2022 Race

Lula’s remarks to Time a head-scratcher

lula time magazine
Lula on the Time cover.

Time magazine unveiled a cover story about former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s bid for a third presidential term — featuring an exclusive interview. In his remarks, the frontrunner for the October election gave fuel to his critics by saying Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is as much to blame for the Russian invasion of his country as Vladimir Putin.

“This guy is as responsible as Putin for the war,” Lula told Time, while comparing Mr. Zelensky to Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

“The U.S. and the EU are also guilty. What was the reason for the Ukraine invasion? NATO? Then the U.S. and Europe should have said: ‘Ukraine won’t join NATO.’ That would have solved the problem.”

Earlier this year, President Jair Bolsonaro was criticized by the left for visiting Moscow just a week prior to the Russian invasion and for expressing “solidarity” with Russia. Brazil relies on Russian fertilizers and has an interest in maintaining a good relationship with the Kremlin. The Bolsonaro administration actively lobbied for Russian interests at the United Nations, as The Brazilian Report showed in March.

Now, with his remarks, Lula fuels the argument that he and Mr. Bolsonaro are cut from the same cloth — which is fundamentally not true.

Lula also raised eyebrows by saying “we don’t discuss economic policies before winning elections.” Considering that part of the anti-left sentiment in Brazil is a result of the economic failures of Workers’ Party administrations that succeeded Lula, that is a risky statement at the least.

The Time story, which quotes The Brazilian Report editor-in-chief Gustavo Ribeiro, also explored the challenges facing Lula — such as an over-reliance on nostalgia and a more daunting economic scenario.