Brazil's President Lula recovering in hospital after hip replacement surgery

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FILE - Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva gestures to supporters during a May Day rally in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Monday, May 1, 2023. Lula is scheduled to undergo hip replacement surgery Friday, Sept. 29. (AP Photo/Andre Penner, File)

RIO DE JANEIRO – Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was recovering in a hospital Friday after undergoing a successful hip replacement operation, which is likely to put a temporary halt to his frequent international trips but otherwise not disrupt his activities.

Dr Roberto Kalil told journalists Friday that the leftist leader would soon be transferred to his room at the Hospital Sirio-Libanes in capital Brasilia, after successful surgery that required a general anesthesia and lasted between two and three hours.

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Lula, 77, is expected to spend a few days in the hospital and to return to the presidential palace early next week. Lula also underwent minor eyelid surgery, Kalil said.

The government had said Lula would remain president throughout instead of temporarily passing authority to Vice President Geraldo Alckmin.

“The impact of Lula’s surgery will probably be small and should not affect the decision-making process or negotiations in a significant way,” said Paulo Calmon, a political science professor at the University of Brasilia.

Recovery for hip replacement surgery varies from patient to patient, but most can resume light, day-to-day activities within three to six weeks, according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. Many patients initially use a cane, crutches or a walker until balance and strength improve to avoid falls that could jeopardize the surgery's success, the orthopedic organization said.

But Lula joked Tuesday that nobody would see him with any type of walking aid. "You won’t see me with a walker, you won’t see me with crutches. You’ll always see me as beautiful as if I hadn’t even had surgery,” Lula said, adding that he has been in pain since August of last year.

Lula is the oldest president in Brazil’s history. During the 2022 election campaign, he often joked that despite being over 70, “I have the energy of a 30-year-old and the lust of a 20-year-old.”

Having served two previous presidential terms, in 2003-2010, Lula said during the campaign that if he won he had no intention of running for a fourth four-year term. However, he said in July that U.S. President Joe Biden’s reelection campaign was an “encouragement” for him to run again in 2026.

Lula has been busy since taking office Jan. 1 from the man he defeated in the October 2022 runoff election, right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro. After vowing to “bring Brazil back” onto the world stage, Lula has traveled to 21 countries, including United States, China, France, India, Argentina and Angola.

"He tried to include all these crucial trips before the surgery," said Oliver Stuenkel, an associate professor of international relations at the Getulio Vargas Foundation, a university in Sao Paulo. “Now he can’t continue to travel like that.”

This week the president wore a mask to public events, following medical directives to lessen the risk of contracting a respiratory illness before his operation.

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