“You can feel it, Lula president”: crowd welcomes former president in Buenos Aires

Visit by the former Brazilian president supports the Peronist government in its agenda of agreements with the IMF

December 13, 2021 by Brasil de Fato
Lula thanked President Alberto Fernández for his solidarity when he was in prison and recalls “the decade won” alongside presidents like Cristina Kirchner at the time. Photo: Argentine Presidency

The presence of former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva marked the return to the streets of the Day of Democracy mobilization in Buenos Aires on Friday November 10. The event began at 3pm in the historic Plaza de Mayo, a symbol of the struggle for human rights. With the slogan “Democracy forever”, the mobilization gathered thousands of people.

Lula arrived in the country especially for the occasion. On the same stage where former Uruguayan president Pepe Mujica spoke, followed by vice-president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and president Alberto Fernández, Lula listed the achievements of the so-called “decade won”, as well as the presidents of the region who pushed progressive agendas simultaneously with his government in Brazil in the early 2000s.

“It was when we expelled the FTAA [Free Trade Agreement of the Americas] and signed Mercosur,” he said, followed by effusive applause. “I had the opportunity, together with comrade Cristina, to actively participate in the G20 to try to fix the world economic crisis after the collapse of the American financial system.”

“I come here to thank from the bottom of my heart every Argentine man and woman who showed solidarity with me when I was arrested in Brazil,” Lula said, stressing that it was the same persecution that Cristina Kirchner is also suffering in Argentina, even today.

Lula arrived in the country on Thursday December 9 with a two-day official agenda. It included a meeting with President Alberto Fernández and the delivery of the Azucena Villaflor award to the mothers of the Plaza de Mayo and other personalities. The award is a recognition given by the government of Argentina to human rights defenders.

Towards an agreement with the IMF

Argentina is going through a new period wherein it is trying to negotiate its debt with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), something that has not been made easier by internal disagreements within the coalition Frente de Todos (FdT) and, occasionally, between President Alberto Fernández and Vice President Cristina Kirchner.

Lula’s presence, as well as Mujica’s, would serve to calm the moods and seek support for the government’s efforts to comply with the IMF debt payment, contracted by the neoliberal government of Mauricio Macri (Republican Party – PRO).

In the longest speech of the night, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner dedicated harsh criticism to the IMF and pointed out that progressive governments in Argentina are responsible for paying the extraordinary debts incurred by liberal governments.

Like “the little gift of $44 billion,” in reference to the debt left behind by Macri. “We need the Fund to help us recover billions of dollars that have ended up in tax havens,” he stressed.

“The IMF has always conditioned Argentina’s democracy. This is not new. I remember when President Alfonsín took office on a day like today, 38 years ago, and received a country that had quintupled its foreign debt, without reserves in the Central Bank, with military onslaughts, with 30,000 disappeared people,” said Kirchner, mentioning the disappeared people during the last military dictatorship in the country.

As he had already stated on Thursday December 9 in an interview to Argentine channel IP, Lula believes that Argentina “must reach a good agreement with the IMF” that does not “asphyxiate the country” and makes its growth possible.

Lula stressed his gratitude to Alberto Fernández, and lent his support to the Argentine president for “any situation.” “He was still a candidate for the presidency and he came to visit me in prison,” Lula recalled, and addressed Fernández.

“You can be sure that in any situation – in any situation – this gentleman, who is speaking now, at the age of 76, but with the energy of a young man of 20, will be by your side, so that you can do whatever is necessary to improve the lives of the Argentine people,” Lula finished.

The crowd in the Plaza de Mayo bid farewell to the former Brazilian president in chorus: “You can feel it, you can feel it, Lula is president!” The chant is traditional in Argentina and carries the meaning that it is already “felt” that Lula will be president.

“You see, comrade, whenever they have sung this for me, they haven’t been wrong,” Kirchner said to the Brazilian presidential candidate.

Original article by Fernanda Paixão in Portuguese on Brasil de Fato.