Protesters, police prepare for Lula da Silva appeal in Porto Alegre

World Today

View on January 23, 2018 of the camping area of the MST, Via Campesina and other social movements that are in Porto Alegre to support former president Luis Inacio Lula da Silva in his January 24 trial. Lula was sentenced in July 2017 to 9.5 years behind bars after being convicted of corruption in Brazil’s huge ‘Car Wash’ graft scandal. The court in Porto Alegre said it will rule on his appeal on January 24. That could decide whether Lula — hugely popular during his 2001-2010 two-term presidency — can take part in the October 2018 presidential elections in which he is currently the frontrunner. (AFP PHOTO / Jefferson Bernardes)

Former Brazilian President Lula da Silva will go before federal judges, hoping to get a corruption conviction overturned. The ruling will have big consequences for presidential elections this year. CGTN’s Paulo Cabral reports.

Thousands of supporters for Lula da Silva set up camp in Brazil’s southern city of Porto Alegre. Mostly from leftist trade unions and activist movements, they accuse prosecutors of acting with political motivation and an intent to keep Lula from running for president again.

“It’s a coup,” Simon Zanardi of the Oil Workers Trade Union said. “Lula will be convicted, because they know that if he runs for president, democracy will be restored in Brazil and workers will be again in power.”

A lower court sentenced Lula to 9.5 years in prison, on charges he received bribes uncovered by the Car Wash Corruption Probe. Now, however, a panel of three judges on the Federal Appeals Court will vote to decide whether to uphold or overturn Lula’s conviction.

If overturned, Lula will likely be free to push ahead with his presidential ambitions. If upheld, he faces the possibility of jail, and a conviction on his record that would bar him from running for high office. 

For Lula’s supporters, preventing the former president from running for office would be a fraud that would harm the credibility of Brazilian election. But it’s not at all a certainty that this would be the case, even if da Silva is convicted.

“Lula cannot be stopped without a final decision before the election,” Rafael Morgentau, an attorney specializing in election law, said. “So, given the right to appeal and the low speed of this kind of process, his presence in the race is very realistic scenario.”

Even if Lula cannot run for office, he still remains a political force to be reckoned with.

Silvana Krause, a political science professor at Rio Grande do Sul Federal University, says that even after years of attack by opponents, polls show many still want to vote for him.

“It’s not possible to think of the 2018 elections without Lula da Silva, even if he’s not the candidate himself,” Krause said.

Tight security has been set up in Porto Alegre, with roadblocks and thousands of police officers to prevent violence during the trial. But even if this proceeding is trouble-free, its outcome could fuel Brazil’s political turmoil.