Lula and the future of the Brazilian coup

Former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Photo: Ricardo Stuckert on Facebook Lula.

After
more than two years of a coup d’état government in Brazil, a democratic
solution has not yet become clear. The powerful factions responsible for
organising the coup without a winning candidate failed in overcoming the political
crisis and reactivating the economy, and are still questioning whether to knock
on the door of the army barracks to continue their rein under even less
democratic circumstances.

Elections
are due to take place in October of this year. Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who
has been in jail for around 3 months and sentenced in a process without
evidence, keeps on winning.

The results of the latest opinion poll by IBOPE
published on the 28th of June confirm the same trends that previous
polls had set, that voter intention for Lula is 33%. As usual, he has more than
double than that of his closest contender, ex-military extreme right politician
Bolsonaro with 15%, and than third place contender Marina Silva of the centre-right
with 7%. 

The crisis and a way out 

Brazil
has been embroiled in a 4 year-long crisis that originally began as an economic
crisis but is now also social and political. Without growth for almost 4 years
and with unemployment rates of 17% compared to 3% in 2014, the country is now
back on the UN FAO hunger map.

Without growth for almost 4 years and with unemployment rates of 17% compared to 3% in 2014, the country is now back on the UN FAO hunger map.

Additionally, according to the Brazilian
Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), poverty increased 11% in the past
year, and for the first time in the history of the country, informal workers
(37%) outnumber those who are employed under the law. Inequality also grew, as
did the Gini index.

None
of the recent government measures have been able to lift the country out of its
current state of crisis, and the lack of economic growth has also been
detrimental for the instigators of the coup who have not achieved the increase
in profit rates they were hoping for.

Even
if the coup government have managed to implement almost all the policies that
they sought out to, leaving the public without any guarantee regarding their
rights and rolling the country back to where it was decades ago, it has still
not been able to reform pensions (halted by mass mobilisations and a huge
national strike a year ago), to privatise Eletrobras, and to sell of parts of
Petrobras.

The
protests have continued at varying intensities. For more than 10 days in May,
truck drivers almost brought the country to a standstill.

They demanded an end
to the constant increases in diesel prices (which are 16 times higher since the
coup took place), however the issue of cooking gas and petrol which affect the
majority of the population was not addressed. In a country where minimum wage
is $250 and a gas cylinder costs around $20, many have turned to alcohol or
wood as an alternative. 

Immediately
after, petrol workers announced a day-long strike protesting the management of
Petrobras and the local prices that were pegged to the market price, the
announcements of privatisation and the fact that refineries were being used at
70% of their capacity due to the importation of by-products.

The initial
forecast was for a three-day long strike but a daily fine of $500,000 detained
the mobilisation, one of many examples of the power of the Brazilian judiciary.

New mobilisations have been announced against the sale of Electrobras, currently on hold due to a decision by the magistrate of the Supreme Court, Ricardo Lewandowski, who declared legislative authorisation is required for this privatisation to take place. 

The president of Petrobras had to resign, but the policies regarding fuel
prices, tied to international prices, continues to be relevant even though its
application has been halted for two months. The truck drivers, whose demands
were not satisfied in the end, could provoke another standstill. 

New
mobilisations have been announced against the sale of Electrobras, currently on
hold due to a decision by the magistrate of the Supreme Court, Ricardo
Lewandowski, who declared legislative authorisation is required for this
privatisation to take place. Many other marches have additionally taken place
in support of Lula winning the next presidential elections.

Operation Lava Jato

Around
the beginning of June, the president of the Workers Party (PT), Gleisi
Hoffmann, her husband Paulo Bernardo Silva (previously a government minister),
and businessman Ernesto Kugler, were declared innocent against accusations
regarding the supposed involvement of illicit finance in electoral campaigns
made by an informer due to there being no evidence against them.

The
magistrates Ricardo Lewandowski, Dias Toffoli and Gilmar Mendes, of the Second
Chamber of the Supreme Court, freed José Dirceu de Oliveira (previous minister
of Lula), who had been charged in second instance (the appeal process) in the
context of the Lava Jato operation. This decision is what led many to believe
that Lula, also sentences in second instance and caught up in the appeal
process, could be freed.

These
are the first signs of a slight change in direction of the Justice Party,
formed by the federal police, the public prosecutor, and the federal judiciary
that have used Operation Lava Jato to apply ‘lawfare’ in order to neutralise
and get rid of the political opposition.  Those accused and sentenced are mostly from
the Workers Party.

Very few members of other parties who have been caught up in
corruption scandals and who have evidence against them have been tried,
included in those are Aecio Neves, senator and ex-presidential candidate,
various ex-ministers of Michel Temer, and the very president himself. These
individuals have not received sentences let alone have been processed for their
crimes. 

However,
a new appeal procedure in defence of Lula that was due to be judged on the 26th
of June did not occur. The Second Chamber should decide on the legality of the
condemnation of the ex-president and his current prison sentence.

The defence
maintains that judge Sergio Moro was not competent to judge the case, that the
trial was not impartial, and that Lula’s detention on second instance before
exhausting all legal procedures is illegal.

The
procedures were not dealt with by the Second Chamber. Its president, Edson
Fachin, calculated they would lose, as was the case with Dirceu, and accordingly,
added a request to block Lula standing for the presidential elections that must
be dealt with in plenary session by the first instance of the Supreme Court. 

The
Future

According
to current Brazilian law, Lula can still put himself forward as a candidate for
the presidential elections despite being held in prison. His candidacy can be
contested until the 15th of August, but due to the duration of the
proceedings of the Supreme Electoral Court, there would not be enough time to
remove his name from the ballots before the election date. 

The difficulties of the coup government on selecting a presidential candidate are related to the fact that the movement, which was successful from the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff until the municipal elections of October 2016 in which they gained a large majority, is currently divided.

Now
there is a possibility that the court approves Fachin’s procedure and prohibits
Lula’s presidential candidacy. It is possible that a political negotiation
takes place in order to free Lula so that he can not only participate and win,
but also assume the powers of the presidency. It is also possible that he is
freed and loses the elections.

In
the case Lula cannot participate he will designate a successor, however it is
difficult to determine if that individual could win on the sole basis that they
are backed by the ex-president. Names such as Fernando Hadad, ex-mayor of São
Paulo, and Gleisi Hoffmann, have cropped up. There has also been talk that in
order to avoid another unjust Lava Jato proceeding, the name will be kept
secret for as long as possible. 

The
stance of the left and popular movements so far has been to support the
candidacy of Lula, claiming elections without him would be fraudulent.

Ciro
Gomes, who has gone through 7 political parties throughout his career ranging
from the left to the centre-right, opens up a space within the centre-left as
the only political force able to defeat Jair Bolsonaro in Lula’s absence.

The
political force of the coup government that also includes the hegemonic media
outlets, especially Red Globo, does not have a definitive candidate and none of
the names put forward to this date (Geraldo Alckmin, Henrique de Campos
Meirelles) gain more than 8% of the intended vote.

Without
a strong left-wing candidate, Bolsonaro, with his extreme right views and his
attacks against the human rights of the poor, black communities, the LGBTQ+
community, and peasants could prove useful if they scare moderate voters and
tip the balance in favour of the candidate of the right, whoever it may be. 

It
must be acknowledged that the difficulties of the coup government on selecting
a presidential candidate are related to the fact that the movement, which was
successful from the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff until the municipal elections
of October 2016 in which they gained a large majority, is currently divided.

The betrayal of businessman Joesley Batista in May 2017, that incriminated
Temer among others was one of the main factors that created this divide. 

The sale of Electrobras, together with the partial privatisation of Petrobras, will without a doubt present an incredible business opportunity for those who decide to invest in shares that will be sold at 10% of their true value.

In
the face of such uncertainty, the shadows of a military coup have not yet distanced
themselves entirely. Despite the international conditions not appearing
favourable, the coup of 2016 was carried out because the elites did not wish to
wait until winning the elections this year. They are now in a rush to apply all
the measures they planned, completing the submission of the country to the
international market, and establishing neoliberal policies as the only form of
governing. 

The
sovereignty of Brazil is at stake, as is the wellbeing of the people and the
protection of Brazil’s natural resources. The sale of Electrobras, together
with the partial privatisation of Petrobras, will without a doubt present an incredible
business opportunity for those who decide to invest in shares that will be sold
at 10% of their true value.

In the case of the first, many of the biggest
hydroelectric firms have already had their debt written off, so the profits
would be astronomical but would remain in private hands. They would no longer
be used for social programs which is what occurred during the majority of the
PT’s reign.

Democracy
is also at stake, and elections are the only democratic means to end the coup
that began in April 2016 and that has brought with it profound suffering and an
overwhelming crisis to Brazil.

This article was originally published by La Línea de Fuego and can be read here.

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