The hugely popular former president Lula is a victim of a legal witch-hunt and ‘trial by media.’ International solidarity is now more vital than ever, says TONY BURKE (2/9/17)
SINCE the coup in Brazil removed President Dilma Rousseff last year without a single vote from the Brazilian public, ending 14 years of Workers’ Party government in Brazil, former president Lula da Silva has again been at the forefront of the political scene.
Already a popular figure due to two hugely successful terms in office (president Barack Obama termed him the “most popular politician on Earth” in 2009), Lula has been a key figure in the mass rallies against President Michel Temer who replaced Rousseff.
Since taking office, Temer has overseen a sharp rightward turn for the country, implementing harsh austerity measures without electoral backing.
Under Temer’s controversial leadership, environmental and indigenous protections have been slashed; a 20-year freeze on health and education spending has been imposed; and most recently Brazil’s labour laws were severely weakened — a move trade unions across the globe have said will take workers’ rights back decades.
These harsh austerity measures have met huge resistance from sectors across Brazilian society and polls show Temer’s popularity sits in single digits.
If an election were held today, Lula and the Workers’ Party would be in a very good position to win back the country with the backing of the 54 million voters whose voting will was overturned when Dilma was illegitimately removed last year.
Given the right-wing’s total disregard for democracy, epitomised by the actions of the coup government over the last year, it is no surprise that there has been a concerted effort to discredit the most popular politician in Brazil and to stop him from running for office in 2018.
In July, after a year-long political and legal witch-hunt, Lula was convicted for nine-and-a-half years over the alleged illegal ownership of an apartment by Judge Sergio Moro on extremely flimsy and controversial evidence, causing thousands to rally in his defence when the verdict was announced.
The case was deemed a “trial by media” by many in Brazil and internationally when aggressive tactics were used that Lula’s legal team have deemed illegal and to have violated his civil and political rights.
One example was the wire-tapping and subsequent leaking of phone calls he made to his family, which were then published across the nation’s media to embarrass him.
Remarkably, the judge who has overseen Lula’s trial is being pegged by many on the right as a potential candidate for the 2018 election, presenting a distinct conflict of interest.
Lula and his team have consistently claimed that the investigation has been politically motivated and have even gone as far as publicly stating that “no credible evidence of guilt has been produced, and overwhelming proof of his innocence blatantly ignored.”
It’s worth remembering the achievements of the Lula presidencies in Brazil that have made him so popular today. Lula oversaw radical transformation of Brazil, lifting 20 million out of poverty with a series of innovative social programmes.
One example is the Bolsa Familia, which grants financial aid to poor families to ensure their children are vaccinated and provided with free education and health checks.
He also oversaw a massive decrease in child malnourishment, extreme poverty and unemployment, while the country became an economic powerhouse — rising from the 15th-largest economy in the world to the seventh-largest (now the 9th).
Lula’s legal team has now launched a formal appeal against the conviction stating that the “Federal Attorney’s Office did not produce any evidence of guilt and the defence did produce evidence of his innocence.”
The Workers’ Party has also officially stood with Lula. It deems his condemnation “yet another chapter of the farce led by the coup consortium” and noted that “history will be the main witness of his verdict of acquittal and greatness.”
Earlier this year the Guardian published a letter from leading figures from across British society backing Lula.
Now, progressives internationally must stand with Lula, just as we stand with the millions of Brazilians resisting the coup government and making a stand for democracy and social progress.
This article was originally published in the Morning Star at: http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-a4f5-Take-a-stand-for-Brazils-ex-leader-Lula