UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!


President Luiz Inácio "Lula" da Silva

On 05 April 2018 Supreme Court justices voted 6-5 to deny Lula habeas corpus while he appeals his 12-year sentence for corruption in the sprawling Petrobras scandal that has rocked Latin American politics. They deliberated for more than 10 hours before reaching their final verdict. Chief Justice Cármen Lúcia Antunes Rocha cast the deciding vote after midnight. The ruling does not technically disqualify Lula's presidential bid. As of mid-August, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal will review candidates' eligibility forms, but it is widely expected to reject his bid under the 'clean slate' law, which disqualifies anyone who has a criminal conviction upheld by an appeals court.

Police recommended graft charges on 26 August 2016 against ex-president "Lula" da Silva as part of the sprawling probe of corruption at the state-owned oil giant Petrobras, the same scandal that has engulfed President Dilma Rousseff and threatened the pair's once unstoppable Workers' Party. The case against Lula alleged that construction company OAS, which had been implicated in the Petrobras scheme, paid to renovate his luxury beach condo and country home. The charges also involve the former president's wife, Marisa Leticia Lula da Silva, and three others, claiming that they "benefited from illicit gains from OAS to the value of 2,430,193.61 reals" ($743,000) due to the construction work. "This is a politically motivated indictment," his lawyer said. "We are going to fight these charges as Lula is innocent," he continued, adding that "this has become a persecution, not a prosecution."

In July 2017, Lula was convicted of corruption and money laundering, and sentenced to almost 10 years in prison. In January 2018, an appeals court unanimously upheld the conviction and increased the sentence to 12 years. Army Commander-in-Chief, Eduardo Villas-Boas pressured the court's judges to deliver a negative verdict against the former Brazilian President. 03 April 2018 Villas-Boas stated that the armed forces “rejects impunity” and demands “respect for the Constitution, social peace and democracy.” These remarks, which were broadcast by Globo and other corporate media outlets, were sharply criticized by left-wing politicians, who said the comments were meant to intimidate supreme court judges into upholding Lula's corruption conviction. Brazilian General Luiz Gonzaga Schroeder Lessa told reporters that if the Federal Superior Tribunal did not give the green light to the prison sentence of former President Ignacio Lula da Silva tomorrow, the “only option left would be a military intervention.”

Luiz Inácio "Lula" da Silva represented the democratic impulse since his days as a strike leader in the 1970s. That led him to a leadership position in Brazil’s labor movement beginning in 1969, which in turn propelled him into national politics. He later set up the Workers Party at the start of the 1980s.

Lula was born on October 27, 1945 in the city of Garanhuns in the northeastern state of Pernambuco. Married to Marisa Leticia, since 1974, he has five children. Lula, in turn, is the seventh of eight children of Aristides Inácio da Silva Ferreira de Mello and Eurydice. Following the pattern of many impoverished northeasterners, his father migrated south, where he found a job as a dockworker in the port of Santos, in Sao Paulo state. In December 1952, Lula's family migrated to São Paulo coast, traveling 13 days in a truck "the rack".

At the age of seven, young Lula was selling peanuts and oranges on the streets, while also attending school. Settled in Vicente de Carvalho, a poor neighborhood of the island, hHe studied in Marsilius School Group Dias. In 1956, the family moved to São Paulo, going to live in a single room at the back of a bar in the neighborhood of Ipiranga. At 12 years old, Lula got her first job at a dry cleaner. And he was also shoeshine boy.

After the family moved to the city of Sao Paulo, he began working at a metal shop when he was 14. He began working in the General Warehousing Columbia, where he had a Working Papers signed first. Lula moved then to the Factory Bolts Mars and got a place in the course of lathe Senai - National Service of Industrial Learning. The course lasted three years and Lula became metallurgist. The crisis after the 1964 military coup led Lula to change jobs, going through several factories until joining the Villares Industries, a leading metallurgical country, located in São Bernardo do Campo, in the ABC region.

Lula became involved with the trade union movement in the late 1960's, at a time when Brazil was under a military dictatorship. Lula began to make contact with the labor movement, through his brother José Ferreira da Silva, known as Frei Chico. His brother, a member of the communist party, gave him pamphlets to pass around the factory floor. In 1969, the Metalworkers Union of São Bernardo do Campo and Diadema held an election to choose a new board and Lula was elected alternate. In the next election, in 1972, he became first secretary. In 1975, he was elected union president with 92 percent of the vote, to represent 100,000 workers.

In a campaign ad, Lula spoke about this period of his life. "I became a metal worker. In those days it was a good profession; a metal worker earned a decent salary," he said. "So, I was the first of my mother's sons to have a profession, the first to have a house, the first to have a TV, the first to have a car. All because I had a profession, which my other brothers didn't have the opportunity to get." It was while working in a factory that Lula lost his left pinkie finger, when his colleague dozed off and let a metal press fall on his hand, crushing the finger.

A bigger tragedy followed. His first wife, Maria de Lourdes, died in childbirth in 1970, something Lula recalled with pain. "I think it was a Saturday, when I went to the hospital, and the doctor told me to go home and get the baby clothes. So I did, and prepared the clothes that we had bought. When I returned to hospital, she was dead."

Even though strikes were banned under the military government, Lula led a series of walkouts in the late 1970's to demand better wages and working conditions. His leadership brought him political renown, while his skills at negotiating agreements gave him experience when he started his political career.This became Lula's main strength. Lula has this profile of a good negotiator. This is his political capital, his main political asset. His capacity to lead a negotiation and unite different segments around a common objective.

Lula gave a new direction to the Brazilian trade union movement. In 1978, Lula was re-elected president of the union and, after 10 years without workers' strikes occurred in the country the first strikes. In March 1979, 170,000 steelworkers stopped the ABC region. The police repression to the strike movement and the virtual absence of politicians who represent workers' interests in Congress made Lula first thought about creating a Workers Party (Partido dos Trabalhadores).

Brazil crossed into a process of slow and gradual political liberalization, led by the military still in power. On February 10, 1980, Lula became one of the founders of the leftist Workers' Party, along with other trade unionists, intellectuals, politicians and representatives of social movements, such as rural and religious leaders. In 1980, another strike of metalworkers provoked the intervention of the Federal Government in the union and the arrest of Lula and other union leaders, based on the National Security Law. There were 31 days in jail.

Their first task was to mobilize society against Brazil's military regime. At a 2009 news conference, Lula said the Workers' Party, or P.T., offered a democratic alternative to armed struggle. "We wanted to prove that it was possible, with workers being the majority, that we could organize and win power through democratic means," he said. "I believed in this in the 1970's, when the prevailing view among many in the left was that politics was a game for elites, and that the only way to gain power was through armed revolution. But the P.T. changed this, and made many realize that it was possible to organize a political party that could compete and win elections within the democratic framework."

In 1982 the PT was already deployed in almost all the national territory. Lula led the party organization and played that year the Government of São Paulo. In August 1983, he participated in the foundation of CUT - Central Workers. The P.T., with Lula da Silva at its head, launched a campaign in 1984 calling for direct presidential elections. While ultimately unsuccessful, the campaign did help bring a return to democracy in 1985, after Congress chose a new president. The following year, Lula was elected to the lower house of Congress.

Lula made his first run for the presidency on a Leftist platform in 1989, but lost with 44 percent of the vote to centrist Fernando Collor, who was later impeached for corruption. Lula ran again in 1994 and 1998, losing both times by wide margins to Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Brazil's current president, whose emphasis has been on free-market reform.

Lula said he will not forget his roots. "Even though I left the union 22 years ago, I'm proud to say that union people still consider me a union man," he said. "And, this means that my origins are deep in my blood, and it's something I always will preserve. I will never forget where I came from, and will never be embarrassed about it. And, everything I do will reflect where I came from, and where I want to go."

Following two decades of military governments, in 1985 Brazil made a successful transition to civilian authority and democratic government. A new Brazilian Constitution (the “Constitution”) was adopted in 1988. In 1989, direct presidential elections were held for the first time in 29 years. The Party launched Lula to contest the presidency in 1989. Lula lost the race in the second round, for a small difference in votes, but two years later led a national mobilization against corruption ended in the "impeachment" of President Fernando Collor de Mello. In 1994 and 1998, Lula again ran for president of the Republic and was defeated both times by Fernando Henrique Cardoso.

Since 1992, Lula served as director of the Citizenship Institute, a nongovernmental organization created after the experience of the Parallel Government, focused on studies, surveys, debates, publications and especially the formulation of public policy proposals as well as national campaigns to mobilize society towards achieving civil rights of citizenship for all Brazilians.

In the last week of June 2002, the National Convention of the PT formed a broad political alliance (PT, PL, PCdoB, PCB and PMN) which was based on a government program to rescue the fundamental social debt that the country had with most of the Brazilian people. The candidate for vice president on the ticket was Senator José Alencar, the PL of Minas Gerais.

As the election approached, Brazil's currency sank to a record low against the US dollar, as financial markets reacted to the possibility that a leftist presidential candidate would win a first round election victory. The Brazilian real traded at 3.77 to the dollar on 29 September 2002, its lowest level ever. The value of the Brazilian real continued to fall, and was trading as low as 3.82 reals against the dollar before recovering slightly. So far this year, the Brazilian currency has lost about 40 percent of its value, in large part because of market fears over the result of the upcoming presidential election. Polls now showed Lula close to winning a first round victory in the October 6 election.

After winning a runoff election with 61% of the vote on October 27, 2002, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva assumed the presidency of Brazil on January 1, 2003 and was re-elected in October 2006 for a second term ending in 2010, after winning a runoff election with 60.8% of the vote. Lula is a member of the Workers’ Party (Partido dos Trabalhadores, or “PT”). Following the October 2002 elections, Lula’s party held 17.5% of the seats in the Chamber of Deputies and 12.3% of the seats in the Senate.

Lula's popularity rested not only on his famously dynamic personality, but on his efforts to reduce the huge inequalities in Brazil, and his success in putting the country on the world map. Even in his first term, experts were pointing out that increases in the minimum salary and in the Fome Zero (Zero Hunger) programme were reducing poverty and hunger for the poorest. His own experience as a poor northeastern boy in a dysfunctional family, who migrated to the industrial area around Sao Paulo, had given him a political determination quite unusual in the modern world.

As President, Lula initiated a series of social programs, including a “Zero Hunger” campaign, which was intended to eradicate famine and address poverty in the country, a “Bolsa Família” program that provides assistance to impoverished families and a “First Job” program aimed at facilitating young persons’ entry into the labor market. He also secured reforms of the tax, pension and judicial systems, instituted a framework for public-private partnerships, introduced a regulatory framework for investment in, among others, the electricity sector and secured amendments to the country’s bankruptcy law. Finally, the da Silva administration’s economic policy has been characterized by fiscal discipline, a floating exchange rate and inflation targeting.

Among the da Silva administration’s first initiatives was an increase in the consolidated public sector primary surplus target from 3.75% of real gross domestic product (Produto Interno Bruto, or “GDP”) in 2002 to 4.25% of GDP in each of 2003, 2004 and 2005. On September 22, 2004, the Federal Government announced that it had raised its primary surplus target for 2004 to 4.5% of GDP from 4.25% of GDP due to better than expected fiscal revenues. The Federal Government maintained the primary surplus target of 4.25% of GDP in 2005 and 2006. For 2007, following the higher GDP figures that resulted from the revision in the calculation methodology announced by The National Bureau of Geography and Statistics (Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatìstica, or “IBGE”) in March 2007, the primary surplus remained unchanged in nominal terms from the initial amount of R$95.9 billion. The Budget Directives Law for 2008 submitted to Congress indicated a primary surplus of 3.8% of GDP for 2008, which will allow the continuity of the trajectory of the reduction of the liquid public debt of the consolidated public sector as a ratio of the GDP.

When President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva took office, Brazil changed the tone of its foreign policy; a policy that is concerned with the country’s sovereign insertion, at once universal and humanistic, firmly anchored in the interests of the Brazilian Nation and in the integration of South America. Brazil imprinted a sense of strategy in approximation with great emerging countries like China, India, Russia and South Africa. Brazilian diplomacy went through a period of great dynamism, in accordance with priorities established by President Lula’s Government: to expand the geographical reach of Brazil’s foreign relations, to update elements that are part of Brazil's universalistic vocation; and to adopt a firm and active position in multilateral as well as regional negotiations.

The social programs implemented by President Lula's Administration was responsible for moving millions of Brazilians out of poverty. During his two terms as President, it is fair to say that the Brazilian economy proved its strength and resilience; the democratic institutions in the country grew to full maturity and stability; the energy crisis in many places around the world was met in Brazil with not only mega discoveries of new oil wells but also with a dynamic and sustainable industry of renewable energy sources; the challenges posed by climate change are being courageously addressed, including by means of reducing deforestation; and last but not least, Brazil has today a new standing in the global scenario, from South America and the Caribbean to remote corners of Africa, from Western countries to the South Caucasus as well as in international forums.

Famously described as the "country of tomorrow" in the 1940s, Brazil seemed actually to have arrived. The Bric grouping of Brazil, Russia, India and China beloved of emerging market analysts may conceal many differences, but the Brazilian currency has strengthened, Lula was standing at Obama's right hand in official photos of the Pittsburgh G20 summit, and his active lobbying as a football and sports fan yielded the football World Cup in 2014 and the Rio Olympics in 2016.Speaking about Brazil, it is absolutely impossible to avoid the football issue. In 2014 the World Cup Championship will be held in Brazil, and just two years later,-in 2016 - the Olympic Games, for the first time in history.

Furthermore, it is important to remark that at the end of his second four year term in government, President Lula enjoyed roughly an 80% rating of approval, which gives an idea of his broad and fair policies towards the whole spectrum of the Brazilian society, but especially to the disadvantaged. He ruled out altering the constitution to permit a third four-year term, despite calls from "friends" who knew his personal popularity is greater than his party's. President Lula was considered by many around the world as, if not the greatest, at least one of the greatest Presidents of Brazil, since the country became a Republic, in 1889.

Lula led Brazil's economic boom from 2003 to 2010 and is still widely popular among the population. The former president has been a fervent supporter of Rousseff and his influence was decisive during the 2014 presidential elections. He also may return as the Workers' Party's presidential candidate at the next elections in 2018.

According to the CNT/Sensus survey in September 2005, just 13.5% of those interviewed believed that President Lula was involved in the cases of corruption within his administration. In the July 2006 poll, that percentage had increased to 18.2% despite the fact that the corruption scandals received very little press coverage.

Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva sued four journalists and the editor at Veja magazine in 2015 for publishing a front page special linking him to the Petrobras scandal. The scandal has become an ongoing theme in Brazil’s mainstream media. In February 2016, Lula hit out at critics trying to tarnish his name, saying, “They are punching below the belt, there is a project in play to destroy me and our legacy.”

The former president said the accusations of corruption leveled against him have no basis in fact and no proof has been offered that can tie him to the scandal involving the state-owned oil company Petrobras. "I could have made millions and millions, but everyone who knows me knows that I was never interested in making money, but rather in transforming the country,” said Lula. Social movements rallied around Lula. Under the banner of the Popular Front, they expressed their “repudiation” at efforts to link Lula to the corruption scandal.

Brazilian federal police said 04 March 2016 they were carrying out 33 search warrants and 11 detention warrants in the Operation Carwash anti-graft investigation, including two in Sao Bernardo do Campo, the hometown of fomer President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Police picked up Lula at his home on the outskirts of Sao Paulo and released him after three hours of questioning.

On 09 March 2016 Lula was charged with concealing assets, money laundering, and document forgery. Authorities have said they suspect Lula and his wife own a beachside apartment complex that investigators believe may have been used as a bribe or to launder money. Lula is also accused of concealing assets, money laundering, and document forgery in connection to the apartment. Investigators claim they have evidence that in 2014 Lula received about US$ 270,000 worth of furniture and improvements for the beachfront property. However, no evidence has been presented. Lula has denied any wrongdoing.

The charges were brought forward by prosecutors in the state of Sao Paulo who are conducting an investigation in parallel to the investigation being carried out by federal prosecutors. However, the charges have been conclusively denied by Lula and his legal team. His lawyer, Cristiano Zanin Martins, said on Thursday that there was a "media campaign" against the former president. The request by Brazilian prosecutors for preventive detention for ex-president, Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, has no legal basis and makes clear their lack of neutrality and their political aims, the former president’s representatives said. The accusations had not been accepted by a judge because they lack evidence and are only based on testimonies of prison inmates.

Lula's detention followed statements by former Workers Party Senator Delcidio Amaral, who accused the former head of state and President Dilma Rousseff of having knowledge of the scandal. Amaral is currently under house arrest for corruption charges laid against him and an ongoing investigation into his involvement in the Petrobras scandal. A Brazilian judge has ordered Lula to stand trial on charges of corruption and money laundering. Judge Sergio Moro ruled 20 September 2016 that Lula, who served as president from 2003 to 2011, would be tried for allegedly accepting $1.15 million in bribes connected to a sweeping kickback probe at state-run oil company Petrobras. Also on trial will be the former first lady and six others. Moro said Silva and others benefited from renovations at a beachfront apartment in the coastal city of Guaruja in Sao Paulo state. The improvements were made by the construction company OAS, which is one of those involved in the kickback scheme at Petrobras.

Lula denied all charges against him, but the decision may prevent Brazil's power player from making a political comeback in the 2018 presidential campaign. It could also derail any hopes the Workers' Party (PT) had of returning to power. Despite the corruption allegations facing the PT and several of its former coalition parties, the most recent polls have shown Lula remains a leading candidate for 2018.

Lula was sentenced on 12 July 2017 to nine years and six months over corruption charges in the Operation Car Wash investigations. He was condemned for passive corruption crimes and money laundering, as well as allegedly receiving bribes of about US$1.15 million. However, prison time has not been applied as the prosecution awaited an appeal. “Lula” said that his prosecution, which was based on unsubstantiated evidence, was politically motivated.

In NOvember 2019, the Supreme Court, in a 6-5 decision, overturned a three-year-old rule that it itself had established sending convicted criminals to prison after losing their first appeal and cutting short endless processes. That November 7 ruling allowed Lula to obtain his release the next day, pending appeals against two convictions for corruption. Businessmen convicted of paying bribes and kickbacks in the so-called Car Wash corruption scandal were also freed. Lula’s release angered supporters of right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro and other Brazilians who want to see an end to political corruption, and that prompted lawmakers to advance bills to restore a stricter rule on appeals.

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list

Page last modified: 12-12-2019 19:08:41 ZULU