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News > Latin America

'Brazil's Judiciary Lost Its Masks' Amid Lula Legal Fight: Ex-Justice Minister

  • Former President Lula da Silva before going to prison in April.

    Former President Lula da Silva before going to prison in April. | Photo: Reuters

Published 19 August 2018

"The entire left-wing will stand together to support a leftist candidate," said Eugenio Aragao, former Minister of Justices under Dilma Rousseff, in an exclusive interview with teleSUR.

As Brazil is undergoing living a political and electoral turmoil, the October presidential elections are approaching and frontrunner former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva remains in prison since April which casts doubt over whether or not his name will be on the ballot on Oct. 7 when Brazilians go to the polls. 

teleSUR Exclusive: 'Lula is a Political Prisoner'

"Lula is our candidate and we will go to the last consequences," said Eugenio Aragao, law professor and former justice minister under former President Dilma Rousseff's government, in an exclusive interview with teleSUR to explain the complex legal and political situation that the country is living.

On Aug.15, on the final day to present candidacies for the October elections, over 10,000 social and political movements' activists took part in the Free Lula March, led by the Workers Party (PT), and marched to the Superior Electoral Tribunal (TSE) to support the registration of Lula. 

Aragao warned that the political situation in Brazil is one of the most precarious situations in the country since un-elected Michel Temer assumed the presidency through a parliamentary impeachment process of former constitutional President Dilma Rousseff. "We are fighting for Lula to perform as well as possible in the polls. And if possible, of course, that he participates in the elections. But we are realistic and we know that the coup continues," said Eugenio Aragao.

Former President Rousseff registered Lula's presidential candidacy along with Workers' Party President Gleisi Hoffmann, former Sao Paulo mayor and Lula's vice-presidential running mates Fernando Haddad and congresswoman Manuela D'Avila at the Electoral Superior Court in Brasilia despite knowing "there are characters in the judiciary who have already decided that they do not want Lula in the elections.," the former minister lamented. 

Hours later, Brazil's Attorney General Raquel Dodge challenged Lula's registration as a presidential candidate and forwarded her petition to Luis Roberto Barroso, head of the candidate registrations at the Superior Electoral Court (TSE). Brazil's Superior Electoral Tribunal has until Sept. 17 to decide on future of Lula's candidacy.

The PT's latest judicial battle for Lula's candidacy as well as for an end to his unfair and unproved imprisonment comes just weeks after appeal judge Rogerio Favreto of the Federal Regional Court of the 4th Region in Porto Alegre, reaffirmed July 8, his decision to grant freedom to former President Lula.

Shortly after the release order, Brazilian Judge Sergio Moro, who presided over a corruption case against the leftist leader said Lula should stay in prison. According to Lula's legal team, Moro and the federal police acted "as a monolithic block against Lula's freedom, showing that there is no separation between the performance of the magistrate and the prosecutor."

"When the masks fall the characters have nothing more to hide. Then they appear in all their brutality. The judiciary lost its masks, with the event of July 8, when a first-appeal judge simply disregarded the decision of a second-appeal judge. From there anything is possible," said former minister Aragao. Adding that it is imperative to dismantle the schemes in place in the country, as is one of the PT's main objectives to "is simply to unmask, to show, what is happening."

UN: Authorities Should Allow Lula to Participate in Brazilian Elections, Respect 'Political Rights'

Up until recently, the battle has been focused on Lula's freedom, knowing that the former president is a "political prisoner, (...) No one can be convicted without proof,” said Cristiano Zannim from Lula's legal team in a previous exclusive interview with teleSUR in April. The PT has been trying to convince the Judiciary power to "allow (Lula's liberation, so he can carry out an electoral campaign), even considering the exceptional logistical situation. That they allow him to make recordings, give interviews, participate in debates if necessary through videoconferences. So far the Judiciary has simply refused to allow Lula to participate," Aragao added.

The main reason behind the unfair incarceration of Lula, which has been rebuked by several international human rights groups, seems to be the political death of the former president. 

Now the situation is in a second phase, which is based in a legal dispute with Brazil's electoral justice, where the PT is also demanding that Lula is allowed to campaign and to be part of the elections. As abovementioned, Lula is the Workers Party candidate, and they will "go to the last consequences."

The United Nations, through its Human Rights Committee, has determined that the Brazilian state has to allow presidential candidate Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to exercise his full political rights as a candidate in October elections. These include Lula's right to participate in media events and debates, as well as convene with members of his Workers' Party.

This ruling comes despite the fact that the former head of state remains imprisoned at Curitiba's federal police station. According to Brazil's constitution, Lula should not be prevented to participate in the elections until all of his legal appeals have been exhausted.

However, the PT recognizes that there are many complications to Lula's presidential candidacy, as explained by Aragao. "An electoral judge of the Superior Court said that he had no jurisdiction over the criminal ruling over Lula's case and did not allow this, worse, he did not decide that Lula could campaign."

He that the PT does, in fact, have a plan B which would only be implemented after all options have been exhausted. "The PT, in its meeting of the national board and after its national convention, has already decided that if Lula cannot participate in the elections, in that case, Fernando Haddad takes the lead of the candidacy and Manuela, of the Communist Party of Brazil, is going to be the vice president." But also stressed out how much this situation "is not the case that the party would prefer."

Brazil's Bolsonaro: 'No Doubt' Military Men Will Serve in Gov't

However, the party is very confident that Haddad and d'Avila "will obtain an extensive amount of the votes transferred by Lula." There are other left-wing candidates running for the Presidential elections, mainly fighting against far-right-wing candidate Jair Bolsonaro, for example, Ciro Gomes or Guilherme Boulos. For Aragao, these parties and movements will vote for their own candidates in the first round. However, "in the second round, yes, then the entire left-wing will stand together to support a leftist candidate."

When asked about Jair Bolsonaro a far right-wing candidate in Brazil, who has chosen a military favorable to coups as his running mate, Eugenio Aragao responded, "Bolsonaro is a son of hatred that was planted by the right-wing into Brazilian politics. Which is why it is the right-wing who has to deal with Bolsonaro." However, the possibilities of Bolsonaro getting into a second round are recognized, not only by the left-wing in the country. "Even yesterday (Wednesday), former President Fernando Henrique Cardoso said that a coalition with the PT would be necessary, should Bolsonaro go to the second round," affirmed Aragao.

But in the case that Bolsonaro wins the elections and others like him end up dominating the political sphere in the region, then it will be worse than Trump in the White House, Aragao argued.

"We prefer to think that Bolsonaro is a nightmare, and nothing more than a nightmare (...) Evidently, if Bolsonaro, and others with this profile, dominated the Latin American political scene it would be a total disaster. It would be worse than the triumph of Trumpism. It would be the Nazi-Fascism returning to history. But we fight so that this does not happen."

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