Former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva began a 12-year prison sentence Saturday, April 7th after surrendering to police. Lula is charged by political opponents with corruption and money laundering, although the politician’s guilt is being strongly disputed by intellectuals, activists and politicians the world over.
Lula was president of Brazil from 2003 to 2011, and he helped to create a strong leftist party within the country. He was considered a working-class president who helped millions of Brazilians escape poverty and find work. Former President Barack Obama even called Lula “the most popular politician on earth.”
Brazilian policymakers have used the charge of “corruption” in the past to lean politics in their desired direction. For example, they allegedly used the same tactics in 2016 to impeach Lula’s successor Dilma Rousseff. Opposers to Lula have for the last 4 years been attempting to charge him, claiming the politician accepted a lavish 3.7 million reais ($1.1 million) apartment in exchange for political decisions favorable to OAS, an engineering and construction firm.
Just days before turning himself in, Lula was moving toward a Workers’ Party victory in the upcoming presidential elections in October. Lula was up in the polls, with the strong likelihood of assuming leadership of the country once again, replacing current president Michel Temer. But Lula’s imprisonment makes it difficult for the politician to ever rejoin the political ranks. This is particularly due to Brazil’s Clean Slate Law, which “prevents convicted criminals who have lost their first appeal from running for office,” according to Wall Street Journal.
“I do not forgive them for creating the impression that I am a thief,” Lula said before turning himself in — an action made difficult by his supporters attempting to block him from reaching the authorities.
“You will have to transform yourselves,” he told his supporters. “They must know that the death of a combatant doesn’t end a revolution.” He continued: “From here on, you will become Lula.”
Zoe Licata (Cambridge, Massachusetts)