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Lula: I receive a ruined country whose government has depleted resources

Brazil's new President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (C) and his wife ride in an open-top car to the Planalto Palace in the capital Brasilia on January 1, 2023. (Photo by AP)

Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who took the oath of office to become Brazil’s new president on Sunday, says he has received a ruined country whose former government depleted all resources and undermined human rights.

Lula made the remarks in a speech to Congress, which was riddled with both thinly-veiled and vociferous attacks against his predecessor, Jair Bolsonaro, whose presidency saw the Latin American powerhouse go through a notably difficult period.

The 77-year-old narrowly defeated Bolsonaro in presidential polls in October after being awarded with a fresh mandate by millions of voters craving the country's prosperous days under Lula's 2003-2010 presidential run.

"Democracy was the great victor in this election, overcoming...the most violent threats to freedom to vote, and the most abject campaign of lies and hate plotted to manipulate and embarrass the electorate," Lula told lawmakers, adding, "If we are here, it is thanks to the political awareness of Brazilian society and the democratic front that we formed."

The leftist leader accused Bolsonaro's "negationist" administration of committing "genocide" by failing to respond properly to the COVID-19 pandemic that killed more than 680,000 Brazilians.

With Bolsonaro having lost his presidential immunity, Lula said the former president now had the law to answer to for his mishandling of the pandemic.

"The responsibilities for this genocide must be investigated and must not go unpunished," he asserted, emphasizing, "...We will guarantee the rule of law.... Those who erred will answer for their errors."

Lula, however, assured his audience that "we do not carry any spirit of revenge against those who tried to subjugate the nation to their personal and ideological designs, but we will guarantee the rule of law," without mentioning his predecessor by name.

Lula also rebuked Bolsonaro for causing hunger to return to the country, despite his own presidential rule during which millions were lifted out of poverty.

The new president said he wants to turn Brazil into one of the world's top food producers and a green superpower.

He reasserted his commitments to several other issues, which deteriorated under Bolsonaro, including deforestation in the Amazon and gun control laws, saying, "Brazil does not want more weapons, it wants peace and security for its people."

After his swearing-in, Lula drove in an open-top Rolls-Royce to the Planalto palace to don the presidential sash before a crowd of 30,000 supporters. Tens of thousands more gathered to celebrate on Brasilia's esplanade.

In his first decrees as president, Lula restored the authority of the government's environmental protection agency Ibama to combat illegal deforestation, which had been weakened by Bolsonaro, and revoked a measure that encouraged illegal mining on protected indigenous lands.

He also unfroze the billion-dollar Amazon fund financed by Norway and Germany to back sustainability projects, reinforcing his commitment to ending deforestation in the Amazon, which surged to a 15-year high under Bolsonaro.

Lula also revoked Bolsonaro's looser gun policies, which had prompted a sharp rise in gun ownership in Brazil.

In his previous years as Workers Party (PT) president, Lula lifted millions of Brazilians from poverty during a commodity boom that buoyed the economy.

Now, he faces the daunting challenge of improving Brazil's stagnant economy while also uniting a country that has become painfully polarized under Bolsonaro.

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