News Release

Is Brazil’s Popular Former President Being Railroaded?

Mark Weisbrot writes in the New York Times today: “Brazil’s Democracy Pushed Into the Abyss.”

On Wednesday, a Brazilian appellate court will decide whether to confirm or suspend a corruption conviction against former president Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva. The conviction — which is accompanied by a nine-and-a-half year jail sentence — is based almost entirely on the testimony of a convicted criminal who, in exchange for a deposition incriminating Lula, has seen his sentence reduced by 80 percent. Judge Sergio Moro, who convicted Lula in July of last year, has had a record of biased and even illegal actions targeting Lula, including leaking intercepted phone conversations to the media and arbitrarily arresting the former president to make a deposition, despite the fact that he had never shown unwillingness to testify.

Lula, who remains one of the most popular politicians in Brazil, is planning on launching his campaign for reelection to the presidency on January 25, the day after the appeals hearing. But if the appellate court, which has already shown signs of bias against Lula, upholds Moro’s conviction, it may prevent the former president from running.

Last week, 13 members of the U.S. Congress, including the two Progressive Caucus co-chairs Mark Pocan and Raúl Grijalva, DNC deputy chair Keith Ellison and senior Democrats such as Marcy Kaptur, Maxine Waters and Jan Schakowsky, signed a letter calling on Brazilian authorities to protect Lula’s due process rights going forward. The letter discusses the judicial persecution of Lula and states that “the clearly politicized nature of the judicial proceedings against Lula thus far has placed vital democratic institutions and citizens’ faith in them at risk. The upcoming presidential election and subsequent administration will be tainted if the judicial system is viewed as having failed to act with impartiality and respect for fundamental rights.”