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LATIN AMERICA | 30-12-2022 12:29

Amid tight security, Brazil hosts 'Lulapalooza' to toast Lula inauguration

Some 300,000 revellers and more than a dozen heads of state and government are expected to attend leftist icon Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva's swearing-extravaganza in Brasilia.

Brazil's leftist icon Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva returns triumphant to the presidency Sunday after years out in the cold, with plans for a spectacular inauguration amid ultra-tight security.

Some 300,000 revellers and more than a dozen heads of state and government are expected to attend the swearing-in extravaganza in the usually tranquil capital Brasilia.

Dubbed "Lulapalooza" on social media, the event will combine institutional rites with a mega concert gathering some of Brazil's biggest musical stars.

A failed Christmas Eve bomb attack had threatened to put a damper on proceedings, prompting a never-before-seen security deployment for a Brazilian presidential inauguration.

Lula, 77, will officially become president for a third, non-successive, term after taking the oath with his vice-president Geraldo Alckmin at a ceremony in Congress.

But the moment his followers are waiting for is when he ascends the stage at Planalto palace, the seat of the presidency.

There, Lula is set to receive the presidential sash, a green-and-yellow silk band embroidered in gold and diamonds.

Normally, the new head of state receives the sash from his predecessor, but outgoing far-right leader Jair Bolsonaro – who has gone unusually silent since his electoral loss to Lula in October – has not said whether he would attend the ceremony.

Bolsonaro has not publicly accepted defeat nor congratulated Lula on his narrow victory.

Lula managed to garner 50.9 percent of the vote after a deeply divisive campaign in which Bolsonaro hammered, with some success, on his rival's corruption conviction – since overturned in court.

Brazilian media has suggested Bolsonaro may even leave the country to celebrate the new year in Florida in the United States.

 

Security fears

The state of Brasilia has said it will deploy "100 percent" of its police force – some 8,000 officers – for Sunday's celebrations amid fears of disturbances following the failed bomb attack in Brasilia a week before the inauguration.

Authorities arrested a Bolsonaro follower on terror charges after he allegedly placed explosives in a fuel truck near Brasilia's airport on Christmas Eve, hoping to sow "chaos" ahead of the inauguration.

The suspect told authorities they wanted to "prevent the establishment of communism in Brazil" under Lula. Police found a cache of weapons at his home.

In addition to the Brasilia deployment, the federal police has said more than 1,000 of its officers would perform "intelligence and security" tasks related to Sunday's event – the largest contingent ever for a presidential investiture.

After Bolsonaro's defeat, supporters blocked roads and demonstrated outside military barracks to demand the armed forces prevent Lula's inauguration.

On December 12, some of them set fire to vehicles and clashed with police in Brasilia.

By Thursday, hundreds were still gathered outside the army headquarters in the capital, demanding a military intervention.

Lula backers have expressed fear on social media of riots or attacks on inauguration day, but Lula's future security minister Flavio Dino has sought to give assurances the event will be "safe" and "peaceful," encouraging Brazilians to join the celebrations.

A Supreme Court judge on Wednesday suspended the right to bear arms for most civilians until the day after the ceremony.

 

'Lulapalooza'

Given security concerns and predictions of rain, it was not clear whether Lula would do the traditional presidential street parade in a vintage convertible, as is the custom, or in a closed, armoured car.

The decision will be taken "in the moment," Dino told journalists.

At least 53 foreign delegations including 17 heads of state or government are scheduled to attend the inauguration – a historically large turnout.

Among them will be the presidents of Germany, Argentina, Chile and Colombia, and Spain's King Felipe VI.

US President Joe Biden, who as vice president in 2015 attended the inauguration of Dilma Rousseff, is sending his Interior Secretary Deb Haaland.

The public will gather on the Esplanade of Ministries, so called for being surrounded by government buildings and Congress.

There will be two giant stages decorated in the colours of the Brazilian flag, where more than 60 popular artists including Samba legend Martinho da Vila are due to perform.

"We will have a great popular festival", promised future first lady Rosangela da Silva, who organised the so-called "Festival of the Future" since popularly renamed "Lulapalooza" on social media after the American Lollapalooza music event.

 

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by Ramon Sahmkow, AFP

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