Brazil’s Workers’ Party (PT) has responded to the confirmation of the graft conviction against former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva by confirming his candidacy for the 2018 presidential elections.
An appeals court yesterday confirmed a graft conviction from July 2017 that considered da Silva guilty of accepting 3.7 million reais (US $1.2 million) worth of bribes from engineering firm OAS S.A., which prosecutors said the company spent refurbishing a beach apartment for Lula in return for contracts with state oil company Petrobras. Da Silva was formally convicted of passive corruption and money-laundering.
Yesterday three judges upheld that sentence and the court increased the prison sentence to 12 years and one month. One of the judges found evidence that Lula had “personally benefited” from the bribes offered to the PT while another concluded that Lula had a role in the graft scheme directed by Petrobras, according to La Nación.
Time in prison wouldn’t be served until all appeals are exhausted.
Lula has maintained his innocence and has declared the trial against him as politically-motivated, juridically bankrupt and part of an effort to keep him from running in the 2018 elections. As part of his defense he has indicated that he never received the keys to the apartment.
Brazilian electoral law prohibits candidates with criminal sentences that have been upheld by a higher court from standing. Polls suggest that da Silva has over a third of voter intent among potential presidential candidates, comfortably ahead of the pack.
The response from the PT today was unequivocal. At a meeting of PT’s Executive Committee, party chair and Senator Gleisi Hoffmann confirmed that Lula would be the party’s candidate for the 2018 presidential elections. Lula was joined at the committee meeting with former Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff, whom the PT considers was the victim of a coup, who has also thrown her full support behind her predecessor.
A statement released by the PT chair yesterday reads that “if they think that history ends with today’s decision, they are very mistaken, because we don’t surrender in the face of injustice. Leftist parties, social movements, the democrats of Brazil, we’re more united than ever, and strengthened by the days of struggles that have mobilized masses of people in the last few months. Today is the start of a journey that by the will of the people will take comrade Lula to the presidency once again.”
Lula was Brazil’s first working-class president, holding office from 2003 to 2011. He left office with public approval ratings above 80 percent. He introduced the Bolsa Família program, which gave 12 million families cash in return for having their children vaccinated and keeping them in school. He brought 20 million Brazilians out of poverty. During his tenure, the country’s position in the world economy skyrocketed. He ran a high budget surplus and paid off all debt to the IMF. Brazil suffered less than most did from the 2008 economic crisis, with growth resuming by the end of 2009 and reaching 7.5 percent by 2010.
Lula is facing charges in five other cases.