Brazil’s Ex-President ‘Lula’ Exonerated

Brazil’s former president, Luiz Inácio ‘Lula’ da Silva, has formally been exonerated of corruption. The centre-leftist had been accused of receiving a million-dollar beachside apartment as a bribe from disgraced construction firm Odebrecht.

The 2018 corruption charge invalidated Lula’s candidature in Brazil’s election race of that year, in which he continued to enjoy a wide lead in polling even after being jailed. The election was ultimately won by current president Jair Bolsonaro.

Sergio Moro, the judge who overheard the case against Lula, was subsequently appointed Minister for Justice and given sweeping new powers in the Bolsonaro government. Suspicions about the impartiality of the investigation – which arose out of the ‘Car Wash’ (Lava Jato) scandal – were confirmed in 2019, when leaked text messages reported by The Intercept demonstrated collaboration between Moro and the prosecutors pursuing Lula.

The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald, who resides in Brazil, has since been repeatedly targeted with death threats and homophobic slurs. Bolsonaro often criticises the media as “fake news” and biased in favour of the left. Rehashing the country’s Cold War-era dictatorships, he has spoken of journalists as communist agents.

According to Associated Press, the text messages reported by Greenwald showed that Moro “improperly advised prosecutors in the corruption trial that jailed former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.” This included the judge recommending which targets be investigated and prosecuted first, and discouraging certain lines of argument before trial.

The prosecutors spoke openly of their desire to prevent Lula’s Workers’ Party (PT) from winning the 2018 election. When the PT criticised the investigation, Moro sent a text message to prosecutors saying, “What do you think of these crazy statements from the PT? Should we rebut?”

Amongst other achievements, Lula halved Brazil’s poverty rate between 2003 and 2011, through cash transfers to the poor and social services investment. Lula’s government and that of his successor, Dilma Rousseff, reduced the deforestation rate by 76%, before she was impeached as a result of the ‘Car Wash’ investigation.

Lula may now be eligible to run against Jair Bolsonaro in the presidential election of 2022. On current polling, over 40% of Brazilians rate Bolsonaro’s administration “bad or terrible,” and more than 50% disapprove. 

The country recently broke a new daily record for Covid-19 deaths, with 1,954 in 24 hours. The total death toll stands at over 268,500.

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