‘Our phoenix’: Lula’s ups and downs in Brazil defy belief

Oct 30, 2022, 10:01 AM | Updated: Oct 31, 2022, 8:45 am
Supporters of former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula gather on Paulista Av. after he defeated ...

Supporters of former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula gather on Paulista Av. after he defeated incumbent Jair Bolsonaro in a presidential run-off election to become the country's next president, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Sunday, Oct. 30, 2022. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)

(AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)

              Supporters of former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula gather on Paulista Av. after he defeated incumbent Jair Bolsonaro in a presidential run-off election to become the country's next president, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Sunday, Oct. 30, 2022. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)
            
              FILE - Brazil's former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva shakes hands with a supporter as he campaigns a day ahead of the country's general election, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano, File)
            
              FILE - Brazil's former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, gets a kiss from his wife Rosangela Silva, during a campaign rally at Cinelandia square, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, July 7, 2022. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo, File)
            
              FILE - Brazil's former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva stands amid supporters during the final rally of his week-long campaign tour of southern Brazil, in Curitiba, Parana state, Brazil, March 28, 2018. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres, File)
            
              FILE - Brazil's former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is escorted by the Federal Police, in Curitiba, Brazil, April 7, 2018. (AP Photo/Leo Correa, File)
            
              FILE - Brazil's former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva stands next to the body of his wife Marisa Leticia Lula da Silva, during her wake in Sao Bernardo do Campo, in the greater Sao Paulo area, Brazil, Feb. 4, 2017. (AP Photo/Andre Penner, File)
            
              FILE - Brazil's outgoing President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva embraces incoming President Dilma Rousseff after placing the presidential sash on her at the Planalto palace in Brasilia, Brazil, Jan. 1, 2011. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo, File)
            
              FILE - Demonstrators parade large inflatable dolls depicting Brazil's former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in prison garb and current President Dilma Rousseff dressed as a thief, with a presidential sash that reads "Impeachment," in Sao Paulo, Brazil, March 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Andre Penner, File)
            
              FILE - U.S. President Barack Obama and Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, attend the G8 Summit in L'Aquila, Italy, July 9, 2009. (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari, File)
            
              FILE - Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva holds up his arms as he rides in an open car with his wife Marisa, after being sworn in as the country's new president, in Brasilia, Brazil,  Jan. 1, 2003. (AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano, File)
            
              FILE - Honorary president of the Workers Party, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, speaks during a protest against the free-market reforms of President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, in Brasilia, Brazil, Aug. 26, 1999. (AP Photo/Beto Barata, File)
            
              Supporters of former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula gather on Paulista Av. after he defeated incumbent Jair Bolsonaro in a presidential run-off election to become the country's next president, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Sunday, Oct. 30, 2022. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)
            
              FILE - Brazil's former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva shakes hands with a supporter as he campaigns a day ahead of the country's general election, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano, File)
            
              FILE - Brazil's former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, gets a kiss from his wife Rosangela Silva, during a campaign rally at Cinelandia square, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, July 7, 2022. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo, File)
            
              Supporters of former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula gather on Paulista Av. after he defeated incumbent Jair Bolsonaro in a presidential run-off election to become the country's next president, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Sunday, Oct. 30, 2022. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)
            
              FILE - Brazil's former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva stands amid supporters during the final rally of his week-long campaign tour of southern Brazil, in Curitiba, Parana state, Brazil, March 28, 2018. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres, File)
            
              FILE - Brazil's former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva shakes hands with a supporter as he campaigns a day ahead of the country's general election, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano, File)
            
              FILE - Brazil's former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is escorted by the Federal Police, in Curitiba, Brazil, April 7, 2018. (AP Photo/Leo Correa, File)
            
              FILE - Brazil's former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, gets a kiss from his wife Rosangela Silva, during a campaign rally at Cinelandia square, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, July 7, 2022. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo, File)
            
              FILE - Brazil's former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva stands next to the body of his wife Marisa Leticia Lula da Silva, during her wake in Sao Bernardo do Campo, in the greater Sao Paulo area, Brazil, Feb. 4, 2017. (AP Photo/Andre Penner, File)
            
              FILE - Brazil's former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva stands amid supporters during the final rally of his week-long campaign tour of southern Brazil, in Curitiba, Parana state, Brazil, March 28, 2018. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres, File)
            
              FILE - Brazil's former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is escorted by the Federal Police, in Curitiba, Brazil, April 7, 2018. (AP Photo/Leo Correa, File)
            
              FILE - Brazil's outgoing President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva embraces incoming President Dilma Rousseff after placing the presidential sash on her at the Planalto palace in Brasilia, Brazil, Jan. 1, 2011. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo, File)
            
              FILE - Brazil's former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva stands next to the body of his wife Marisa Leticia Lula da Silva, during her wake in Sao Bernardo do Campo, in the greater Sao Paulo area, Brazil, Feb. 4, 2017. (AP Photo/Andre Penner, File)
            
              FILE - Demonstrators parade large inflatable dolls depicting Brazil's former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in prison garb and current President Dilma Rousseff dressed as a thief, with a presidential sash that reads "Impeachment," in Sao Paulo, Brazil, March 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Andre Penner, File)
            
              FILE - Brazil's outgoing President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva embraces incoming President Dilma Rousseff after placing the presidential sash on her at the Planalto palace in Brasilia, Brazil, Jan. 1, 2011. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo, File)
            
              FILE - U.S. President Barack Obama and Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, attend the G8 Summit in L'Aquila, Italy, July 9, 2009. (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari, File)
            
              FILE - Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva holds up his arms as he rides in an open car with his wife Marisa, after being sworn in as the country's new president, in Brasilia, Brazil,  Jan. 1, 2003. (AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano, File)
            
              FILE - Honorary president of the Workers Party, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, speaks during a protest against the free-market reforms of President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, in Brasilia, Brazil, Aug. 26, 1999. (AP Photo/Beto Barata, File)
            
              FILE - Brazil's former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva shakes hands with a supporter as he campaigns a day ahead of the country's general election, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano, File)
            
              FILE - Brazil's former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, gets a kiss from his wife Rosangela Silva, during a campaign rally at Cinelandia square, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, July 7, 2022. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo, File)
            
              FILE - Brazil's former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva stands amid supporters during the final rally of his week-long campaign tour of southern Brazil, in Curitiba, Parana state, Brazil, March 28, 2018. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres, File)
            
              FILE - Brazil's former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is escorted by the Federal Police, in Curitiba, Brazil, April 7, 2018. (AP Photo/Leo Correa, File)
            
              FILE - Brazil's former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva stands next to the body of his wife Marisa Leticia Lula da Silva, during her wake in Sao Bernardo do Campo, in the greater Sao Paulo area, Brazil, Feb. 4, 2017. (AP Photo/Andre Penner, File)
            
              FILE - Brazil's outgoing President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva embraces incoming President Dilma Rousseff after placing the presidential sash on her at the Planalto palace in Brasilia, Brazil, Jan. 1, 2011. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo, File)
            
              FILE - Demonstrators parade large inflatable dolls depicting Brazil's former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in prison garb and current President Dilma Rousseff dressed as a thief, with a presidential sash that reads "Impeachment," in Sao Paulo, Brazil, March 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Andre Penner, File)
            
              FILE - U.S. President Barack Obama and Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, attend the G8 Summit in L'Aquila, Italy, July 9, 2009. (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari, File)
            
              FILE - Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva holds up his arms as he rides in an open car with his wife Marisa, after being sworn in as the country's new president, in Brasilia, Brazil,  Jan. 1, 2003. (AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano, File)
            
              FILE - Honorary president of the Workers Party, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, speaks during a protest against the free-market reforms of President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, in Brasilia, Brazil, Aug. 26, 1999. (AP Photo/Beto Barata, File)
            
              FILE - Brazil's former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva shakes hands with a supporter as he campaigns a day ahead of the country's general election, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano, File)
            
              FILE - Brazil's former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, gets a kiss from his wife Rosangela Silva, during a campaign rally at Cinelandia square, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, July 7, 2022. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo, File)
            
              FILE - Brazil's former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva stands amid supporters during the final rally of his week-long campaign tour of southern Brazil, in Curitiba, Parana state, Brazil, March 28, 2018. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres, File)
            
              FILE - Brazil's former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is escorted by the Federal Police, in Curitiba, Brazil, April 7, 2018. (AP Photo/Leo Correa, File)
            
              FILE - Brazil's former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva stands next to the body of his wife Marisa Leticia Lula da Silva, during her wake in Sao Bernardo do Campo, in the greater Sao Paulo area, Brazil, Feb. 4, 2017. (AP Photo/Andre Penner, File)
            
              FILE - Brazil's outgoing President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva embraces incoming President Dilma Rousseff after placing the presidential sash on her at the Planalto palace in Brasilia, Brazil, Jan. 1, 2011. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo, File)
            
              FILE - Demonstrators parade large inflatable dolls depicting Brazil's former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in prison garb and current President Dilma Rousseff dressed as a thief, with a presidential sash that reads "Impeachment," in Sao Paulo, Brazil, March 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Andre Penner, File)
            
              FILE - U.S. President Barack Obama and Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, attend the G8 Summit in L'Aquila, Italy, July 9, 2009. (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari, File)
            
              FILE - Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva holds up his arms as he rides in an open car with his wife Marisa, after being sworn in as the country's new president, in Brasilia, Brazil,  Jan. 1, 2003. (AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano, File)
            
              FILE - Honorary president of the Workers Party, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, speaks during a protest against the free-market reforms of President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, in Brasilia, Brazil, Aug. 26, 1999. (AP Photo/Beto Barata, File)
            
              FILE - Brazil's former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva shakes hands with a supporter as he campaigns a day ahead of the country's general election, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano, File)
            
              FILE - Brazil's former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, gets a kiss from his wife Rosangela Silva, during a campaign rally at Cinelandia square, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, July 7, 2022. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo, File)
            
              FILE - Brazil's former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva stands amid supporters during the final rally of his week-long campaign tour of southern Brazil, in Curitiba, Parana state, Brazil, March 28, 2018. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres, File)
            
              FILE - Brazil's former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is escorted by the Federal Police, in Curitiba, Brazil, April 7, 2018. (AP Photo/Leo Correa, File)
            
              FILE - Brazil's former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva stands next to the body of his wife Marisa Leticia Lula da Silva, during her wake in Sao Bernardo do Campo, in the greater Sao Paulo area, Brazil, Feb. 4, 2017. (AP Photo/Andre Penner, File)
            
              FILE - Brazil's outgoing President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva embraces incoming President Dilma Rousseff after placing the presidential sash on her at the Planalto palace in Brasilia, Brazil, Jan. 1, 2011. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo, File)
            
              FILE - Demonstrators parade large inflatable dolls depicting Brazil's former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in prison garb and current President Dilma Rousseff dressed as a thief, with a presidential sash that reads "Impeachment," in Sao Paulo, Brazil, March 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Andre Penner, File)
            
              FILE - U.S. President Barack Obama and Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, attend the G8 Summit in L'Aquila, Italy, July 9, 2009. (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari, File)
            
              FILE - Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva holds up his arms as he rides in an open car with his wife Marisa, after being sworn in as the country's new president, in Brasilia, Brazil,  Jan. 1, 2003. (AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano, File)
            
              FILE - Honorary president of the Workers Party, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, speaks during a protest against the free-market reforms of President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, in Brasilia, Brazil, Aug. 26, 1999. (AP Photo/Beto Barata, File)
            
              FILE - Brazil's former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva shakes hands with a supporter as he campaigns a day ahead of the country's general election, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano, File)
            
              FILE - Brazil's former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, gets a kiss from his wife Rosangela Silva, during a campaign rally at Cinelandia square, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, July 7, 2022. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo, File)
            
              FILE - Brazil's former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva stands amid supporters during the final rally of his week-long campaign tour of southern Brazil, in Curitiba, Parana state, Brazil, March 28, 2018. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres, File)
            
              FILE - Brazil's former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is escorted by the Federal Police, in Curitiba, Brazil, April 7, 2018. (AP Photo/Leo Correa, File)
            
              FILE - Brazil's former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva stands next to the body of his wife Marisa Leticia Lula da Silva, during her wake in Sao Bernardo do Campo, in the greater Sao Paulo area, Brazil, Feb. 4, 2017. (AP Photo/Andre Penner, File)
            
              FILE - Brazil's outgoing President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva embraces incoming President Dilma Rousseff after placing the presidential sash on her at the Planalto palace in Brasilia, Brazil, Jan. 1, 2011. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo, File)
            
              FILE - Demonstrators parade large inflatable dolls depicting Brazil's former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in prison garb and current President Dilma Rousseff dressed as a thief, with a presidential sash that reads "Impeachment," in Sao Paulo, Brazil, March 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Andre Penner, File)
            
              FILE - U.S. President Barack Obama and Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, attend the G8 Summit in L'Aquila, Italy, July 9, 2009. (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari, File)
            
              FILE - Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva holds up his arms as he rides in an open car with his wife Marisa, after being sworn in as the country's new president, in Brasilia, Brazil,  Jan. 1, 2003. (AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano, File)
            
              FILE - Honorary president of the Workers Party, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, speaks during a protest against the free-market reforms of President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, in Brasilia, Brazil, Aug. 26, 1999. (AP Photo/Beto Barata, File)
            
              Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva raises his fist after addressing supporters in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Sunday, Oct. 30, 2022. Brazil's electoral authority said that the leftist Worker's Party candidate defeated incumbent Jair Bolsonaro to become the country's next president. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)
            
              Supporters of former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva celebrate after defeating incumbent Jair Bolsonaro in a presidential run-off to become the country's next president, in Autazes, Amazonas State, Brazil, Sunday, Oct. 30, 2022. (AP Photo/Edmar Barros)
            
              Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva speaks to supporters after defeating incumbent Jair Bolsonaro in a presidential run-off election to become the country's next president, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Sunday, Oct. 30, 2022. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)
            
              Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula waves to supporters gathered on Paulista Av. after he defeated incumbent Jair Bolsonaro in a presidential run-off election to become the country's next president, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Sunday, Oct. 30, 2022. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)
            
              Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva embraces former President Dilma Rousseff after defeating incumbent Jair Bolsonaro in a presidential run-off election to become the country's next president, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Sunday, Oct. 30, 2022. (AP Photo/Marcelo Chello)
            
              Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva celebrates with his wife Rosangela Silva, left, and running mate Geraldo Alckmin, right, after defeating incumbent Jair Bolsonaro in a presidential run-off to become the country's next president, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Sunday, Oct. 30, 2022. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)

SAO PAULO (AP) — Four years ago, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s reputation and political future were in tatters. After an unlikely rise from poverty to union leader to Brazil’s presidency, the man universally known as Lula had landed in prison.

On Sunday – in yet another twist – Brazilian voters chose him by the narrowest of margins to once again lead the world’s fourth-largest democracy. He will also be putting his legacy on the line.

“I consider myself a citizen who has had a process of resurrection in Brazilian politics, because they tried to bury me alive,” da Silva said in a speech Sunday night after results that confirmed his third presidential win. “I am here to govern in a very difficult situation. But I have faith in God that, with our people’s help, we will find a way out for this country.”

The life of da Silva has unfolded in such a unique, extraordinary way that it strains credulity.

His family moved from Brazil’s poor northeast region to Sao Paulo state in pursuit of a better life, following his father who had traveled south years before. Upon arriving, however, they found he had settled down with another woman. Da Silva’s mother was left alone to raise eight children, of whom Lula was the youngest.

Pressed for money, he became a metalworker at age 14 in the metropolis’s gritty outskirts. It was a physical job that cost him his left pinky finger. He became a union leader in an era when Brazil’s manufacturing workforce was still vast, and translated that into political power. He made his first presidential run in 1989, which he lost — along with two subsequent races.

Finally, in 2002, he claimed victory and became the first worker to assume the nation’s top job. And he was reelected four years later, defeating Geraldo Alckmin, a center-right candidate who this year became his running mate.

Commodities exports to China were surging, filling government coffers, and a vast welfare program lifted tens of millions of Brazilians into the middle class. Da Silva left office with an approval rating above 80%, and then-U.S. President Barack Obama called him “the most popular politician on Earth.” His hand-picked successor, Dilma Rousseff, was elected in 2014.

In Rousseff’s second term, however, a sprawling corruption investigation ensnared top politicians and businessmen alike. It plunged her administration — along with da Silva and the rest of the Workers’ Party he founded — into disgrace.

Revelations of systemic kickbacks in exchange for government contracts were followed by a deep, two-year recession that many blamed on Rousseff’s economic policies, and which turbocharged resentment of the Workers’ Party. She was impeached in 2016 for breaking fiscal responsibility laws regarding management of the federal budget.

Then da Silva himself was sentenced for corruption and money laundering, and confined to a 160-square-foot (15-square-meter) room on the fourth floor of a Federal Police building in the southern city of Curitiba. That sidelined him from the 2018 presidential race and cleared the way for Jair Bolsonaro, then a fringe lawmaker, to cruise to victory. Da Silva’s political legacy was in tatters.

His personal life, too, was blown to pieces. His wife passed away, which at the time he blamed on the strain caused by the investigation.

Slowly, hope crept in. He started exchanging love letters with a woman named Rosângela da Silva, nicknamed Janja. Their relationship blossomed thanks to da Silva’s then-lawyer, Luis Carlos Rocha, who visited him every weekday.

Rocha acted as dutiful courier, hiding Janja’s letters inside his jacket pocket where guards wouldn’t check. He told The Associated Press he saw da Silva’s face light up with each colorful envelope he delivered.

“God willing, one day we will publish (the letters),” da Silva said at a rally in September. “But only for people over 18.”

The Supreme Court also started assessing the legality of his convictions, which it eventually annulled on the grounds that the presiding federal judge had been biased and colluded with prosecutors.

After 580 days’ imprisonment, da Silva was a free man — free to marry his girlfriend, and free to run for the presidency. Still, Bolsonaro, seeking a second term, reminded voters of da Silva’s convictions at every turn, warning that electing him would be like letting a thief return to the scene of the crime.

It revitalized semi-dormant sentiment against the Workers’ Party, and the fact that much of Brazil still holds da Silva in disdain is a key reason this year’s contest between the two political titans grew ever closer.

Ultimately, it came down to the wire: Da Silva was elected with 50.9% of the vote. It was the tightest election since Brazil’s return to democracy more than three decades ago.

During his victory speech, Janja was by his side, as she was throughout his campaign. She shed tears, overwhelmed with emotion. And she wasn’t alone.

“I cried when he was jailed. Now I cry because he will take Brazil back to normal. He can do it, he has the charisma to do it,” said Claudia Marcos, a 56-year-old historian who joined thousands of others to celebrate the leftist’s victory on Sao Paulo’s main boulevard. “He is our phoenix. The most important president in Brazil’s history.”

At the Workers’ Party’s headquarters on Sunday, da Silva read out a long, carefully written speech promising to unite Brazil. Seeking redemption, he will face a much more challenging environment — economically and politically — than during his last presidency. He will take office on Jan. 1, and has said he will be a one-term president. It could be his final act.

“It is not the number of years that makes someone old. What makes you old is the lack of a cause,” said da Silva, who turned 77 three days before the vote. “Brazil is my cause. The Brazilian people are my cause.”

___

Associated Press writers Daniel Politi in Curitiba, Brazil, and Diane Jeantet in Rio de Janeiro contributed to this report.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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‘Our phoenix’: Lula’s ups and downs in Brazil defy belief