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Five hundred days of unfairness

Aug 20, 2019 2:53 PM

Photo: Ricardo Stuckert

By Celso Amorim

On April 7th, 2018, former president Lula was arrested in São Bernardo do Campo and taken to the head office of the Federal Police (the equivalent to the FBI in the U.S.) in Curitiba. It was the height of a process carried out by the mainstream Brazilian media and part of the judiciary, which had begun over two years earlier with maneuvers leading to the removal of president Dilma Rousseff, through impeachment proceedings without an impeachable offense. The goal, in both cases, was to deal a blow to the political project,four times victorious in the ballots, of bringing greater justice and equality to the Brazilian society.

Last May, without explicitly referring to Brazil but certainly with it in sight, as I can testify from the audience I was granted, Pope Francis called this process a "new form of coup d ́État". Later, the Supreme Pontiff would return to the theme, when addressing magistrates of countries of the whole American continent, qualifying this sort of action as “lawfare”.

It was known from the very beginning that the trial which led to Lula’s jailing  was flawed. Whoever read the sentence of judge Sergio Moro could see that Lula was convicted for "undetermined acts" without the so-called product of corruption - related to the infamous São Paulo beach condominium - ever being proven. To the contrary, ulterior facts clearly demonstrated that the property had never belonged to Lula or any member of his family.

However, the force of the media campaign and the naive worshipping of the combat against corruption by any means, kept the doubt present in some more skeptic minds. The nomination of Lula’s prosecuting judge Moro as Jair Bolsonaro’s minister of Justice , and later revelations by The Intercept proved what more careful observers already knew: Lula was the object of political persecution, conducted by a partial judge and fanatic prosecutors entrenched in a  personal project of power.

The awareness of those facts recently led seventeen jurists (including famous professors, members of constitutional courts and former ministers of Justice) from Europe, the United States and Latin America to sign a document demanding the annulment of the process by which Lula was convicted and stripped of his freedom.

On the day of his arrest, Lula, in an improvised speech, but one that could be part of any anthology of oratory, affirmed that his enemies could arrest a man, but they could not imprison the dreams of Brazilian people. The spectacle of cruelty we have watched, with the outrageous attitudes of the highest dignitary, who climbed to power thanks to the persecution of Lula, may have even put that uplifing sentinment in question. .

In today's Brazil, the dream has turned into a nightmare: the poor are constantly deprived of their rights; the censorship, in disguise or surreptitious, is back to restrain the freedom of expression; fear numbs the capacity  of people of good will; prejudice and stupidity assault reason and science; and, as a consequence of it all, Brazil becomes the object of shame in the world, a real international pariah. We live an environment of abnormality without precedents in our history.

For the return of normalcy to the country and for hope to be returned to its people, the freedom of Lula, along with the annulment of the process by which he was condemned, is essential. Given the credibility he enjoys with the great majority of the population, Lula - and only him - can reestablish the dialogue among all forces in the society, indispensable for Brazil to return to a path of peace and development.

Even before the imprisonment of Lula, Nobel laureate Adolfo Perez-Esquivel spearheaded a movement for the former president to be honoured with the Nobel Peace Prize. In the next weeks, the commission in charge in Norway will make a decision. We hope it takes into consideration the work of a labour leader, elevated to the presidency, who rid millions of Brazilians from the plight of hunger, who contributed to peace in South America and around the world, who took courageous measures to protect the environment and the rights of black and indigenous people, and who defended democracy in a developing country of continental dimensions, whose destiny will not cease to influence in the region and the world as a whole.

Celso Amorim served as Minister of Foreign Affairs (2003-2010, Lula da Silva’s government) and Minister of Defense (2011-2015, Dilma Rousseff’s government)