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Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva wins Brazil's presidential election

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Brazilians have ousted their far-right president.

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Jair Bolsonaro is out. Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is back in. The leftist president known as Lula was massively popular in earlier terms but went to prison for corruption. Later, a court threw out his conviction. And his supporters in Sao Paulo celebrated the one-time inmate's return to power.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting in non-English language).

MARTÍNEZ: Brazil's election authority says Lula received a little under 51% of the vote. He won the two-person runoff despite Bolsonaro's threats not to accept the result.

INSKEEP: NPR's Carrie Kahn is in Sao Paulo. Hey there, Carrie.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: Hi. Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: What was it like when Lula won?

KAHN: It was quite a celebration here in Sao Paulo. Da Silva is 77 years old, and he took to one of the biggest streets in the city. It's called Boulevard Avenida Paulista. And it was just jammed packed with people, about four city blocks full. And he's tried to speak to the crowd with barely a voice left. He outlined what he will do in his presidency. This will be his third. He said he will end hunger, zero tolerance for deforestation in the Amazon and, most of all, he told the throngs of the crowd there, that he will restore democracy to Brazil.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT-ELECT LUIZ INACIO LULA DA SILVA: (Speaking Portuguese).

KAHN: You could just hear him screaming at the top of his lungs as best as he could. And he just said that this victory is the most sacred because we defeated authoritarianism and fascism in this country. Democracy is back in Brazil.

INSKEEP: And of course, he's a person Brazilians know very well.

KAHN: Very well, and he is a polarizing figure, as is the current president, Jair Bolsonaro. But da Silva's political comeback now, it's just amazing. While he was very popular back in the 2000s when he was president and credited with helping tens of millions of Brazilians out of poverty, his party was just embroiled in a huge corruption scandal. And da Silva himself went to jail for nearly two years. His conviction was later annulled. But he has a lot of baggage with him. He has a solid base, especially among the poor. And some voters like Victor Castelo, who I met celebrating at this bar with friends, said, you know, he isn't a die-hard da Silva fan, but he says the last four years of Bolsonaro were just hell.

VICTOR CASTELO: We don't have a president. We have - I don't know - a crazy guy. He do what he wants. So at least - like, he's a dictator that right now we have - we will change.

KAHN: Da Silva won - just squeaked by. It was 50 - a little bit over 50% of the vote to 49%. That's just about 2 million voters. It was a very close race.

INSKEEP: Although we should note that at least in American standards, 2 million is far more than an error would tend to correct or a recount would tend to correct. So is Bolsonaro the loser accepting the results?

KAHN: He didn't speak publicly last night. Some of his allies did accept the defeat. Bolsonaro supporter Maria Pouli was drinking quietly with a few friends in Sao Paolo last night and just taking in the loss. Here's what she said.

MARIA POULI: (Speaking Portuguese).

KAHN: She said she just couldn't believe in just four years people forgot all the corruption of da Silva's party and brought him back.

INSKEEP: So how is the rest of the world taking this victory?

KAHN: World leaders immediately congratulated da Silva and hoping that that will thwart off any contestation by Bolsonaro about the vote. We'll have to see today.

INSKEEP: OK. Carrie, thanks so much for your reporting.

KAHN: You're welcome.

INSKEEP: NPR's Carrie Kahn has been up all night in Sao Paolo. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Carrie Kahn is NPR's International Correspondent based in Mexico City, Mexico. She covers Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America. Kahn's reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning news programs including All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition, and on NPR.org.
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