Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was convicted of corruption in July. Now he is on the road mobilising those he lifted out of poverty
Wearing their best red T-shirts, carrying flags and banners, and buzzing with excitement, thousands of people in this poor, dusty farming town had thronged the main square to see Lula and they screamed and stretched out their hands when he walked on stage.
The bearded, gravel-voiced leftist leader’s rule ended seven years ago, yet he remains the most popular Brazilian president in decades, if not in the country’s history.
“Do you know any phenomenon bigger than Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva?” said Flavio Balreira, 65, using the full name, unusual in Brazil.
The former metal worker, union leader and two-times president once described by Barack Obama as “the most popular politician on Earth” has been criss-crossing Brazil’s semi-arid, impoverished north-east to address adoring crowds like this one in Ouricuri, in Pernambuco state. Lula and his team travel in a fleet of buses, which he calls “the caravan”.
“I want to thank President Lula,” said Francilene da Silva, 44, a maid who benefited from a housing scheme introduced during his eight-year reign.
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