Lula da Silva is innocent – he is a political prisoner

The jailing of Lula da Silva in April 2018 was politically motivated.  It was a coup that paved the way for Bolsonaro’s victory in Brazil’s Presidential election on Sunday 28 October 2018.

Days after the election on 1 November Judge Sergio Moro, who jailed Lula for 12 years on trumped up charges of corruption, accepted Bolsonaro’s invitation to serve in his ultra-right wing government. In appointing Moro to be his Justice Minister, Bolsonaro vividly demonstrated that Lula is the victim of a conspiracy involving the US, the Brazilian capitalist class including its state apparatus and the far right in Brazil to stop him ever serving as the President of Brazil again.

Lula is innocent. He has been jailed on the basis of “undetermined acts of corruption.” His right wing persecutors have failed to offer a shred of material evidence against him and organised the trial on the basis of “guilty until proven innocent”, violating a universal principle of justice. The judgement was made without identifying what crime was committed. The United Nations Human Rights Committee insisted that Brazil must take “all necessary measures to ensure that Lula can enjoy and exercise his political rights while in prison, as a candidate in the 2018 presidential elections.” Brazil’s Electoral Court defied this international ruling and kept Lula off the ballot paper in a decision taken only one month prior to the first round of voting.

Lula’s real crime was to champion the interests of Brazil’s working class and oppressed – bringing millions of people out poverty – and to challenge the US on the world stage by pursuing a foreign policy in favour of Latin American unity and for a multipolar world through initiatives such as BRICS.

Lula’s progressive record as President of Brazil from 2003 to 2010 is why throughout 2018 he held a commanding lead in all the opinion polls. When Lula was forced to withdraw from the Presidential race in September, just a month before the election, he was polling approximately 40%, almost double his nearest rival Bolsonaro. The removal Lula from the election created a vacuum and paved the way for Bolsonaro’s surge in support.

The US-backed coup against Lula

The real criminals are Sergio Moro, the leadership of Brazil’s Army, the frenzied capitalist media in Brazil and in the West, and the US government who together have orchestrated the political persecution of Brazil’s most celebrated and popular political leader of all time in order to subvert democracy, deny the will of the Brazilian people and deliver the country’s economic and foreign policy to the control of the United States.

The political imprisonment of Lula, as well as the Parliamentary coup against President Dilma Rousseff in 2016, has come about as a result of a conscious strategy of the US to roll back Latin America’s ‘pink tide’ through ‘lawfare.’

In the words of Hillary Clinton in 2009, “having a functioning democracy isn’t enough in Latin America, we have to support these countries to have strong, independent judiciaries.”

Unelected, right wing and aligned to US interests, judiciaries across Latin America are being used to attack popular left leaders including former President of Argentina, Kirchner, and former President of Ecuador, Correa, with the goal of decapitating the left’s most commanding figures. By using judiciaries that they control, the US government can effectively rig elections in Latin America through stopping the left from putting forward their chosen candidates by throwing them in jail, as the case of Brazil has graphically shown.

In the case of Brazil, the US has played an active role in targeting the left in the campaigns against “corruption” that have engulfed the country in recent years.

In a speech in July 2017, the US Acting Attorney General Kenneth Blanco outlined the relationship between the US government and the Brazilian judiciary. He said:

“It is hard to imagine a better cooperative relationship in recent history than that of the United States Department of Justice and the Brazilian prosecutors. We have cooperated and substantially assisted one another on a number of public matters that have now been resolved, and are continuing to do so on a number of ongoing investigations…

“The cooperation between the Department and Brazil has led to extraordinary results… Indeed, just this past week, the prosecutors in Brazil won a guilty verdict against former President Lula da Silva, who was charged with receiving bribes from the engineering firm OAS in return for his help in winning contracts with the state oil company Petrobras. It is cases like this that put Brazil at the forefront of countries that are working to fight corruption, both at home and abroad.”

Brazilian Judges and Generals – against Lula and for Bolsonaro

The US has reliable allies in Brazil’s capitalist state apparatus that have ensured that the left did not win the Presidential election this year. In the month since Bolsonaro’s election victory the ‘mask has slipped’ and the political motivations and allegiances of key actors in the persecution of Lula have become even more explicit.

Lauded in the Western media as “Brazil’s corruption busting judge”, Sergio Moro’s true political bias has become clear. Following his appointment to Bolsonaro’s government The Economist noted:

“There is a snag in Mr Moro’s appointment. It appears to confirm that claims of the left-wing Workers’ Party (PT) that the judge’s motive earlier this year for jailing its leader and putative presidential candidate, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, was more political than judicial.”

The role played by the leadership of Brazil’s military in the political plot against Lula has also become increasingly clear. In April the Supreme Court voted, by a majority of one vote, to uphold the prison sentence Judge Moro had handed down to Lula. The Chief of Staff of Brazil’s Army, General Eduadro Vilas Boas, tweeted on the eve of the vote threats designed to influence the outcome of this critical Supreme Court decision. In a candid statement following the election of Bolsonaro the General reflected on his role in the jailing of Lula. He said:

“I recognise that there was an episode in which we really pushed the limits, which was that tweet I made on the eve of the Supreme Court vote on the issue of Lula. We consciously knew we were on the edge. But we felt that the situation could escape our control if I did not publicly express myself. Because other people, military reservists and citizens, identified with us and were speaking more emphatically.”

In addition to integrating Brazil’s most prominent Judge into his government, Bolsonaro has also appointed leading military personalities. Bolsonaro’s government includes a number of retired Generals – including his Vice President running mate General Antonio Hamilton Mourao as well as General Farnando Azevedo e Silva who will serve as Defence Minister.

Bolsonaro’s team is currently preparing an almighty assault on the living standards and civil liberties of the Brazilian population. Gleisi Hoffman, National President of the Workers’ Party (PT) predicts that Sergio Moro will play an increasingly ominous role in Brazilian politics, asserting that “Moro’s Ministry of Justice has been redesigned to act as a true ministry of political persecution, bringing together instruments typical of a police state.”

Free Lula

The announcement that Moro will serve in Bolsonaro’s government has demonstrated to the world the corrupt, politically motivated character of the campaign to stop the left in Brazil. It has given fresh impetus to the campaign to free Lula. Following Moro’s appointed as Justice Minister Lula’s defence team immediately filed a habeas corpus for his release in light of the blatant bias this act has revealed.

The National President of the Workers’ Party (PT), Gleisi Hoffmann has underlined why a momentous struggle must be waged to free Lula when. She said:

“In 500 years of history, the first time the people had rights was just when he began to govern. Lula is the symbol of all this struggle that we live for a better Brazil… We will never leave you, Lula. You symbolise this Brazil of the suffering people, of the people who went hungry and who began to eat when you became President.”

Lula is innocent, he is a political prisoner. Instead of languishing in jail he should be preparing a return to government from 1 January 2019. Free Lula – Lula Livre!

The article above was previously published here at Eyes On Latin America.