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Lula at the gates of the prison in a divided Brazil

Ⓒ AFP/Archives – Miguel SCHINCARIOL – | Former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, April 22,
2018 in Sao Paulo

The Supreme Court of Brazil has ruled: with the rejection on
Thursday of Lula’s application for habeas corpus, the former
president may be jailed in the coming days, a decision of
strong political significance in a highly polarized
country.

The imminent arrest of the one who was given the vote’s top
intentions for the October presidential election rebuffs the
cards of a poll presented as one of the most unpredictable in
decades.

In theory, there is no more obstacle separating the icon
from the left of the prison, but, according to many jurists, he
should not be behind bars until next week, the date of Tuesday
being announced as the most probable.

Lula, 72, will be serving a 12-year sentence and one month
in jail for receiving a luxury beachfront apartment from a
building company in exchange for favors in procuring public
contracts.

Ⓒ AFP – Nelson Almeida – | Supporters of former Brazilian President Lula protest
in Sao Bernardo do Campo while Supreme Court of Justice must
render judgment on Habeas Corp’s application for habeas corpus on
4 April 2018

The former president (2003-2010) denies fiercely, citing the
lack of evidence and denouncing a plot to prevent him from
running for a third term, eight years after leaving power with
a record popularity rate.

“The Brazilian people have the right to vote for Lula, the
candidate of hope, and his candidacy will be defended in the
streets and in all instances, until the last consequences,” the
Workers Party, founded by Lula in the 80s, shortly after the
announcement of the Supreme Court’s decision.

“The presumption of innocence, this fundamental right (…),
did not prevail today for Lula.This is a sad day for democracy
and for Brazil,” said the president of this party, Gleisi
Hoffmann.

The former president also received the support of Venezuelan
President Nicolas Maduro, who claimed on Twitter that he felt
“a pain to the soul in the face of such an injustice”.

– “Fight against impunity” –

Ⓒ AFP – Miguel SCHINCARIOL – | Thousands of protesters in the streets of Sao Paulo on
April 3, 2018 to demand the imprisonment of former President
Lula

Broadcast live on television, the Supreme Court debates
began on Wednesday afternoon and continued for more than 11
hours.

Like Brazil, the 11 judges were deeply divided and Lula’s
request for habeas corpus was rejected by six votes to
five.

Although very tight, this result is a brilliant victory for
the prosecutors of Operation Wash-Express, a sprawling
investigation that uncovered a huge corruption scandal
involving politicians of all stripes.

Although he has been caught up in business, Lula remains
perceived as “close to the people” and still has a considerable
reservoir of voice, especially in the poor areas of the
northeast, where he comes from.

Ⓒ AFP/Archives – Gustavo IZUS – | Lula and justice

But he is also hated by any part of the population, and many
voices have been raised to hail the decision of the Supreme
Court.

On Tuesday evening, the day before the trial, several tens
of thousands of people had protested in the largest cities in
the country to demand the imprisonment of Lula.

“The former president is not above the law, a decision in
the opposite direction would frustrate society and a step back
in the fight against impunity,” said the center-right PSDB
party in a statement.

Another, much more polemical stance hit the headlines.
General Eduardo Villas-Boas, head of the Brazilian army, had
published a message on Tuesday night in which he said the
military “share the feeling of Brazilians who repudiate all
impunity”.

Even if it does not make explicit reference to Lula, this
publication suggests a rare position of the army, in a country
that still lived under the yoke of the military dictatorship
(1964-1985) there are about thirty years.

Amnesty International considered that
the general’s statement was “a serious affront to the
independence of the powers and a threat to the democratic
state”.

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