Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva
© Nelson Almeida/Agence France-Presse/Getty
Former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva says his country needs to undergo period of ‘self-reflection’ after what he described as the hate-filled election of far-right populist Jair Bolsonaro.
Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Brazil's president from 2003 and 2011, is in jail over corruption charges that he disputes

Brazil is being governed by "a bunch of lunatics" and United States "lackeys" who have shattered its international reputation, former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has claimed in his first interview since being jailed one year ago.

Lula, Brazil's president from 2003 and 2011, surrendered himself to police last April after being convicted on corruption charges he disputes.

The 73-year-old leftist had been forbidden from giving face-to-face interviews until Friday, when two Brazilian journalists were allowed to visit him at his prison in southern Brazil following a lengthy legal battle.

Lula told them Brazil needed to undergo period of "self-reflection" after what he described as the "crazy" fake news and hate-filled election of far-right populist Jair Bolsonaro last year. "What we can't have is this country being run governed by a bunch of lunatics. The country doesn't deserve this and above all the people do not deserve this."

"Brazil is adrift - so far he doesn't know what to do," he added of Bolsonaro, who took office in January and has suffered a turbulent opening act in power.

Lula said he profoundly regretted "the disaster that is taking place in this country" and criticised Brazil's dramatic tack towards Washington under Bolsonaro.

"I've never seen a [Brazilian] president salute the American flag. I've never seen a president go around saying, 'I love the United States, I love it!'" Lula said of Bolsonaro, who paints himself as a "tropical Trump" and last month travelled to the United States to tout his close relations with the US president.

"You should love your mother, you should love your country. What's all this about loving the United States?

"Does anyone really think the US is going to favour Brazil?" Lula asked. "Americans think of themselves first, second, third, fourth, fifth - and if there's any time left over they think about Americans. And these Brazilian lackeys go around thinking the Americans will do anything for us."

US, Israeli lackey. Or, globalist shill and faux-nationalist
During the two-hour interview, Lula also lamented Brazil's fall from its status as an emerging world power when he was president, to one that is increasingly shunned by the international community because of Bolsonaro's hardline views.

"I was the only president who was invited to all the G8 meetings ... Brazil was very important in the G20," Lula boasted. "All this has fallen apart.

"Now I see news that the mayor of New York doesn't want to have dinner with the president of Brazil," he added, in reference to a recent campaign backed by Bill de Blasio to stop Bolsonaro being honoured in New York because of his homophobic views and hostility to the environment.

"What point have we reached?" Lula asked. "What a muck up."

Lula also questioned the alleged ties between Bolsonaro and his family and heavily armed paramilitary gangs that dominate large parts of Rio de Janeiro.

"Imagine if Bolsonaro's paramilitaries were friends of my family," he said, implying that the press would judge him more harshly.

Lula's comments came as Bolsonaro faced renewed criticism for a series of incendiary and homophobic comments in which he claimed Brazil could not be allowed to become a "gay tourism paradise" and appeared to promote sexual tourism.

"If you want to come here and have sex with a woman, go for it," Bolsonaro told journalists in the capital, Brasília, on Thursday. "But we can't let this place become known as a gay tourism paradise ... We have families."

Comment: What a revolting caricature of a 'traditional values man' he is.

Brazil's best-selling author, Paulo Coelho, was among those to slam Bolsonaro. "Brazilian women ARE NOT a commodity. Sex tourism is NOT a reason to visit Brasil," he tweeted to his 15 million followers.

Daniela Mercury, an openly gay Brazilian pop star, tweeted: "Should Brazilians have to accept state homophobia and the encouragement of sexual tourism with women? We demand that Brazilian women and our LGBTS families be respected."
Anna Jean Kaiser is a journalist based in Brazil. Her work also appears in the BBC, the Washington Post and the New York Times. She is originally from the San Francisco Bay Area

Tom Phillips is the Guardian's Latin America correspondent