Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva was sworn into office on Sunday after having won the Brazilian presidential elections by just 1.8 percentage points last October in a narrow-run off against his predecessor Jair Bolsonaro. The newly incumbent left-wing president has promised to tackle the issues of poverty as well as to make Brazil a leader in the fight against climate change. Lula is now taking his third term in office, having served for two consecutive stints between 2003 and 2010. In 2018, he was imprisoned on corruption allegations, a conviction the Supreme Court overturned in 2021, ruling it a mistrial.
Since 2010, much has changed in Brazil. The population has grown from 196 million to some 214 million and in the four-years of Bolsonaro’s governance, the Brazilian part of the Amazon - a biosphere vital for cooling the planet and colloquially known as the “world’s lungs” - has shrunk significantly as the pace of deforestation accelerated by as much as 60 percent. Bolsonaro’s far-right administration also backpedaled indigenous rights. To put the scale of this damage into context, Mongabay reports that some 11,568 square kilometers (4,466 square miles) of rainforest were destroyed between Aug. 1, 2021, and July 31, 2022 alone, which is equivalent to the size of Qatar.
At the same time, where international debt stood at 51.7 percent of GDP in 2010, it hit 80.27 percent in 2021. Inflation hit a high of 12 percent in April 2022, before falling to around six percent in November. According to The Economist, the number of Brazilians who do not get enough to eat rose from 6 percent to 16 percent under Bolsonaro. On top of this, the country was hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The range and widespread nature of these issues is reflected in the responses to Statista’s Global Consumer Survey, which shows that between July 5, 2021 and June 21, 2022, 76 percent of Urban Brazilians said unemployment was a major issue in the country, while 69 percent cited education and 69 percent selected poverty. At the same time, nearly two thirds of respondents mentioned inflation or the economic situation as serious concerns, while crime, health and social security were also issues for six in ten Brazilians. Civil rights and climate change were each cited among the most important issues by around one in four. Respondents were able to pick multiple options.
Despite these findings, a recent Ipsos study found that the vast majority of Brazilians shared an outlook more positive than most countries when looking to the coming year. See how global optimism varies here.