The year was 2016. Nationwide anger against the center-left Workers’ Party had reached its peak, and the group would be blamed indiscriminately for all the corruption that existed in Brazil. The Workers’ Party figurehead and former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva issued a prophecy that this week has come true.
“From now on,” he said, “if they arrest me, I’m a hero. If they kill me, I become a martyr. And if they let me go, I’ll become president again.”
Lula would eventually spend time behind bars — 580 days to be accurate — for corruption and money laundering charges. These convictions would later be quashed on a technicality, and the Supreme Court found that the former president was given an unfair trial, due to the perceived bias of judge Sérgio Moro.
This freed up Lula to run for office again in 2022, which he did to unparalleled success, becoming the first person ever to win a third presidential term in Brazil and the first candidate to unseat an incumbent Brazilian president running for re-election.
Granted, Lula won by a hair’s breadth: just 1.8 percentage points. But, as he promised in 2016, they let him go and he became president once more.
As things stand, the focus is on the defeated incumbent Jair Bolsonaro. He has yet to publicly concede defeat, and groups of his supporters are protesting around the country, demanding a military coup to annul the election result and keep the president in office.
Mr. Bolsonaro has never lost an election in more than 30 years of public life, and he will be curious to see how he behaves out of public office — and without parliamentary immunity.
But, once this is resolved, attention will come back to Lula, the former shoe shiner turned union leader who became president — not once, not twice, but three times.