On 4 March, police investigating corruption at Brazil’s state oil company detained the country’s ex-president Luis Inácio Lula da Silva. Less than two weeks later, Lula’s protégée and successor, Dilma Rousseff, installed him as her chief of staff. Trapped between a sclerotic economy and the threat of impeachment for misrepresenting the state of the public finances, Rousseff hoped to secure a moment of respite by recalling her popular predecessor to Brasília. Before the cheers of his supporters had died away, however, Lula was cast once more from office. A recording of a telephone conversation between the two had surfaced in which Rousseff appeared to promise her mentor a government post as a get-out-of-jail-free card. A federal judge decreed that Lula’s appointment was designed to pervert the course of justice and promptly annulled it.
It is a tradition at Brazil’s carnival celebrations for roles to be reversed – for men to dress as women and for a beggar to become king for the day. However, Lula’s metamorphosis in a matter of hours from suspected money launderer to messiah and back again is enough to