BRASILIA, Brazil — Brazil’s Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was sworn in as president on Sunday, expressing optimism about reconstruction plans in his first speech and pledging to hold members of Jair Bolsonaro’s outgoing government to account.

Lula takes office for the third time after thwarting far-right incumbent Bolsonaro’s re-election bid. His return to power marks the culmination of a political comeback that is exciting fans and enraging opponents in a fiercely polarized nation.

«Our message to Brazil is one of hope and reconstruction,» Lula said in a speech in the Chamber of Deputies of Congress after signing the document that formally installed him as president. “The great edifice of rights, sovereignty and development that this nation built has been systematically demolished in recent years. To re-erect this building, we will direct all our efforts.

On Sunday afternoon in the main esplanade of Brasilia, the party was on. Tens of thousands of supporters dressed in the red of Lula’s Workers’ Party cheered after he was sworn in. They celebrated when the president said he would send a report on the previous administration to all lawmakers and judicial authorities, revoking the far-right leader’s mandate. criminal decrees” that loosened arms control, and hold the previous administration accountable for its denialism in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We have no spirit of revenge against those who tried to subjugate the nation to their personal and ideological designs, but we are going to ensure the rule of law,” Lula said, without mentioning Bolsonaro by name. «Those who erred will answer for their errors, with broad rights to their defense within due legal process.»

The new president of Brazil, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, applauds during his inauguration ceremony at the National Congress in Brasilia on January 1, 2023.Mauro Pimentel / AFP – Getty Images

Lula’s presidency is unlikely to be like his previous two terms, after the closest presidential race in more than three decades in Brazil and resistance to his takeover by some of his opponents, say political analysts.

The leftist defeated Bolsonaro in the October 30 vote by less than 2 percentage points. For months, Bolsonaro had cast doubt on the reliability of Brazil’s electronic voting, and his loyal supporters were loathe to accept the loss.

Many have gathered in front of military headquarters ever since, questioning the results and pleading with the armed forces to stop Lula from taking office.

His staunchest supporters resorted to what some authorities and incoming members of Lula’s administration have termed acts of “terrorism,” raising security concerns about the events on inauguration day.

Lula will have to navigate more challenging economic conditions than he enjoyed in his first two terms, when the global commodity boom turned out to be a windfall for Brazil.

At the time, his administration’s flagship welfare program helped lift tens of millions of impoverished people. in the middle class. Many Brazilians traveled abroad for the first time. He left office with a personal approval rating of 83%.

In the intervening years, Brazil’s economy plunged into two deep recessions, first, during the tenure of his handpicked successor, and then during the pandemic, with ordinary Brazilians suffering badly.

Lula has said that his priorities are to fight poverty and invest in education and health. She has also said that she will end illegal deforestation of the Amazon. He sought the support of moderate politicians to form a broad front to defeat Bolsonaro, then played some from them to serve in his cabinet.

Claúdio Arantes, a 68-year-old retiree, carried an old Lula campaign flag on his way to the esplanade. The longtime supporter of Lula attended his inauguration in 2003 and agreed that this time he feels different.

“Back then, I could talk about the union of Brazil. Now it’s split and it won’t heal any time soon,” Arantes said. «I trust his intelligence to make this administration of national unity work so that we never have a Bolsonaro again.»

Given the nation’s political failings, it is highly unlikely that Lula will regain the popularity he once enjoyed, or even see his approval rating exceed 50%, said Maurício Santoro, a professor of political science at Rio de Janeiro State University. janeiro.

In addition, Santoro said, the credibility of Lula and his Workers’ Party has come under attack by a sprawling corruption investigation. Party officials were jailed, including Lula, whose convictions were later overturned on procedural grounds. The Supreme Court then ruled that the judge presiding over the case had colluded with prosecutors to obtain a conviction.

Lula and his supporters have maintained that he was deceived. Others were willing to look past possible wrongdoing as a means to oust Bolsonaro and bring the nation back together.

But Bolsonaro’s supporters refuse to accept returning someone they see as a criminal to the highest office. And with tensions running high, a series of events has raised fears that violence could break out on inauguration day.

On December 12, dozens of people attempted to invade a federal police building in Brasilia and burned cars and buses in other areas of the city. Then, on Christmas Eve, police arrested a 54-year-old man who admitted to making a bomb found in a fuel truck headed for the Brasilia airport.

He had been camped out in front of the Brasilia army headquarters with hundreds of other Bolsonaro supporters since Nov. 12. He told police that he was ready for war against communism and planned the attack with people he had met at the protests, according to excerpts of his statement published by local media.

Bolsonaro finally condemned the bomb plan in a farewell speech on December 30 on social media, hours before flying to the US His absence on opening day marks a break with tradition.

In Bolsonaro’s place, a group representing various segments of society played the role of handing Lula the presidential sash to Lula atop the ramp of the presidential palace. Across the sea of ​​people standing in front of the palace, supporters held up a huge Brazilian flag over their heads.