Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, the impoverished son of illiterate farmers, rose to become not just the president of the world’s seventh largest economy, but the man who catapulted Brazil onto the global stage as no one ever has.
US President Barrack Obama called him the world’s most popular president. Newsweek, Le Monde and the Financial Times dubbed him the world’s most influential president.
The former trade union leader who lost a finger working at a metal factory at age 14, is the only Brazilian president to never have gone to university. Yet, even his adversaries recognise that his political skills are unparalleled.
Elected in 2003, the leader of Brazil’s left-wing Workers’ Party, or PT, embraced both George Bush and Hugo Chavez, determined to assert Brazil’s place in the Americas and beyond.
While he played by market rules during his two-term presidency, Lula catapulted tens of millions of impoverished Brazilians into the lower-middle and middle classes, through unprecedented social programmes that won him praise worldwide.
While corruption allegations dogged his party from the start, he left the presidency in 2010 with a historic 80 percent approval rating.
The trajectory of his chosen successor, his former cabinet chief, Dilma Rousseff, has been vastly different. Many said early on she didn’t have the political skills of her predecessor.
She now faces an impeachment amid an unprecedented economic and political crisis.
Revelations of a billion-dollar corruption scheme in the state-owned oil company Petrobras while Lula was president, have eroded the legacy of the so-called “Teflon” leader. In March, police detained him for interrogation on suspicion of money laundering, just one of several corruption allegations against him.
Al Jazeera visited Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva at his Sao Paulo foundation, The Lula Institute, which focuses on social equality and economic development, furthering the policies he pursued during his presidency. Al Jazeera’s Lucia Newman spoke to Lula about his own legal battles and his key role in trying to save Rousseff from impeachment.
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