lula conviction

It doesn’t matter how we feel about the appeal trial of former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. The confirmation of the July 2017 corruption and money laundering conviction was expected. The Federal Appellate Court of the 4th region (TRF 4) has traditionally upheld the verdicts delivered by Federal Judge Sérgio Moro, who oversees Operation Car Wash-related cases in lower courts.

Not even the 3-0 ‘score,’ with all three judges imposing a harsher prison sentence on the superstar defendant (12 years and 1 month, as opposed to the original 9 years and 6 months) was shocking. They found Lula guilty of taking bribes, in the form of a beachfront apartment, from a construction firm.

Now, it is almost certain that Lula won’t be on the presidential ballot in October.

The outcome is a message to Brazilians: unlike higher courts – which are the only ones allowed to prosecute and try politicians at the federal level – lower courts are not willing to make concessions to moderation, nor to reconciliation and forgiveness. Today, the panel of three judges demonstrated to the public its willingness to punish, thus making their institution stronger from political and institutional standpoints.

The Porto Alegre-based judges defended the judiciary system from the get-go, proving that the Workers’ Party’s strategy to intimidate the institution wouldn’t work. Instead of frightening the judges, it served instead to further unite them and affirmed their independence. Indeed, Lula’s allies were less than clever. The Workers’ Party chair even went so far as to say that if the court were to arrest Lula, it would need to kill many of the former president’s supporters. It was not only a useless remark – it was a dumb mistake.

When they made it to the final leg of the trial, with each reading aloud their opinion on the case, the judges did not miss any opportunities to display their disgust with the systemic corruption existing in Brazil. Although saying that Brazil is haunted by corruption is not exactly breaking news, this willingness to punish certainly is.

There is a case to be made that not enough evidence existed to prove Lula’s crimes. Perhaps. But the truth is that Lula was convicted for his entire body of work. He was punished for his role in a corrupt system, in which he was the number one guy for eight years.

For those who like to analyze Brazil’s reality without emotion and with some lucidity, there is no pleasure to be had in observing Lula’s fall from grace. But we must admit that Lula, the most popular politician in Brazilian history, caved to a tradition of clientelism and political patronage.

It was not about the apartment.

While Lula and his Workers’ Party never had the strength to change the system, they could have lowered tensions and forged bridges between different political families. But they did not do that. Instead, they became a part of the rotten system – as though that were the only choice they had, or the only possible way of conducting politics. Missing out on such an opportunity is regrettable.

Now, many are questioning why Lula has been the only recipient of this harsh treatment. That is because politicians at the federal level are under the jurisdiction of the slow-paced Supreme Court. Lula could have pushed to change that during his years as president, but he didn’t. Now, he and his party are the victims of a system they helped to create.

Instead of questioning the details of Lula’s case at length, we should be instead debating legal privileges for politicians. People must fight to transform our political system. It would be a giant mistake to turn Lula into a martyr simply because he has been the only high-profile politician to face a criminal conviction.

Now is the time to look forward.

Read the full story NOW!

OpinionJan 25, 2018

Tags: - - -

BY Carlos Melo

Political scientist and sociologist, professor at São Paulo's Insper Business School. Follow his blog