Brazil’s newly elected President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has sought to sweep away the legacy of his predecessor Jair Bolsonaro by tightening gun controls and curbing gold mining in the Amazon rainforest.
After his inauguration on Sunday, the left-wing president revoked a decree that made it easier to purchase weapons and a decree that allowed “artisanal” gold mining on indigenous land.
He also ordered his ministers to halt studies on the viability of privatizing the energy company Petrobras and the national postal service Correios, and rescinded a Bolsonaro government decree granting a tax break to large companies. He repeated promises to scrap the country’s constitutional ceiling on public spending, which he called “stupidity”.
The moves, in line with Lula’s pledge to take a more hands-on approach to managing Latin America’s largest economy, are likely to raise concerns in Brazil’s business community after the Bolsonaro administration’s transition to the free market.
After beating Bolsonaro by less than 2 percentage points in October, the 77-year-old former metalworker was sworn in for a historic third term in a tumultuous ceremony in Brasília on Sunday that was marked by political pageantry and carnival-like celebrations.
Lula previously served two terms as president between 2003 and 2010 while Brazil was experiencing strong growth due to the global commodity boom.
Despite the promise to unite the nation, Lula Bolsonaro offered no quarter in his first official acts and criticized the right-wing populist for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and for economic and social policies, which the new president described as “national destruction”.
“The responsibility for it [Covid] Genocide must be investigated and not go unpunished,” Lula told Congress in his inaugural address, clearly referring to his predecessor, who flew to Florida on Friday to avoid attending the inauguration.
Brazil’s new president said his first goal was to end the hunger of 33 million citizens and the poverty of 100 million Brazilians, saying “no nation has risen or can rise from the misery of its people”.
The veteran left reiterated his pledge to end the destruction of the Amazon rainforest and reinstated the multibillion-dollar Amazon Fund, which is used to fight deforestation but was frozen during the Bolsonaro government.
On the international front, Lula has promised to deepen ties with Brazil’s neighbors and promote regional integration.
The new president was due to meet 17 heads of state attending his inauguration on Monday, with the leaders of Bolivia, Argentina, Ecuador and the King of Spain high on the agenda. Meetings with representatives from Venezuela and Cuba are also planned.
Additional reporting by Carolina Ingizza