In an exclusive interview freelance journalist based in Brazil, Michael Fox reports to TeleSUR on the upcoming federal court decision regarding corruption charges against Lula, the continual coup, and what the 2018 Brazilian presidential candidacy field looks like.
TeleSUR: How many total cases are there against Brazilian former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva? Which one is being ruled on next Wed. Jan. 24 in Porto Alegre?
Fox: There are roughly five cases against Lula. Those should be moving through the courts in the coming months depending on what happens with this one.
The next week’s ruling is regarding the duplex apartment that prosecutors say was gifted to Lula from the AOS construction company in exchange for preferential treatment and awarding of contracts to OAS. This is within a larger Petrobras and Lava Jato (Car Wash) scandal.
Sergio Moro, the lead judge on the entire Lava Jato case, says that Lula received a beachfront apartment located on the outskirts of Sao Paulo from the OAS, and that upgrades were made to an apartment.
This is prosecutors’ proof that Lula was involved in the vulpine scheme.
Moro is getting this information from a plea bargain testimony from the former head of OAS. This is one of the biggest things the defense is complaining about.
Lula’s defense says there’s no proof of receipts or anything that shows Lula paid for the apartment or that shows that somehow the apartment is his. Lula says he doesn’t have any keys to the duplex.
Plea bargain testimonies - that’s really where Sergio Moro is getting a lot of his direction in this entire Lava Jato scandal. His information comes mainly from plea bargain testimonies, that’s his base.
Lead judge Moro says ‘I’ve got the proof. It says you’ve done it.’
Lula’s defense says no way. They say that when Lula was originally found guilty in this case in July 2016, prosecutors produced hundreds of pages of documents, but that they held no evidence.
So the case is going to the regional appellate court in Porto Alegre and the judges will make their decision Jan. 24.
TeleSUR: How is the left responding to the continued allegations in the run-up to the Jan. 24 ruling?
Fox: If you talk to social movements, Lula’s defense and people on the left they say this the continuation of the coup that ousted Dilma Rousseff in 2016. They say this is the next step in trying to ensure that Lula can’t run or come back into power.
The Michel Temer administration and the right want the ability to consolidate power.
The elite and “big capital” want to continue to rule the country and rollback Lula’s Worker Party (WP) policies, and not just WP policies, but others going back decades.
The left says this was all planned. They knew right-wing factions were going to come out against Lula and ousted president Dilma. It’s like the right was throwing cases against the wall and seeing what would stick to her.
This is also why leftist social movements are prepared and responding so intensely. Thousands of people marched today in Porto Alegre. Via Campesina and the Landless Worker Movement are camped out in front of the federal court where the case will be heard. Thousands are traveling to Porto Alegre to stand in defense with Lula.
Porto Alegre is ground zero for defining the future of Brazilian politics - not just for this year or the 2018 election, but potentially for years to come. That's why this is such an intense and important case.
TeleSUR: If the decision is unfavorable to Lula, would this definitively rule him out of the 2018 election?
Fox: After Lula, the WP and the left really don’t have any other options for a candidate.
If Lula is found guilty and can’t run the likelihood of someone on the left rising up to compete in the 2018 elections is unlikely.
This means the right can consolidate and implement a massive shift toward privatization and austerity started by Temer.
TeleSUR: The media campaign against Dilma in the lead up to the 2016 impeachment vote was relentless. Tell us about the media atmosphere now before this verdict.
Fox: The media campaign against Lula has been intense.
MST says that Globo News, Brazil’s largest news media outlet, is playing its role to influence public opinion against Lula, Dilma, the WP. It's the same thing you see with President Donald Trump’s accusations of fake news in the U.S. - if you repeat the same thing over and over again that’s what people will begin to believe. That’s what you’re seeing in Brazil.
TeleSUR: If the decision is unfavorable to Lula does it rule him out of the 2018 elections?
Fox: Lula will still be able to take his case to one or both of the Brazilian Supreme Courts if the federal appeal court rules against him next week.
Obviously, an unfavorable ruling in Porto Alegre is not good for Lula and his defense, but there’s still plenty of time for him to take it to the supreme courts because he has until August to officially register.
However, if a supreme court ruling, supposing this case gets that far, gives its verdict after the maximum date that Lula can register his candidacy, Lula could still run. If he’s elected that would put his presidency in question.
TeleSUR: What way do the appeal court judges seem to be leaning regarding Lula’s case?
Fox: The lead judge of the appeal court is a family friend of Sergio Moro, so Lula’s defense says there’s a conflict of interest being that Moro is the lead judge on the larger Lava Jato case.
The conflict of interest is between individuals so the defense hasn’t tried to take him off the bench for this ruling.
The votes of the other two appeals court judges are up in the air. They might not vote toward Moro and be able to flip the decision.
Yet, if you look at this ruling within the concept that this is a continuation of Rousseff's coup then its most likely that he’s going to be convicted.
They're going to uphold Sergio Moro’s decision. That’s why you have so many people going to Porto Alegre to defend Lula.
There’s potential for repression by the authorities on demonstrators in Porto Alegre. Rumors on social media say that the government will be filming demonstrators with drones to recognize them later.
TeleSUR: In the event of Lula not being able to run in 2018, what does the race look like?
Fox: Lula’s leading the polls by a substantial margin. The next closest candidate is Geraldo Alckmin. He was a long-running Sao Paulo governor. He’s with the extreme right, Brazilian Social Democracy party.
He would likely try to make a coalition with President Temer’s Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB).
Jair Bolsonaro is next in line and he’s very scary.
Bolsonaro is like Trump but more extreme. He carries a gun. He’s a congress member within the “bullets, beef and bible” caucus. That an extreme right-wing, evangelical caucus. He’s racist, misogynist and a homophobe to the extreme. He’s an extremely worrying ‘outsider’ candidate with a lot of support and Bolsonaro is up there in the polls.
Another possible candidate is Marina Silva. She has run in a few elections and is an interesting candidate.
Silva was a former minister of the environment minister in the Lula administration, but broke from the WP and ran in 2014 representing the Socialist Party.
She runs on an environmentalist platform and she's evangelical, so her policies are very complicated. Silva is anti-abortion and embraced her evangelical base even more in the 2014 elections
Yet, in order to get another WP candidate, the WP will have to form a coalition, the way that Lula did with Temer’s party back in 2002.
So that’s what we’re looking at. It's not a good scenario for the left and that’s why they’re doing all they can to support Lula. They understand that he is the possibility for the left to come back to power.
Social movements see the case against Lula as “lawfare” - using the courts to unfairly prosecute, just like what we saw with Rousseff’s ousting.
The right is really trying to push back on the leftist gains and ensure the left can’t come back to power even if the people want them to.