Lula transfer row a potential ploy to save Car Wash

. Aug 08, 2019
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On Wednesday afternoon, a decision from a federal judge in Curitiba authorized the transfer of jailed former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva from the Federal Police headquarters in Curitiba to a penitentiary in São Paulo.

After opposition from

large parts of the Judiciary and Legislature, the Supreme Court acted quickly to suspend the decision, in what is but the latest twist in the tale of ex-president Lula, currently serving an eight-year and ten-month prison sentence for corruption and money laundering.</p> <p>Were the transfer to have gone ahead, Lula would have been moved to a penitentiary in Tremembé, a town in the countryside of São Paulo state. The facility houses a number of high-profile criminals, such as notorious murderers Alexandre Nardoni and <a href="">Lindemberg Alves</a>. Lula was to have his own cell, but would mix with other inmates during meals and time in the yard.</p> <p>Currently, Lula occupies a so-called &#8220;staff&#8221; room in the Federal Police headquarters, a prerogative reserved similar high-profile prisoners. He has the right to a television, a tablet, a wardrobe, and his own bathroom. The room also has a small window, which is sealed but not barred. Were he to have been transferred, he would lose this privilege.</p> <p>The Federal Police in Curitiba argued that holding Lula in their headquarters was overly disruptive, and got in the way of their ability to function normally. Since his imprisonment in April 2018, a vigil of Lula&#8217;s supporters has been a constant presence outside of the police facility, and feds claim it is a nuisance in what is a typically quiet, residential neighborhood.</p> <h2>The reaction in Congress</h2> <p>The decision to transfer Lula, issued by Federal Judge Carolina Lebbos, was met with outrage from both the former president&#8217;s supporters and a certain portion of his adversaries in Congress. News of the authorization broke while representatives were in the middle of a lower house session to vote on the pension reform, and House Speaker Rodrigo Maia paused proceedings to allow Workers&#8217; Party members to protest the decision before the Supreme Court.</p> <p>Mr. Maia made himself available &#8220;to guarantee the rights of the former president,&#8221; and claimed that if Lula was to be transferred to São Paulo, &#8220;they would have to organize a place which could offer him the same guarantees and conditions.&#8221;</p> <p>Politicians from the center-right Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB) and Podemos, traditionally opposed to <a href="">Lula and the Workers&#8217; Party</a>, classified the decision as &#8220;humiliation&#8221; and &#8220;absurd.&#8221;</p> <p>&#8220;I don&#8217;t accept the persecution of anyone, be they on the right or the left,&#8221; said José Nelto, leader of Podemos in the lower house.</p> <p>Lula&#8217;s defense team moved quickly to contest the transfer authorization before the Supreme Court, which acted with similar urgency to block the decision by a 10 to 1 vote.</p> <p>Speaking to <strong>The Brazilian Report</strong>, Fundação Getúlio Vargas professor Cláudio Couto was critical of the transfer request, but not surprised. &#8220;Of course it is difficult to host an inmate like former President Lula, so this petition was expected. However, it would be simply transferring the problem from one place to another.&#8221;</p> <p>Mr. Couto believes that, taking the context of the current political moment into account, there is reason to doubt the Federal Police&#8217;s true motive behind the transfer request. &#8220;I believe this was more of an attempt to try and divert attention away from Operation Car Wash, during a moment in which it is under stress.&#8221;</p> <h2>Car Wash trying to save face</h2> <p>It is no secret that Operation Car Wash, the biggest corruption investigation in Brazilian history, has seen better days. <em>The Intercept Brasil&#8217;</em>s <a href="">leaks of private Telegram messages</a> sent between Justice Minister (and then-federal judge) Sergio Moro, head task force prosecutor Deltan Dallagnol, and other prosecutors have shone a light on irregularities committed throughout the investigation, consisting mainly of an unprecedented level of collusion between judge and prosecution.</p> <script src="" type="text/javascript" charset="utf-8"></script> <p>Lula&#8217;s defense team has been provided with ammunition in the plea for the ex-president&#8217;s sentence to be overturned, claiming that Mr. Moro should be recused from the case.</p> <p>Meanwhile, there is the possibility that Deltan Dallagnol will be relieved of his duties on the Car Wash task force by the National Council of Prosecution Services.</p> <p>A potential transfer of ex-president Lula, however, would serve to draw attention away from the Car Wash leak saga. Cláudio Couto reckons that the scandal will in fact serve to benefit Lula&#8217;s case. &#8220;The more Operation Car Wash is under the microscope, the more likely it is that future [court] decisions will begin to go [Lula&#8217;s] way. A case such as this creates a more favorable scenario for the former president.&#8221;

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Euan Marshall

Originally from Scotland, Euan Marshall is a journalist who ditched his kilt and bagpipes for a caipirinha and a football in 2011, when he traded Glasgow for São Paulo. Specializing in Brazilian soccer, politics and the connection between the two, he authored a comprehensive history of Brazilian soccer entitled “A to Zico: An Alphabet of Brazilian Football.”

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