By Luisa E. Chainferber
Former Brazilian President, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, previously considered the world’s most popular politician, was arrested on April 7 for corruption and money laundering charges. Channel NewsAsia reported that Brazil’s top court justice found Lula guilty of accepting a roughly $1 million bribe from engineering firm, OAS. The former President was sentenced to 12 years and one month in prison.
Operation ‘Car Wash,’ a criminal investigation conducted by the Brazilian Federal Police, resulted in his arrest. Many other influential political and business leaders in Latin America were also spotlighted for criminal charges, due to Operation Car Wash.
Lula denied the charges and said his conviction was politically motivated. Folha, a major Brazilian newspaper, reported Lula’s speech in the union of his political party before being arrested. In his speech, he discussed the accusations and argued; “If the crime was putting poor, black people in universities, allowing the low class to eat meat, buy cars and plane tickets, make their own agriculture, have a small business and own a house, if these are the crimes I committed, I will continue to be a criminal in this country because I will do much more.”
As The New Yorker stated, Lula does deserve credit for liberating about forty million Brazilians out of poverty, regardless if the corruption charges are true. The former president also faces six more pending trials for corruption. Lula’s arrest is expected to increase the division already present between Brazilian liberals and conservatives.
Despite the division, many groups throughout Brazil celebrated Lula’s arrest. The commander of the Army, General Eduardo Villas Boas, made a statement about ending impunity, making clear he is in favor of the former president’s arrest. A voice on the radio frequency from the plane that flew Lula to Curitiba, where he is currently under arrest, said that they should throw that “garbage” out from the window.
Meanwhile, the BBC indicated that Ms. Hoffman, the leader of the Workers’ Party and a supporter of Lula, said he is now a political prisoner and that his party will not stop fighting for his release.
According to The Washington Post, polls suggested Lula would be the winner of Brazil’s presidential election in October. But his arrest leaves Brazil’s presidential race possibilities wide open. However, Brazil’s top court is yet to decide if Lula will be able to run. Even if electoral authorities reject his candidacy, Lula may appeal to the Supreme Court.
Current Brazilian President, Michel Temer, has also been charged with corruption. He is accused of accepting $5 million in bribes. Temer’s popularity is extremely low, approximately seven percent, but he remains in office because his allies have the majority of seats in Congress.
But before a final ruling in his candidacy is made, Brazilian law may allow Lula to conduct campaign acts, Bloomberg states, such as, record political ads in the federal police building, or even participate in television debates if authorized by a judge. Elected authorities will be able to reject or approve possible candidates until September 17, and candidates may continue to registered until August 15.