Lula places the Spanish labor reform in the electoral campaign in Brazil | International

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Former President Lula, during an interview last December in São Paulo.AMANDA PEROBELLI (REUTERS)

The Spanish labor reform has become the protagonist of the electoral pre-campaign in which Brazil is immersed. Former president and candidate Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva placed the issue in the debate with a tweet in which he encouraged his compatriots to “closely follow” the project with which “President Pedro Sánchez is working to recover the rights of the workers”. The reactions, for and against, of allies, detractors, analysts and editorialists are the subject of political debate in these days of summer recess. The leader of the Workers’ Party (PT) and the Spanish Minister of Inclusion, Migration and Social Security, José Luis Escrivá, participated this Tuesday in a virtual seminar behind closed doors on the matter.

At the meeting there were also representatives of the PT, the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE), Brazilian unions, the UGT and Workers’ Commissions, according to the note released by Lula’s party. This indicates that “the Spanish exposed the experience of the public debate for the review and recovery of rights” lost in the 2012 reform “with the aim of achieving fair compensation.” The Spanish minister stated, according to the PT, that “it is a lie that the competitiveness of a country is achieved by reducing wages. It is achieved with better salaries combined with the qualification of the workforce”. He adds that, since Sánchez governs, “the minimum wage in Spain has increased by 38%”.

Employment and income will surely be, along with the economy in general, the big issues in the campaign for the general elections that Brazil is holding in October. The situation is bad, as indicated by inflation (10.06%) and unemployment (12.6%).

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In his tweet, Lula placed a press release that summarizes in detail the reform agreed upon by the Spanish government, the unions and the employers. By the time President Sánchez tweeted his thanks, the issue was already at the center of the political-media debate. That the project was born from consensus increases its attractiveness.

Spain was already an inspiration for Brazil in 2017 for the labor reform promoted by Michel Temer, which was of enormous magnitude. In that case, the model was Mariano Rajoy’s project.

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With this move, Lula introduces the precariousness of employment in the electoral debate just on the fifth anniversary of the spending ceiling, also approved in 2017, shortly after the dismissal of Dilma Rousseff, also from the PT. President Jair Bolsonaro has temporarily relaxed it with an eye on the elections.

In passing, the applicant throws two nods: one, to the millions of Brazilians who try to earn a living driving motorcycles or cars for applications such as Uber or Ifood; the so-called new urban proletariat are often people who lost a formal job. And two, to the unions, which are a substantial part of the PT and have assisted in recent months in the former president’s efforts to win allies in the center-right and weaken the resistance of the business community.

It happens to Lula like the Russian Gorbachev in his day. It is more popular abroad than at home. His recent tour of Europe was a success, he managed to be received by the main leaders. In Spain, he met with President Sánchez and Vice President Yolanda Díaz, among others.

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The PT was born in 1980 to defend the rights of workers like Lula himself, who was a metallurgical union leader and initially resisted jumping into politics. He considered that the unions were enough. He changed his mind when he discovered that there were only two workers in Congress, according to a recently published biography, Lula. During his two terms as president (2003-2011), his economic policy did not deviate from orthodoxy. Rousseff’s is harshly criticized, she is blamed for the biennium of recession.

For the PT, the reform created precarious contracts, outsourcing, and made layoffs easier. The great argument of the Government at that time was that two million jobs would be created in two years; six million in a decade (Brazil has 210 million inhabitants). Even the president at the time, Michel Temer, admitted after leaving office that his forecasts were exaggerated. Contrary to expectations, unemployment rose (even before the pandemic) and workers have lost purchasing power.

Lula has revived the issue for the political agenda in his style, without great details, without specifying whether he is in favor of revoking the reform, introducing changes or making simple tweaks. The affair apparently caused some friction with center-right Geraldo Alckmin, whom Lula defeated in the 2016 presidential election and whom he now wants as vice president. He hopes that together they will make Bolsonaro the first president, since the return of democracy in 1985, who has failed to be re-elected.

For now, on this matter and others, Lula prefers to listen. This is not the time for big definitions. As he needs numerous and disparate political and territorial allies to win an election, he is not yet in a hurry to confirm whether he will run. Although he has already warned that “besides God, only the party” can prohibit him from being a candidate. Before you craft the program with your fine print, you need to decide who will run with you as your vice-presidential candidate.

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The controversy over the scope of a labor reform if the PT won the elections has also exposed the different souls that coexist in the largest political formation in South America. “We already have the way,” said the president of the PT, Gleisi Hoffman, referring to the Spanish labor reform, but also to “the revocation of the privatization of energy companies” by Argentina, that is, the expropriation of Repsol of its subsidiary YPF in 2012.

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