The wave of emotion and unbridled happiness that greeted Lula da Silva on Paulista Avenue in downtown Sao Paulo, filled with tens of thousands of supporters, was a clear sign that Brazil would change its political course.

But in January of next year, a new president takes over the leadership of a country that has faced problems that he can hardly overcome.

Lula da Silva, universally known as simply Lula, was born into poverty. A former shoeshine boy, factory worker and then union official, he slowly climbed the political ladder, failing to become president three times before finally achieving his goal in 2002.

He retired in 2011 with an approval rating of 80%, but a series of scandals led to his imprisonment on corruption charges, which were later overturned, and he has now climbed back to the very top of Brazilian politics.

Lula’s to-do list is very, very long.

Brazil is terribly divided politically and socially. Despite this, almost half of the country did not vote for him Mr. da Silva serves as President, many of Jair Bolsonaro’s supporters hold high municipal offices across the country and control Congress. This will make major changes in government strategy difficult to achieve easily.

Perhaps the most urgent problem for him will be the elimination of inequality of welfare in the country.

An estimated 100 million people live in poverty, and more than 30 million Brazilians face acute hunger.

Mirroring his promises and policies since the early 2000s, Mr. da Silva promises to end poverty, expand education, improve health care and housing, while promising to oversee the start of a massive infrastructure overhaul.

How all this will be paid for is not explained in detail and the cost is not estimated.

The economic conditions of the first years of his rule are now completely different.

The raw materials boom that allowed him to channel funding into huge public projects is no more.

Like many of the world’s largest economies, Brazil is already struggling with the current global economic crisis and the costs caused by the COVID pandemic, which has killed more than 700,000 people here.

Under Mr Bolsonaro, the Amazon rainforest was seen as a source of endless wealth, with his belief that exploiting its vast natural resources was in the national interest.

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After Lula’s victory, the crowds celebrate

This meant that deforestation increased every year. When the trees were cut down, loggers and ranchers moved on. Lula plans to stop all this.

But agribusiness is huge, and its support and funding of politicians who are cut from the same cloth as Mr. Bolsonaro is well-recognized, and they are still in office.

However, world leaders are falling over themselves to congratulate Mr. Silva, and the Amazon is one of the key challenges for all of them.

Read more:
The triumph of Lula da Silva led to chaos and joy in the streets of São Paulo

Joe Biden, Emmanuel Macron, Rishi Sunak and Vladimir Putin are just some of those who have been in contact with the new president.

Supporters of former Brazilian president and presidential candidate Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva make a gesture during a rally on the day of the second round of Brazil's presidential election in Sao Paulo, Brazil, October 30, 2022. REUTERS/Carla Carniel
The people of Brazil are gathering on the day of the second round of the country’s presidential election in Sao Paulo

Many know the man Barack Obama once described as “the most popular politician on earth” and they all seem to like him, although it should be noted that they are probably equally happy to see the back of Mr Bolsonaro.

Mr. da Silva’s presidency will be very different in style and substance from that of his predecessor.

The days of the anarchic, aggressive, determined and chaotic government that characterized Mr. Bolsonaro’s four years will be over.

But it will be a difficult time for the new president. The country is still divided, and that didn’t change on any day in October.

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