Brazil has been on edge since veteran leftist Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's narrow presidential win over far-right incumbent Jair Bolsonaro October 30, 2022
Brasília (AFP) - Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro met Thursday with advisors to incoming successor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who described the visit as “positive,” after fears the far-right incumbent would try to fight his election defeat.
Vice president-elect Geraldo Alckmin, who is heading Lula’s transition team, said the meeting came at the end of a trip to the presidential palace where he and advisors met Bolsonaro’s cabinet chief, Ciro Nogueira, to begin preparing the handover of power on January 1.
“It was positive. The president invited us into his offices as we were leaving, and reiterated what Ciro Nogueira had said: the federal government’s readiness to give us all information and assistance needed for a smooth transition in the public interest,” Alckmin told journalists.
Brazil has been on edge since veteran leftist Lula’s narrow win Sunday over Bolsonaro, who remained silent for nearly two days as angry supporters blocked highways across the country, calling for a military intervention to keep him in power.
However, with the blockades losing strength, the wheels of the power transfer appear to be turning.
Earlier, Alckmin told a news conference he had held a “very fruitful” meeting with Nogueira and other administration officials along with the head of Lula’s Workers’ Party (PT), Gleisi Hoffmann, and the transition team’s technical coordinator, Aloizio Mercadante.
“The transition has begun… As Lula said in his victory speech, our task is to unite Brazil. So here we go,” Alckmin said.
Alckmin, a business-friendly center-right veteran tasked with building bridges with Lula’s adversaries, said the president-elect was getting some “well-deserved rest.”
They will begin announcing the full membership of the transition team from Monday, he said.
Alckmin is seeking ways to make key Lula campaign promises fit within a tight 2023 federal budget.
Conservatives scored big election wins in Congress, meaning Lula faces an uphill battle to get legislation passed and tackle problems such as a weak economy, hunger crisis and surging destruction in the Amazon rainforest.
- Hope dims for hardliners -
The pro-Bolsonaro road blocks had threatened to create havoc in Latin America’s biggest economy.
Officials said there were 32 road barricades by Thursday afternoon, down from 250 Tuesday, after Bolsonaro issued an appeal to “unblock the roads” to avoid interfering with people’s right to move freely.
But although the ex-army captain has vowed to respect the constitution, he has not acknowledged Lula’s win or congratulated him.
Bolsonaro encouraged “legitimate demonstrations” in a video posted online Wednesday night – raising fears Brazil may still face turbulent times until Lula is sworn in, and beyond.
Lula, 77, who previously led Brazil from 2003 to 2010, won an unprecedented third term Sunday, capping a remarkable comeback for the ex-metalworker three years after he was freed from prison on since-quashed corruption convictions.
Bolsonaro supporters reacted furiously to the vote count, blocking highways with cars, trucks, and tractors and rallying outside military barracks to demand an intervention.
In Rio de Janeiro, a protest outside a military base had dwindled to several dozen people.
“We’re going to have a communist dictatorship,” 31-year-old protester Jessica dos Santos Ferreira told AFP, calling Lula a “thief.”
There were fears that Bolsonaro, an admirer of Donald Trump, would seek to stage a Brazilian version of the 2021 riots in Washington following the former US president’s own election loss.
But Bolsonaro appeared to find himself isolated after his defeat, as allies including powerful lower-house speaker Arthur Lira and televangelist Silas Malafaia acknowledged the result.
The protesters have meanwhile come under fire for their extreme measures and views in some cases.
Authorities in the southern state of Santa Catarina opened an investigation after one group of hundreds of pro-Bolsonaro demonstrators was filmed making what appeared to be Nazi salutes Wednesday.
Prosecutors said in a statement they had not found evidence the protesters intended the gesture as a “defense of Nazism,” a crime in Brazil.
In several states, organized football fan clubs broke up the road blocks so they could get to their teams’ away games – winning plaudits on social media from Brazilians exasperated by the blockades.