2022 Race

Lula publishes letter pandering to Evangelical voters

lula evangelicals
Geraldo Alckmin (forefront), Lula (center), and supporters during an event with religious leaders on Wednesday. Photo: Ricardo Stuckert/IL

Former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva on Wednesday published an open letter to Brazilian Evangelicals. They are estimated to account for a third of the Brazilian population and have been a reliable constituency to President Jair Bolsonaro. 

The document is a throwback to Lula’s 2002 “Letter to the Brazilian People,” in which the center-left leader committed to the existing economic policy and promised not to perform a complete U-turn if he were to win that year’s election. Many credit that document for his subsequent victory, after three previous failed runs for the presidency. 

Lula’s pledge to Evangelicals comes as religious themes dominate political discussions in the presidential runoff campaign. Supporters of both Lula and Mr. Bolsonaro have tried to link the other side to the devil and/or Freemasonry (which Catholics and Evangelicals associate with demonic beliefs).

Attacks on Lula’s Christianity have led his campaign to release a statement saying “Lula believes in God and is a Christian” and that “Lula has no pact nor has ever spoken with the devil.”

In the latest Datafolha presidential poll, Lula had support from just 31 percent of Evangelical voters, against Mr. Bolsonaro’s 65 percent. For months, we have flagged the Workers’ Party’s struggles to engage with male and evangelical voters, as well as up its game online.

Lula’s letter cites several biblical passages, a strategy that has been used by Mr. Bolsonaro for years. The former president recalls that, during his eight years in government, he signed laws and decrees to guarantee religious freedom and says he will encourage partnerships with churches if elected. 

“My government will not adopt any attitudes that harm the freedom of worship and preaching, or that create obstacles to the free functioning of temples,” he wrote.

Lula says he was forced to publish the letter after being the target of “lies” by Mr. Bolsonaro’s campaign, such as accusations that he intended to close churches. “We are living in a period in which lies have been used intensively with the aim of instilling fear in people of good faith, and keeping them away from supporting a candidate that defends them the most.”

At the event, Lula compared himself to Jesus. “Everyone who does something serious needs to explain themselves. Jesus had to explain himself.”

He also stated that he is personally against abortion and the implementation of unisex restrooms. Fake social media content says he would legalize abortion and implement restrooms for men and women, which aroused religious fears. “The unisex bathroom story must have come out of Satan’s head,” he said.