He was received with enthusiasm and joy by an audience of almost 200 people, supporters who had campaigned against his imprisonment and the coup in Brazil. A large contingent from the Geneva-based press attended, and the event was watched by others via live stream.
Lula is travelling through Europe, meeting world leaders to urge them to build a global coalition against inequality, which he calls “the great struggle of our age.”
He spoke about the struggles of the 20th century, which humanity successfully confronted through multilateral action, and said that the great challenge of the 21st century would be to ensure a decent life for all amidst growing inequality and an erosion of workers’ rights.
He reiterated this message in meetings with the Pope, the mayor of Paris, French economist Thomas Piketty, the director general of the International Labour Organization, Guy Rider, UNCTAD director Robert Kozul-Wright, and the World Council of Churches.
He met with Julian Assange’s father in Geneva, and called for action to defend press freedom. He also visited Berlin where he met with German unions and progressive organizations.
Before the public meeting on Friday, Lula met with the leaders of the Geneva-based global unions, IndustriALL, BWI, IUF, UNI Global Union, PSI and the ITUC to develop a coordinated campaign and policy response to push for action on inequality.
He stressed the importance of a strong and united trade union movement to defend democracy and fight for the working class against the tide of hatred and bigotry represented by Trump, Bolsonaro and other populist leaders.
At the public meeting, Lula was introduced by his personal friend, IndustriALL general secretary Valter Sanches, who reminded the audience of Lula’s journey from shopfloor to union leader and on to the presidency, and the achievements of his time in office.
“In his eight years in power, Lula lifted 50 million Brazilians out of poverty,” he said.
IndustriALL played a key role in condemning the anti-democratic coup, and campaigning for Lula’s release. Lula acknowledged the importance of the global campaign, saying:
“For 580 days in prison, I heard your words from my cell, and they were a daily injection of energy which allowed me to come out stronger, determined to prove my innocence and resume the fight.”
“They put me in prison because they knew I would win the election, and they didn’t want that.”
Lula made an enthusiastic and impassioned defence of democratic collective action, saying:
“I am not a revolutionary, I am a democrat. I believe in using democratic means to peacefully bring about change.
“We need to lead the fight against inequality to give people hope for a better future and provide an alternative to the hate promoted by the right-wing nationalists.”
After visiting Geneva, Lula travelled to Berlin, where he held a series of public meetings, including a meeting at the IG Metall education centre, where he was welcomed by IndustriALL president Jörg Hofmann. He also met politicians from the social democratic party, the SPD, and Die Linke, as well as the German trade union federation, DGB, and the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung.
On International Women’s Day, Lula paid his respects at the Rosa Luxemburg memorial at the Landwehr canal where she was murdered by fascists. He recorded a message.
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