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Brazil's Swing from Right to Left

Updated: Sep 13, 2023

By Sara Campeti

Leftist presidential candidate Lula has won the Brazilian elections for the third time. His policies aim to severely change Brazilian society through wealth redistribution, environmental laws, international cooperation and more. His beliefs differ so greatly from his predecessor, Jair Bolsonaro, who established a far-right government, that it is almost impossible to predict the actions he will take to change the current situation. How is he going to revolutionize Bolsonaro’s Brazil with his opposite ideals?

Economic Changes

As stated by Lula, he wants to bring a complete 180-degree turn to Brazilian society. He has been given Brazil à la Bolsonaro, meaning that he and his leftist ideologies will surely have some work to do to accomplish his desired change. Luckily enough, though, this is not Lula’s first time around: he has already saved Brazil from a critical economic situation once in his first term as he managed to lower the inflation rate from 12.5% to 3.1% in 2003.

With a current inflation rate of 8%, one can hope that it was not just beginner’s luck. Instead, Lula’s government plan can be a real demonstration that leftist economic policies are able to bring effective, positive change in Latin America. As a matter of fact, Lula is joining many other leftist leaders in Latin American governments, such as Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, Chile, Bolivia and Argentina.

Within his plan, Lula wishes to change Brazil’s tax system into a progressive one, in which the rich are proportionately taxed more than the poor. This is an extremely important change in the Brazilian economy, as the country has 100 million Brazilians living in poverty. This is out of a population of 214 million.

The newly elected president therefore wants to focus on redistributing wealth and providing resources to the people that need it. This is but one part of his plans to improve and revolutionise the Brazilian economy.

The plan to combat poverty also lies in an attempt to re-industrialize the economy, where Lula hopes to bring a shift to the way Brazil uses its natural resources. To stick to his environmental plan, he wishes to focus on creating a ‘green’ economy.

In this, technological improvements, sustainable elements, and a focus on restoring the damage done to the environment are the main ingredients. It is still unclear the ways in which he wishes to bring these fundamental changes.

Environmental Changes

His ideologies regarding the economy are not the only ones to differ greatly from Bolsonaro’s. The latter was a famously intolerant politician and, most importantly, did everything in his power to undo any climate-protection-related action that was taken by predecessors (like exiting the Paris Agreement).

Luckily enough for Brazil’s indigenous communities who live in strict contact with nature and the environment itself, Lula is different. The first change is Lula’s willingness to fight the environmental crisis. Not only does he wish to collaborate with other countries by attending the COP27, but he is also re-establishing the Amazon Fund.

Moreover, he is also making fundamental changes in the Brazilian governmental structure to combat climate change. He is doing so by creating two new positions: the Ministry of Indigenous Affairs and a secretariat that specializes in climate emergencies. He has also vowed to stop deforestation in the Amazon (or lower it by 83% in case he is unable to stop it completely).

Lula is aware of the importance of his participation in the fight against the environmental crisis, as Brazil is home to the Lungs of the Planet, the Amazon rainforest.

If Brazil does not participate in the fight against climate change, and the forest that produces the most oxygen in the world keeps getting mistreated and mauled, there is little chance that the rest of the countries can make up for the continuation of such damage.

His coming to power is therefore a gigantic step towards the development of international action regarding the environmental crisis.

What about Foreign Policy?

Lula’s plan is to strengthen Brazil’s foreign policy and multilateral agreements with fellow Latin American countries and participate in the developmental alliance of BRICS. As Lula’s reelection signs Brazil’s return to a leftist government, the president faces a challenging situation with regard to international relations.

As a researcher at the Rural Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Lucas Leiroz states: Lula will be forced to “balance the interests of his historic allies [BRICS and emerging countries] with the ones of his new ‘friends’ [US and EU politicians, global NGOs].”

This means that Brazil’s transformation into a more globalized and institutionalist country will ruffle some feathers: the country stands right in between two “worlds,” which is not a sustainable position in the long run.

This is also because of Bolsonaro’s realist and self-centred view on international relations, which is what Brazil’s foreign policy has been characterized by in the last years. It is therefore a matter of time before Brazil must categorize itself.

It must choose whether it wishes to associate itself more with the US and Europe and integrate itself with the West, or remain loyal to its allies’ interests and to its fellow neighbour’s leftist governments. For now, he has decided to strengthen the existing bonds with the parts of the world he is already involved in.


In short, it is compelling to see what a left-leaning government will bring to such an important global player like Brazil. Lula’s ideals differ so greatly from his predecessor that it will be fascinating to witness how he will manage to unite the Brazilian population through his policies.

He will also be challenged by trying to satisfy the governments and establishments that are now used to his predecessor. He has very ambitious plans of bringing fundamental changes to the country, which could even be considered unrealistic from a more analytical perspective considering the resources it has.

By the time Lula officially takes office, Brazil will face a challenging and considerable transformation, happening as of 1 January 2023.

Sources: Bloomberg, The Guardian, Al Jazeera, BRICS

Written by Sara Campeti

December 2022

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