The ‘Brazilian Bernie Sanders’ Defeats ‘Trump of the Tropics’ in Presidential Runoff, Cementing Latin America’s Left Turn

Lula, Brazil’s left-wing former president, defeated right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro in Sunday’s runoff election, cementing Latin America’s left turn.


Brazil’s left-wing former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, known universally as Lula, defeated right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro in Sunday’s runoff election. Lula’s election win continues the trend of left-wing victories across Latin America.

  • Lula won by a narrow margin, taking 50.9 percent of the vote to Bolsonaro’s 49.1 percent in the tightest election since the country returned to democracy in 1985. This is the first time in Brazil’s history a sitting president lost reelection.
  • The election victory represents an incredible political comeback for the former president, who served from 2003-2010. After a remarkable rise from poverty, he presided over a period of growth and prosperity before a sprawling corruption probe destroyed his successor and ensnared him too.
  • Lula’s plans to run in the 2018 presidential election were derailed after his arrest and conviction for taking bribes in Brazil’s biggest political corruption scandal. Sentenced to 9.5 years in prison, he was freed after 19 months after the Supreme Court annulled his conviction on a technicality.
  • Lula ran on a “unity” ticket with the man he defeated in the 2006 presidential election and has pledged to bring in centrist and center-right officials into his government. Even so, governing will likely be a challenge as Bolsonaro’s allies won a majority in Congress.
  • Left-wing political movements are on the rise in Latin America. With Lula’s victory, every major Latin American country – Mexico, Argentina, Peru, Chile, Venezuela, and Colombia – now has a leftist or far-left government.


reporting from the left side of the aisle


  • The New York Times reported Brazil is “bracing for turmoil” after the presidential runoff. Bolsonaro has still not made a public statement or conceded defeat, although several of his top allies acknowledged Lula’s victory.
  • The Guardian chronicled “the rise and fall and rise again” of Lula, the former shoe-shine boy who made history by becoming Brazil’s first working-class president in 2002. Lula, who Barack Obama once called “the most popular president on earth,” began a career in politics at the urging of the late Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. 
  • CNN covered Lula’s victory speech. The 76-year-old president-elect said, “They tried to bury me alive and I’m here” in a reference to his 580-day imprisonment on corruption charges. He continued, “Starting on January 1, 2023, I will govern for the 215 million Brazilians, not just the ones who voted for me. There are not two Brazils. We are one country, one people, one great nation.



  • Breitbart noted the “corrupt,” “hardline socialist” Lula vowed to “reconstruct the very soul of” Brazil away from the “small government, pro-freedom ideals of the Bolsonaro administration” in his first speech as president-elect.
  • The Wall Street Journal wrote that although Lula has promised to once again deliver prosperity to Brazil, he is likely to “struggle” to deliver on his promises as GDP is expected to grow less than 1% in 2023.
  • Fox News noted that even though he lost, Bolsonaro won the wealthier south of the country, including populous Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, and the swing state of Minas Gerais. Even though Bolsonaro himself lost, Bolsonaro-aligned candidates will now govern Brazil’s three largest states. The Bolsonaro movement does not appear to be going anywhere.


Return to Freespoke

© Dominic Moore, 2022