality, and illiteracy all declined. Lula demonstrated to the world the power and popularity of a government that stands for working people. When he left office in 2010 his approval rating was over 80%.
Lula was elected to a third term in October, defeating incumbent president Jair Bolsonaro, who was called the "Trump of the tropics."
In July, several months before their election, a group of civil society leaders from Brazil visited my office and spoke with me about the threat to Brazilian democracy coming from Bolsonaro and his supporters. Just like Donald Trump, Bolsonaro was telling lies about the election being stolen months before anyone cast a ballot. They asked me to speak out, not in support of Lula, but in support of democracy.
That is why, along with Senator Tim Kaine, I introduced a Resolution in Support of Brazilian Democracy. This bill unanimously passed the Senate sending a clear message that the United States would stand with the people of Brazil and would not accept any attempts to undemocratically overturn the results of their election.
This threat turned out to be very real. On January 8, thousands of Bolsonaro supporters stormed the buildings housing all three branches of government in Brazil calling for a military coup to bring Bolsonaro back to power. Since that day many questions have surfaced about the role of members of Bolsonaro’s government and of the military in these riots.
Lula and I spoke in our meeting about the need to work to stand up for democracy around the world. This means not only standing against those who would try to overturn the results of elections, but also against the oligarchs who only care about their ability to exploit working people for profit.
Progressives around the world need to work together and that is exactly what Lula and I will continue to do. Now more than ever we need international solidarity.
North Star caucus members
antiracismdsa (blog of Duane Campbell)
Hatuey's Ashes (blog of José G. Pérez)
Authory and Substack of Max Sawicky
Online University of the Left
In These Times
The American Prospect
Black Agenda Report
Dollars and Sense
Working Families Party
Poor People's Campaign
Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism
Progressive Democrats of America
Democracy for America
Black Lives Matter
Movement for Black Lives
The Women's March
Jewish Voice for Peace
National Abortion Rights Action League
National Organization for Women
National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights