A Step Forward:

On 1 January, 2023, Brazil welcomed its new President Luis Inácio Lula da Silva, who faces four years of challenges ahead. He will have to get the country’s economy in order and strengthen a democracy that has been undermined by Bolsonaro’s authoritarian ideology.

Millions of people watched the democratic rite of inaugurating the new president. The ceremony included emotional speeches filled with hope for a more democratic future of unity and inclusion.

There were also a few very symbolic departures from the usual protocol. First, ex-President Bolsonaro’s absence from the ceremony was felt strongly, even though it was not entirely unexpected. Bolsonaro’s earlier antidemocratic behavior during the electoral campaign demonstrated his disregard for democracy, lack of respect for the country’s best interests, and deficiencies in political leadership. Even Bolsonaro’s followers and political allies saw that his absence as a betrayal, causing potential rifts within the current government’s opposition.

The second break in protocol was that Lula invited Vice President-elect Geraldo Alckmin to ride in the same car as Lula and his wife during the procession that would take them to the National Congress to be sworn in. This was not the first time Lula departed from tradition and attests to his focus on keeping political alliances strong. In particular, it demonstrates how important it is for Lula to keep Alckmin by his side. The vice president is an excellent political orator and will be a key player in dialogue with the opposition and with parties that are not aligned with Workers’ Party (PT).

Thirdly, Lula departed from usual procedure in how he received the presidential sash. Traditionally, the sash is handed to the president-elect by the outgoing leader. In Lula’s case, he was handed the sash by a group that represented the diversity of the Brazilian people: a child, an indigenous leader, a black woman, a factory worker, and a person with a disability. This gesture aimed to show that political power comes from the people and that sovereignty extends beyond a single social group, but rather stems from the nation’s diversity. The presence of a black woman in this group was particularly important in recognizing the black community’s struggle for rights and visibility in a country with a history of slavery.

With regard to President Lula’s speeches to the National Congress and to the Brazilian people, it is worth noting how he drew attention to the role of various ministries in furthering social justice and peace and rebuilding the economy and environment, as previously discussed.

Protecting the Amazon rainforest and reducing deforestation are key issues facing the new administration. These environmental concerns are directly related to economic development, the survival of indigenous people, global climate security, and the recovery of the country’s natural resources. The previous government passed decrees that enabled  the dismantling of Amazonian protection projects, which also led to the invasion of indigenous territories, the expansion of an illegal wood and mineral trade, and accelerated deforestation of the Amazon rainforest.

In his speech, Lula informed the National Congress and the Brazilian public that these decrees and provisional measures from the prior government, which had allowed the destruction of the rainforest and those who live in it, would be revoked. According to Lula, Brazil had become a lawless land that tolerated environment degradation. However, the new Ministry of the Environment, headed by Marina Silva, would develop a new proposal for environmental regulation for the National Environmental Council–CONAMA. This will ensure sustainable economic development and foster alliances with other countries committed to climate security.

Brazil’s renewed commitment to combatting climate change brought immediate reactions from former partners in environmental efforts. For example, Germany reaffirmed its intentions to invest in Brazil. After the swearing-in ceremony, Germany’s President Frank-Walker Steinmeier announced that he would donate 35 million euros to the Fundo Amazônia (the Amazon Fund), which is responsible for preventing deforestation. In addition to opening the door to renewed negotiations with former allies, Brazil’s commitment to climate security is also attractive to other countries that would like to invest in a greener economy.

A green economy in Brazil would protect soil health, foster economic opportunities in designated areas, continue forest conservation projects, and restore deforested areas. Lula’s initiatives include a proposal for low-income families living in conservation areas to receive a set amount to monitor environmental protection efforts and to encourage them to use resources in a sustainable way.

Furthermore, the Ministry of the Environment is working directly with the Ministry of Indigenous People to develop projects such as the Indigenous Sustainable Amazon (Amazonia Indígena Sustentável), the Forest Conservation Grant Fund (Bolsa Floresta), and the Forest Cities (Cidades Florestais) project, among others. These two ministries hope to work together in the political sphere to further conservation of the Amazon rainforest and the survival of indigenous people. They have also developed evidence-based strategies to counter the invasion of indigenous lands, deforestation, and illegal mining.

Finally, in order to demonstrate that his government would uphold campaign promises of change, Lula revoked various provisional measures and decrees from the previous administration. He suspended new registrations of guns for hunting and revoked an existing decree that had facilitated mining on indigenous lands. These decrees stood in the way of sustainable economic growth, the preservation of biodiversity, and secure livelihoods for indigenous people. By revoking these measures and reaffirming his zero-tolerance policy towards environmental destruction in the Amazon, Lula’s speech brought Brazil back into a political leadership role on environmental issues. It also opened the door to dialogue and collaboration with allies who want to invest in research and initiatives that will promote a greener and more sustainable economy in Brazil.