Brazil: Lula at the gates of prison

Brazil: Lula at the gates of prison

The former Brazilian president’s habeas corpus request was rejected by the Supreme Court on Thursday.


The Supreme Court of Brazil has ruled: with the rejection on Thursday April 5 of Lula’s habeas corpus request, the ex-president may be imprisoned in the coming days, a decision with strong political implications in a very polarized country. The imminent arrest of the one who was given the head of the voting intentions for the presidential election in October reshuffles the cards of a poll presented as one of the most unpredictable in decades.

In theory, there are no longer any obstacles separating the icon of the left from the prison, but, according to many jurists, he should not find himself behind bars until next week, with Tuesday announced as the most likely date. Lula, 72, will have to serve 12 years and one month in prison for receiving a luxury beachfront apartment from a construction company in exchange for favors in winning public contracts.

The ex-president (2003-2010) fiercely denies, citing the lack of evidence and denouncing a plot to prevent him from running for a third term, eight years after leaving office with a record popularity rate. “The Brazilian people have the right to vote for Lula, the candidate of hope. His candidacy will be defended in the streets and in all instances, until the last consequences, ”said on Twitter the Workers’ Party, founded by Lula in the 1980s, shortly after the announcement of the Supreme Court’s decision.

“The presumption of innocence, this fundamental right (…), did not prevail today for Lula. It is a sad day for democracy and for Brazil ”, declared the president of this party, Gleisi Hoffmann. The ex-president also received the support of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, who said on Twitter to have felt “a pain to the soul in the face of such injustice”.

Judges deeply divided

Broadcast live on television, the Supreme Court proceedings began on Wednesday afternoon and lasted for more than 11 hours. Like Brazil, the 11 judges were deeply divided and Lula’s habeas corpus request was rejected by six votes to five. Although very close, this result is a resounding victory for the prosecutors of Operation “Lavage-Express”, a sprawling investigation which has uncovered a gigantic corruption scandal involving politicians of all stripes.

Even though he has been caught up in business, Lula remains perceived as “close to the people” and still has a considerable reservoir of voice, especially in the poor regions of the northeast, where he comes from. But he is also hated by a whole section of the population, and many voices have been raised to welcome the Supreme Court’s decision.

Tuesday evening, the day before the judgment, tens of thousands of people demonstrated in the largest cities of the country to demand the imprisonment of Lula. “The ex-president is not above the law. A decision in the opposite direction would frustrate society and would be a step backwards in the fight against impunity, ”the center-right PSDB party said in a statement.

Another position, much more controversial, hit the headlines. General Eduardo Villas-Boas, head of the Brazilian army, published a message on Twitter on Tuesday evening in which he indicated that the soldiers “share the feeling of the Brazilians who repudiate all impunity”.

Even if it does not explicitly refer to Lula, this publication suggests a rare position taken by the army, in a country which was still living under the yoke of the military dictatorship (1964-1985) there are about thirty years. Amnesty International considered the general’s statement “a serious affront to the independence of powers and a threat to the democratic state”.

(With AFP)