The New Brazilian Government and the challenge of a systematic crisis

By Gabriele Caldas Cabral1)

Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, a populist politician linked to the Workers' Party (PT) in Brazil, was president for two terms, from 2003 to 2011 and in 2023 returned as the 39th President of Brazil. During his government, Lula focused his efforts on combating poverty and on social policies such as Fome Zero (Zero Hunger), which was responsible for removing Brazil from the UN's Hunger Map. In his 2022 campaign, Lula defended that his new government's priority should be to stimulate the economy and social programs, lift people out of poverty and seek sustainable and inclusive development.

Lula's victory in the presidential elections in Brazil, on October 30, 2022, represents a change of course for the country. Regardless of the opinion about the new president, it is clear that Lula did not enter the presidency to bring continuity to the Bolsonaro government. With an inclusive discourse, aimed at national reconciliation and focused on caring for the Brazilian people, Lula distances himself from Bolsonaro’s discourse of governing for the majority, marginalization of minorities, exacerbating the privileges of the elite and the militarization of the government.

But it is not the opinion of all Brazilians. Faced with the growing wave of the extreme right since the 2018 elections, we see a politically polarized country, with conservative speeches and extremist characteristics. Thus, for the people who voted for Bolsonaro, this was not just a concrete defeat, but also a symbolic defeat of Bolsonarism ideology. For Bolsonaro supporters, this meant an “advance of communism” in Brazil, ideas against conservatism and negative impacts on the economy. However, for the more than 60 million who voted for Lula, his new government represents a fresh start, an attempt to reconcile the Brazilian people to face the systemic crisis that engulfs the country. It represents the fight against hunger, which plagues more than 33 million Brazilians, and it represents the fight against economic, racial and gender inequalities. It represents the return to international activism, ‘sustainable’ development and respect for diversity.

The transition from Bolsonaro to Lula was a troubled process, starting with Bolsonaro's non-recognition of his defeat. Supporters of the former president have held protests against the election results since November 2022 and, inflamed by Bolsonaro’s distrust in the electoral system, began to ask for military intervention to prevent Lula from taking office. This situation reached its height on January 8th 2023, when Bolsonaro supporters tried to carry out a coup, invading the Congress building, the Presidential palace and the Supreme Court in the capital, Brasília, a demonstration very similar to January 6, 2021, in the United States. The coup attempt was not successful, but Lula still needs to face the great challenge of political polarization in Brazil. Under the slogan “Union and Reconstruction,” Lula did not receive the presidential sash from his predecessor because Bolsonaro left the country before the end of his term. Nonetheless, people representing different sectors of Brazilian society transferred the sash in a symbolic act, indicating that the Brazilian people would be giving power to the new president.

Lula, in his campaign, pledged to solve the problem of hunger and poverty in the country, improve the quality of basic education, reduce deforestation in the Amazon, promote citizenship rights and equality, encourage food production and resume public investments. To achieve these objectives, Lula's first attempt was to reorganize the administrative structure of the executive administration. Thus, bringing more diversity to the executive, Lula started his new government with 37 ministries, 5 of which are headed by black people, 2 by indigenous people, and 11 by women, the highest number in the country's history. This was a welcome change from the past government, which was dominated by military representatives and white men.

The purpose of this article is to discuss the systemic crisis experienced by Brazil today, how the government transition is being perceived by the Brazilian people and what alternatives to this crisis are being created by the new government. For the internationalist and researcher at the Federal University of Paraíba, Anna Beatriz Ramalho, the new government means “the return of institutional normality in the country”, since, during the Bolsonaro Government, the feeling that was felt was that national institutions were constantly being attacked or subjugated in some way. Thus, according to Ms. Ramalho, with Bolsonaro’s departure from the presidency, the feeling is one of relief and hope in the fulfillment of government policies and in respect for the rights guaranteed by law. Therefore, Lula has a great challenge, which is to regain people's trust in institutions and rebuild a more united country in favor of equal and sustainable development.

To gain political support, Lula needed to create a coalition campaign, allying himself with 16 different parties across the Brazilian political spectrum, with Geraldo Alckimin, a former political opponent, as Lula's Vice-President.

After the elections, Alckimin led a transitional government to assess what should be the direction of the new government based on the results of the previous administration. The transition report revealed severe problems in the country. Brazil today is in an economic and social crisis that needs to be addressed, with high indices of unemployment and inflation. Brazil is back on the Hunger Map and more than 120 million people are in a situation of food insecurity. There is violence and a lack of access to basic services, lack of medicine in the Popular Pharmacies and a precariousness of public services. During the Bolsonaro government, Brazil broke feminicide records, the country isolated itself internationally, social equality policies suffered serious setbacks and environmental destruction between 2020 and 2022 was the greatest in 15 years – the Amazon alone had 45km² of deforestation (Gabinete de Transição Governamental, 2022). To mitigate the negative environmental impacts that have only increased in Brazil over the last four years, Lula, in one of his first initiatives as the newly sworn-in president, revoked several decrees created by the Bolsonaro government. Among them is the revocation of a decree that made the governance of the Amazon Fund, an instrument of extreme importance in the protection of the Amazon Forest, unfeasible. In addition, Lula, on his first day as president, negotiated with Germany the donation of more than R$170 million to the Amazon Fund. The new president also revoked a decree that facilitated and even encouraged illegal mining in the Amazon. Illegal mining (garimpo) is an old problem in Brazil, however, in the last 20 years, there has been a growth of 632% in illegal activity in the Amazon (Leitão, M., 2023), which culminated in a serious crisis experienced by the Yanomami, one of the biggest indigenous communities in South America.

The Yanomami humanitarian crisis has come into focus after the release of the government transition report. It has resulted in at least 570 child deaths due to malnutrition, malaria, pneumonia, worm infestations, and government neglect, as well as water contamination with mercury. The healthcare system in indigenous communities in the region has weakened, with health posts abandoned in regions under the control of illegal miners (garimpeiros) and community airstrips occupied by mining operations. The presence of garimpeiros violates the rights of indigenous people, who are losing their land and their lives. Davi Kopenawa, one of Brazil's most prominent Yanomami leaders, requested government assistance in protecting indigenous people in 2020 but was ignored (Flores, M., Mayer, G. and Simon, G., 2023). This scenario of neglect by the previous administration led the Public Prosecutor's Office to open an investigation into the crime of genocide and environmental crimes in the Yanomami territory. Additionally, to combat illegal mining, the Federal government has declared a public health emergency, created a National Coordination Committee, and imposed an air, land, and river blockade in the region. Although these are necessary actions to alleviate the crisis, this alone is not enough to end illegal mining in the region. Garimpo cannot be thought of as just the extraction of gold, as there is a chain of suppliers linked to this mining activity. Illegal mining has infiltrated the economy of many states in the Amazon region, being a source of employment and income for many families. Therefore, public policies are needed to provide an economic alternative for people who were employed by illegal mining.

To combat this crisis, it is necessary to strengthen environmental protection policies and indigenous peoples' rights, as well as adopt effective public health measures to prevent the spread of diseases in indigenous communities.

In addition to combating illegal mining, the new government is taking various measures to tackle the systemic crisis in Brazil. These include investment in infrastructure, adjustment and increase in the number of scholarships for studies and research, increase in the minimum wage, reinstatement of social programs to assist the most vulnerable, demilitarization of the government and strengthening of national institutions, active participation in multilateral meetings and forums, and establishment of bilateral agreements.

From this perspective, the new government's policies and initiatives aimed at addressing issues such as poverty, inequality, and violence will have a significant impact on improving the quality of life for the Brazilian people. Additionally, the Lula government's efforts to improve international relationships and increase Brazil's global standing will bring increased economic opportunities and stability to the country, ultimately benefiting the Brazilian people. The new government is just getting started and still has a lot of work to do to get Brazil out of this systemic crisis. It will be necessary to take care of the most vulnerable layers of society and build a dialogue in this very polarized country, but without neglecting Brazil’s economic and sustainable development.


Gabinete de Transição Governamental, 2022. Relatório final do Gabinete de Transição Governamental [Online]. Brasília: Gabinete de Transição Governamental. Available from: [Accessed 24 February 2023].
Flores, M., Mayer, G. and Simon, G., 2023. Café da Manhã: O socorro aos yanomamis visto de perto [Online]. Available from: [Accesed 10 Feb. 2023].
Leitão, M., 2023. A crise Yanomami e as novas ações do governo Lula. Veja [Online], 14 February. Avaiable from: [Accessed 22 Feb. 2023].

Gabriele ( Gabriele Caldas Cabral is a Brazilian MSc International Development student in the UK, with a BA in International Relations, she does research related to Political Science, International Development and International Development Cooperation with a focus on South-South Cooperation.