The latest issue of the conservative Brazilian magazine Veja echoes an October 2011 Newsweek cover heralding the death of former Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi, but substitutes the image of the country’s ex-President, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, for the slain leader in a macabre pastiche, dripping in blood.
The likeness is unmistakable: a floating, seemingly severed head, dripping in blood, appearing just below the magazine’s title in a stark two-toned black and red design.
But the context is hardly the same. Newsweek’s Oct. 30, 2011 issue featuring Gaddafi’s black and red silhouetted face was published just 10 days after NATO and US-backed de facto forces captured and lynched the deposed Libyan leader.
Veja’s Sept. 21, 2016 issue, on the other hand, appears to herald Lula’s political death in Brazil.
Lula is a founding member of the Workers’ Party, known by its Portuguese acronym, the PT, and would be the odds-on favorite to win the 2018 presidential election, according to recent polls.
His protegé and successor as president, Dilma Rousseff, was impeached August 31 by the Brazilian Senate in a move condemned both in Brazil and internationally as a coup.
Since Rousseff’s ouster, Lula has been slapped with new formal corruption accusations alleging he was the mastermind behind a bribery scheme in the state-run oil company, Petrobras.
The charges last week represent the first time federal prosecutors have directly accused Lula for alleged involvement in the Petrobras fraud ring.
Lula slammed Rousseff’s impeachment as a “spectacle” and dismissed the corruption charges as a political maneuver to discredit his candidacy. “If my adversaries want to bring me down,” he said, “they will have to fight me at the ballot box.”
Many Brazilian analysts contend that Rousseff’s impeachment, and charges of corruption against Lula are intended to nullify the Workers’ Party’s popularity with voters.
Veja, the publisher of the controversial cover, is among the major outlets within Brazil’s highly-concentrated media sphere accused of “coup-mongering” in the months leading up to Rousseff’s impeachment, with the intention of weakening public support for the PT.
In 2010, the magazine favored the PSDB candidate, José Serra, in his unsuccessful bid to unseat Rousseff. Serra, who also lost the election to Lula in 2002, is now Foreign Minister in the cabinet of President Michel Temer.
The comparison between Gaddafi and Lula could be viewed as ironic in another sense, however. While unelected, Gaddafi was immensely popular in Africa – former South African President Nelson Mandela adored him – and had transformed the oil-rich Libya into the continent’s most prosperous, and egalitarian country.
Many analysts have posited that the U.S. was keen to overthrow him to get their hands on Libya’s oil and financial resources.
Similarly, many of Veja’s front-page graphics have reflected the magazine’s right-wing editorial politics and sparked controversy among Brazilians.
Upon the normalization of ties between the United States and Cuba, for example, Veja ran a cover featuring US President Barack Obama as iconic Argentine Marxist rebel and Cuban Revolution commander Ernesto “Che” Guevara.