Tears roll down mother Simone Batista's face as she tells about Bolsa Familia's cuts. Photo: Silvia Izquierdo/AP
By PETER PRENGAMAN, SARAH DiLORENZO and DANIEL TRIELLI
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — When Leticia Miranda had a job selling newspapers on the streets, she earned about $160 a month, just enough to pay for a tiny apartment she shared with her 8-year-old son in a poor neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro.
When she lost her job about six months ago amid Brazil’s worst economic crisis in decades, Miranda had no choice but to move to an abandoned building where several hundred people were already living. All of her possessions — a bed, a fridge, a stove and some clothes — have been jammed into a small room that like all the others in the building has windows with no glass. Residents bathe in large garbage cans filled with water and do their best to live with the stench of mountains of trash and rummaging pigs in the center of the building.
The economic doldrums are clearly fueling the political comeback of former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who from 2003 to 2010 presided over much of the boom. After leaving office with approval ratings over 80 percent, da Silva’s popularity plunged as he and his party were ensnared in corruption investigations. Da Silva is appealing a conviction and nearly 10-year sentence for corruption. But he still consistently leads preference polls for next year’s presidential election.
On the campaign trail, da Silva promises both a return to better economic times and refocusing on the poor.
“Lula is not just Lula,” da Silva said at a recent rally in Rio, using the name most Brazilians call him. “It’s an idea represented by millions of men and women. Prepare yourselves because the working class will return to govern this country.”
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