is it that has surprised you the most since you've been out of
hasn't been much that was unexpected. What frightens me the most
is seeing that the
[Jair] Bolsonaro government is actually worse than the
vision I had of it when I was behind bars.
I think the way
they are governing poses a great risk to Brazil.
government is worried that regional protests in Latin America
could extend to Brazil.
Against this backdrop, the economy
minister on Monday evoked a security decree dating back to the
Do you feel that this government is a
threat to democracy?
A. I think that
within the government there are people who don't fully
understand what a democracy is.
It is not a pact of silence. It
is a society in motion that seeks to consolidate its social
achievements and improve the lives of everyone in the country.
does not appreciate democracy, nor do his children, nor does his
party. He has repeatedly talked about shutting down the Supreme
Court, Congress, restoring AI-5 [the decree that sparked the
worst repression during the dictatorship].
drafted who knows how many decrees to authorize arms
He thinks that
everything can be fixed with armed people on the streets, when
in truth, I believe that everything is solved with more
technology, more education and more jobs.
This is the
second time that they have referenced [AI-5]; the first time, it
was the president's son. This is evidence that to them,
democracy is not fundamental.
For them, it
gets in the way of governing.
I feel that
Brazil needs more democracy, more demonstrations, because
that guarantees the consolidation of the institutions.
Q. There is a
lot of unrest in Latin America. Why do you think there aren't
any protests in Brazil?
A. I think it's
because it's been such a short time since Bolsonaro was elected
president of the republic; it hasn't been a full year yet.
And during the
first year, people expect good things to happen. But what's
happening now is greater unemployment, lower income and
difficulties purchasing basic food items.
The price of
meat and cooking gas has really gone up, for instance. A lot of
people are living on little money, yet the government is not
talking about development policies…
dissatisfaction, and as this feeling builds up, there will
certainly start to be demonstrations.
The government needs to
understand that this is all part of democracy.
Q. What is
your strategy now?
A. The first
thing is to keep up the political battle to
prove my innocence.
I need to prove
that all the processes against me are falsehoods, lies,
inventions by the media and the prosecution services and Judge
Sergio Moro [who convicted Lula and who is now the justice
thing is helping the Workers' Party to get ready for the
municipal elections of 2020 and the presidential run of 2022.
Q. Does that
help include encouraging the left to go protest on the streets?
A. The role of
a former president of the republic is not to agitate society
against the winner of the election.
One day, as I
was chatting with [former Spanish PM Felipe] González and
[former US president Bill] Clinton, they told me that it was not
good politics to become
entrenched in systematic opposition or to say:
My role now is
to show society that only through lots of democracy, through
lots of wealth distribution and job creation, can the conditions
be created for this country to grow.
But for the
left, the streets are an obligation in any country in the world.
I first got into politics by holding strikes in 1975, 78, 79,
80… I don't know why the current government is afraid of seeing
the people on the streets.
He himself [Bolsonaro]
supported mobilizations against [former president Dilma]
Rousseff, against the PT. Demonstrating on the streets is proof
that society is alive and that it won't allow [Bolsonaro] to
dismantle Brazil. That's all.
always governed for one third of the people. We dare to govern
Q. When you
became president, you were very successful as a conciliator. Why
are you now choosing to be more combative?
A. When you
want to govern a country, you need to take into account the fact
that society is heterogeneous:
rich people, poor people, middle-class people.
And you need to
govern for everyone, while prioritizing the neediest.
I used to be in
government, but now I need to do opposition work, showing the
people the mistakes of the current government, which so far has
failed to mention the word development.
The only thing they are
doing is dismantling our public heritage.
If Brazil is
not bankrupt, it's because of the reserves that the Lula and
Dilma administrations left behind.
Q. Moro is the
most popular politician in Brazil, and you are one of the most
Do you trust that your two convictions will be overturned
and your disqualification from office quashed?
A. First of
all, Moro is the most deceitful judge in the country. He built
his image on a deal with the Brazilian media.
It is my moral
duty to prove that the people who could contribute to fighting
corruption are practically a gang within part of the judicial
power, part of the prosecution services, who are using [the
sweeping corruption case]
Car Wash for eminently political
Q. Right now,
three judges are reviewing your appeal against your second
conviction. Are you afraid of going back to prison?
A. I am not
afraid. If there is something I'm not afraid of, it's the
Q. But it
A. Look, I
could have fled the country, gone to an embassy to avoid
becoming a prisoner.
I decided to
turn myself in to prove that both Judge Moro and [lead
prosecutor Deltan] Dallagnol lied to the country about my
conviction. I am convinced of my innocence.
I am in Brazil,
I am going to stay here and prove that they are liars.
Q. Do you
trust the justice system?
A. I have to
believe that justice will be done. That is why I am appealing to
a higher court, because the lower one is corrupted.
Q. If you
manage to get your convictions overturned, will you run for
A. It's not
about wanting to run, I'm already 74 years old. And in 2022 I
will be 77. It's not recommendable. Yet I am in
good health, and I am prepared.
The only possibility would be if
there was a political disaster, if there was no candidate, and
somebody were needed to face up to these
madmen who are governing Brazil.
Q. What most
worries you about what this government has said and done?
disregard for social issues.
They are not
concerned at all about the unemployed, the homeless,
deforestation, the environment, with the oil that reaches the
beaches in the northeast.
people need books and jobs, but [Bolsonaro] wants to give them
Brazil has no
disputes with anybody, but he wants there to be disputes and to
submit in the most embarrassing way possible to the Americans,
which Brazil has never done.
that he is still a local resident in a Rio neighborhood under
Q. How do you
think Bolsonaro will end his term?
A. I don't
know. I hope he ends up taking care of the Brazilian people.
Q. Part of
Brazil's wealth under the PT government came from the boom in
raw materials, which is over.
The US does
not like any Latin American country to be a political
A. That is only
achieved was to distribute more fairly the result of Brazil's
growing economy. It was under us that for the first time the
poorest 20% improved more than the richest 15%.
It was during
our governments that the people got to have their own homes,
jobs, to travel by plane, to go to restaurants. […] For us,
there is only one way for Brazil to grow: to include all of
society so that they take part in the economy.
Here they have
always governed for one third of the people. We dared to govern
inequality the greatest problem of our time?
A. Yes, it is
not possible that there are billions of human beings that go to
sleep every night hungry when humanity is producing more food
than it can consume.
It means these
people need money to buy food.
speaking of protectionism when he should be speaking about
helping to develop the poor world.
Q. Why do
black and poor people in Brazil still suffer from so much
A. For the
first time, thanks to our politics of social inclusion, black
people and mestizos make up 51% of university students. That is a
And the data shows that it was our government that made
it possible to have a second revolution to end slavery.
Q. But there
is still a lot to be done…
A. There is a
lot to be done around the world, not only in Brazil.
follow soccer in Spain, Italy and the United Kingdom, and every
now and then I see horrible scene where black players are called
Q. What is
your solution for Latin America, given the unrest seen in
Colombia, Chile and Bolivia?
America needs to spend more time under democracy so that we can
build solid institutions.
A country will
not go anywhere if there is a coup every 10 or 15 years. What
happened in Bolivia should not be possible.
Evo Morales became the longest-serving president of Bolivia,
with the greatest growth in the region and the best income
Why was there a
coup? I believe the best model is in Brazil. You are president,
you can be reelected once, full stop. You don't need two
important. I was the first worker to reach the presidency. And
Evo Morales was the first indigenous person to become president
The elite here
does not know how to live under a democracy if it is not in
power, which is disgraceful.
Q. Brazil once
rubbed shoulders with the big shots but its foundations turned
out to be weak?
A. That is the
main self-criticism of the Brazilian elite, which destroyed the
Brazilian people's dream of transforming themselves.
We were the
most optimistic people in the world. We got along with the
socialists and conservatives of Spain, France, England, Germany.
I got along
with [former Republican US president George] Bush and with
[former Democratic US president Barack] Obama, with the Chinese
and with the Russians. Brazil is a builder of consensus, of
That was its
role in Latin America.
just think about growth, you had to think about growth that
would include all the countries you share a border with. I had
to be very careful with Latin America because
the US does not
like any Latin American country to be a political protagonist.
My role now is
to show society that only through lots of democracy can the
conditions be created for this country to grow
Q. Back then,
Brazilian people were more open, minorities were winning greater
rights. Now there has been a clear step backwards.
A. Yes, and
this step backwards is in large part due to
for years, the media in Brazil have urged the people to reject
politics. And when you
reject politics, what comes is much worse.
That's how Nazism and
fascism were born.
Q. Are you
able to live with the fact that Bolsonaro is president?
A. I don't need
to like Bolsonaro to respect the institution of the presidency
of the Republic. Nor does he need to like me to respect me as a
I don't want to
marry my political adversary, it's enough for him to be civil.
Political debate is another issue.
Q. Since your
release, have you been to the park, a beach, some open space?
A. I have been
taking care of myself for 30 years.
I have not been
to a restaurant or a bar for 30 years. The best security a
politician can have is to not go anywhere where it would be easy
for something to happen.
Q. When do you
begin the tour of the country you announced?
A. I will rest
a little in my freedom until Christmas. Then I have to go home.
I am going to get married.
A. When I have
A. There's not
enough time. I have to get myself ready.
Q. Can you
confirm that singer Chico Buarque is going to be your best man?
A. Nothing has
been confirmed but it would be an honor. There's no date but
there will be a wedding.
Q. Here in São
A. I don't
know. I'll invite you.