2021 TIME100 Next
Ananda Migliano—Agencia Estado/AP
February 17, 2021 6:55 AM EST

Two years into Jair Bolsonaro’s controversial presidency, Brazil’s fragmented left has mostly struggled to unify behind a leader to challenge the far right. Guilherme Boulos has begun to change that, bolstered by a November run for mayor of São Paulo. Born and raised in the city—the largest in South America—Boulos has worked for two decades as a community organizer in poor neighborhoods. A month before the first round of voting, he was polling in fourth place as a minority-party candidate with just 10% of the expected vote. But by winning over young people and energizing voters disillusioned with the mainstream left Workers’ Party, Boulos beat out Bolsonaro’s preferred candidate and others to make it to the second round. In the end he lost the election—winning 40.6% of the vote to the center-right incumbent’s 59.4%—but analysts said his shock performance in the influential city established him as an ascendant figure in Brazilian politics and gave the left a new path forward. Many expect Boulos to run for President in 2022, and to play a major role in rebuilding the left’s strength in the meantime. “This isn’t something that ended [with the election],” Boulos told a Brazilian newspaper after his loss. “Our campaign is the start of a new cycle.” —Ciara Nugent