Brazil’s Ex-President ‘Lula’ May Run for Office Again as Court Cases Are Tossed

  • Former Brazilian President, Lula da Silva
A decision by a Supreme Court justice sets the stage for former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva to run against President Jair Bolsonaro in next year’s presidential contest.

RIO DE JANEIRO — A Supreme Court justice in Brazil on Monday tossed out several criminal cases against former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, restoring his right to seek the presidency again, in a decision with the potential to reshape Brazil’s political future.

Mr. da Silva, a fiery leftist leader who led Brazil from 2003 to 2010, had been the front-runner in the 2018 presidential contest eventually won by Jair Bolsonaro. But the Supreme Court in April of that year ruled that Mr. da Silva could not appear on the ballot as a result of a conviction in a corruption case handed down in 2017.

With his political rights now restored, Mr. Silva is widely expected to run against Mr. Bolsonaro in next year’s presidential election.

The incumbent, a polarizing far-right leader who pays homage to Brazil’s military dictatorship, would face a formidable challenge in Mr. da Silva, widely known as “Lula” in Brazil, a former political prisoner who remains revered among poor Brazilians.

Mr. da Silva, 75, and many of his supporters have long argued that the criminal cases against him were politically motivated. Mr. da Silva was convicted of accepting a seaside apartment as part of a kickback scheme involving government contracts.

 “Former president Lula was unjustly imprisoned, had his political rights unduly revoked and his assets frozen,” Mr. da Silva’s lawyers said in a statement.

Mr. da Silva was sentenced to 12 years in prison, but a Supreme Court ruling in November 2019 allowed him to remain free while his appeals were pending.

The federal judge who oversaw that case, Sergio Moro, left the bench soon after Mr. Bolsonaro took office, and joined his cabinet as justice minister.

The anti-corruption task force that investigated Mr. da Silva, which was based in the southern city of Curitiba, was disbanded earlier this year amid questions over ethical and procedural irregularities by its prosecutors.

On Monday, a Supreme Court justice, Edson Fachin, ruled that Mr. da Silva should never have been prosecuted in Curitiba. The decision, which covers four criminal cases, did not represent an acquittal of Mr. da Silva. The attorney general’s office said shortly after the decision was handed down that it would seek a ruling from the full court.

Justice Fachin said the former president could still face charges if prosecutors in the capital, Brasília, decide to take on some of the vacated cases. Mr. da Silva faces three other corruption cases in Brasília, which have not yet reached a verdict.

The decision of the judge to toss the cases stunned Brazil’s political establishment, rattled the stock market and set off a flurry of predictions about next year’s presidential race.

“In Brazil, even the past is uncertain!” former President Fernando Collor marveled on Twitter.

Political allies abroad celebrated the prospect of a comeback by Mr. da Silva, who convinced many leftist leaders around the world that the cases against him were a form of what he and his defense term called “lawfare.”

“Justice has been done!” President Alberto Fernández of Argentina said in a statement, arguing that the cases against Mr. da Silva had been pursued “solely with the aim of persecuting him and eliminating him from the political contest.”

Mr. da Silva was the highest-profile target of a wide ranging corruption investigation that began in 2014 and upended Brazil’s political and business establishment for years.

Mr. Moro, a 48-year-old career judge, became the most visible figure in the crackdown, which many Brazilians ardently supported initially, seeing it a means to address the country’s endemic culture of corruption.

But Mr. Moro’s star has dimmed in the past few years as his motives and ethics have been called into question. Many saw his decision to join the cabinet of Mr. Bolsonaro — with whom he had a falling out last April — as undermining the integrity of his work as a judge.

Mr. da Silva’s defense got a major lift in June 2019 when Intercept Brasil, an online news site, published leaked messages exchanged among prosecutors and Mr. Moro. The messages showed Mr. Moro gave prosecutors tips and strategic guidance, in violation of rules of conduct for judges in Brazil.

Mr. Moro declined to comment on Monday evening.

Mr. da Silva, a former union leader who got his start in politics by challenging the military dictatorship that would imprison him, became the country’s most popular leader since democracy was reinstated in the mid-1980s.

He governed during a period when Brazil’s economy flourished as commodity prices rose, a boom Mr. da Silva used to lift millions out of poverty and expand access to higher education for marginalized communities.

But his administration was also dogged by corruption scandals. Many close allies were prosecuted for their role in enormous kickback schemes that unveiled a system of institutionalized graft involving some of Brazil’s largest companies.

Throughout Mr. Bolsonaro’s tumultuous presidency, opposition parties have failed to coalesce around a politician who could challenge him next year. That likely leaves Mr. da Silva singularly qualified to mount a comeback as Brazil reels from the brutal toll of coronavirus pandemic.

Mr. Bolsonaro on Monday called the prospect of a new presidential bid by Mr. da Silva disastrous.

“I think Brazilian people won’t want to have a candidate like him in 2022 and let’s not even think about his possible election,” the president told reporters.

Source: nytimes.com

RIO DE JANEIRO — A Supreme Court justice in Brazil on Monday tossed out several criminal cases against former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, restoring his right to seek the presidency again, in a decision with the potential to reshape Brazil’s political future.

Mr. da Silva, a fiery leftist leader who led Brazil from 2003 to 2010, had been the front-runner in the 2018 presidential contest eventually won by Jair Bolsonaro. But the Supreme Court in April of that year ruled that Mr. da Silva could not appear on the ballot as a result of a conviction in a corruption case handed down in 2017.

With his political rights now restored, Mr. Silva is widely expected to run against Mr. Bolsonaro in next year’s presidential election.

The incumbent, a polarizing far-right leader who pays homage to Brazil’s military dictatorship, would face a formidable challenge in Mr. da Silva, widely known as “Lula” in Brazil, a former political prisoner who remains revered among poor Brazilians.

Mr. da Silva, 75, and many of his supporters have long argued that the criminal cases against him were politically motivated. Mr. da Silva was convicted of accepting a seaside apartment as part of a kickback scheme involving government contracts.

 “Former president Lula was unjustly imprisoned, had his political rights unduly revoked and his assets frozen,” Mr. da Silva’s lawyers said in a statement.

Mr. da Silva was sentenced to 12 years in prison, but a Supreme Court ruling in November 2019 allowed him to remain free while his appeals were pending.

The federal judge who oversaw that case, Sergio Moro, left the bench soon after Mr. Bolsonaro took office, and joined his cabinet as justice minister.

The anti-corruption task force that investigated Mr. da Silva, which was based in the southern city of Curitiba, was disbanded earlier this year amid questions over ethical and procedural irregularities by its prosecutors.

On Monday, a Supreme Court justice, Edson Fachin, ruled that Mr. da Silva should never have been prosecuted in Curitiba. The decision, which covers four criminal cases, did not represent an acquittal of Mr. da Silva. The attorney general’s office said shortly after the decision was handed down that it would seek a ruling from the full court.

Justice Fachin said the former president could still face charges if prosecutors in the capital, Brasília, decide to take on some of the vacated cases. Mr. da Silva faces three other corruption cases in Brasília, which have not yet reached a verdict.

The decision of the judge to toss the cases stunned Brazil’s political establishment, rattled the stock market and set off a flurry of predictions about next year’s presidential race.

“In Brazil, even the past is uncertain!” former President Fernando Collor marveled on Twitter.

Political allies abroad celebrated the prospect of a comeback by Mr. da Silva, who convinced many leftist leaders around the world that the cases against him were a form of what he and his defense term called “lawfare.”

“Justice has been done!” President Alberto Fernández of Argentina said in a statement, arguing that the cases against Mr. da Silva had been pursued “solely with the aim of persecuting him and eliminating him from the political contest.”

Mr. da Silva was the highest-profile target of a wide ranging corruption investigation that began in 2014 and upended Brazil’s political and business establishment for years.

Mr. Moro, a 48-year-old career judge, became the most visible figure in the crackdown, which many Brazilians ardently supported initially, seeing it a means to address the country’s endemic culture of corruption.

But Mr. Moro’s star has dimmed in the past few years as his motives and ethics have been called into question. Many saw his decision to join the cabinet of Mr. Bolsonaro — with whom he had a falling out last April — as undermining the integrity of his work as a judge.

Mr. da Silva’s defense got a major lift in June 2019 when Intercept Brasil, an online news site, published leaked messages exchanged among prosecutors and Mr. Moro. The messages showed Mr. Moro gave prosecutors tips and strategic guidance, in violation of rules of conduct for judges in Brazil.

Mr. Moro declined to comment on Monday evening.

Mr. da Silva, a former union leader who got his start in politics by challenging the military dictatorship that would imprison him, became the country’s most popular leader since democracy was reinstated in the mid-1980s.

He governed during a period when Brazil’s economy flourished as commodity prices rose, a boom Mr. da Silva used to lift millions out of poverty and expand access to higher education for marginalized communities.

But his administration was also dogged by corruption scandals. Many close allies were prosecuted for their role in enormous kickback schemes that unveiled a system of institutionalized graft involving some of Brazil’s largest companies.

Throughout Mr. Bolsonaro’s tumultuous presidency, opposition parties have failed to coalesce around a politician who could challenge him next year. That likely leaves Mr. da Silva singularly qualified to mount a comeback as Brazil reels from the brutal toll of coronavirus pandemic.

Mr. Bolsonaro on Monday called the prospect of a new presidential bid by Mr. da Silva disastrous.

“I think Brazilian people won’t want to have a candidate like him in 2022 and let’s not even think about his possible election,” the president told reporters.

Source: nytimes.com