A poor man goes to jail when he steals; a rich man becomes a minister
April 8, 2018 4:08 PM   Subscribe

Lula has gone to Jail. An action described by the NYT as pushing Brazil's democracy into the Abyss.
Those he championed, and they were legion, mourn the end of an era.

One day I dreamed it was possible for a school drop-out metal worker to take better care of education than all the doctorates who have governed this country — I dreamed I could bring food and education to the poor, I dreamed it was possible to reduce infant mortality by giving milk and beans and rice so that children ate every day, I dreamed it was possible to take students from the slums to the best universities of the nation, so that we would not have judges and prosecutors only from the elite,” he said. “That’s what they can’t stand. That’s the crime I committed and because of it I have 10 [criminal] processes against me.”
There is little doubt that Lula's conviction was politically driven.
Human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson has taken Lula's case to the UN Human Rights Commission stating that there is 'No evidence' that Lula is corrupt'.
Brazil Went From Neoliberal Success Story to Total Political Chaos in 10 Years
Meanwhile “US involvement in Lava Jato is not relevant,” argued a Brazilian commentator recently.
posted by adamvasco (22 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
Looking at a lot of the coverage of this, it seems like people aren’t really arguing that he wasn’t corrupt, so much as that it is unfair to jail him while allowing other corrupt officials to go free. Which is... a really interesting question! Or, what to do when there’s someone who is committing crimes but doing other laudable things and so people just don’t care?
posted by corb at 4:53 PM on April 8, 2018

welp well that NYmag article is cheery. power will find a way. or, my favorite expression finds a new application: "same toilet, different shitstain".
posted by lalochezia at 4:55 PM on April 8, 2018

There's very little evidence of corruption. No paper trail of receiving a bribe, or attempting to do so. Just this:

The evidence against Mr. da Silva is based on the testimony of one convicted OAS executive, José Aldemário Pinheiro Filho, who had his prison sentence reduced in exchange for turning state’s evidence. According to reporting by the prominent Brazilian newspaper Folha de São Paulo, Mr. Pinheiro was blocked from plea bargaining when he originally told the same story as Mr. da Silva about the apartment.

...and that's it. Extraordinarily little reason to imprison and disqualify from office the head of a major political party.

This is "lock her up!" put into practice.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 4:59 PM on April 8, 2018 [33 favorites]

(An AskMe factoid: Lula has probably received more direct votes in free elections than anyone else.)
posted by clawsoon at 5:02 PM on April 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

Thank you for putting this together, it's just sad how this whole situation has played out.
posted by smoke at 5:59 PM on April 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

At first when I read about this, when it began, I figured that it was just that Lula was like all the rest, left-wing until he got into power and then just another taker. But as I've seen the past few years play out, I've come to think that it's a set-up and I think the whole recent situation in Brazil has been engineered by the right to re-capture the state. It's pretty scary.
posted by Frowner at 6:04 PM on April 8, 2018 [15 favorites]

That is definitely scary. Especially if you live in Brazil, obviously. Thanks for the updates; the last time I tuned in to this, I also just assumed that Lula was as corrupt as the rest—like Frowner says, that's an old familiar story. It's pretty upsetting to hear how thin the evidence is vs how politically driven the conviction was. This is bad stuff.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 6:21 PM on April 8, 2018 [5 favorites]

Yeah, as someone of Latin American origin I kind of assume based on how my family talks that all politicians in Central/South America are corrupt, which may have impacted how I viewed the story. If it's just based on one man's testimony...that definitely seems more likely to be a possible railroad.
posted by corb at 6:47 PM on April 8, 2018 [4 favorites]

Living in Brazil I am quite close to all this. My girlfriend has been in tears for most of the last 24 hrs. Angry and hearbroken. For 40 years she has been active in leftwing politics and social work and her daughters are following her.
It is a feeling of hopelessness, of being crushed by an evil juggernaught that cares nothing for the poor and impoverished who live a hand to mouth existence.
The military are coming out of the shadows and some people are beginning to audibly wonder if the scheduled october elections will actually take place.
Self links follow here and here.
posted by adamvasco at 6:59 PM on April 8, 2018 [23 favorites]

So the bigger problem is that Brazil is stuck in a cul-de-sac of corruption, where corruption is endemic and the only way to maybe fix the corruption is to be corrupt long enough to change laws. Is Lula corrupt? Almost certainly. But corruption is the water everyone swims in here. So the better question is about guilt and crimes. And there is very little evidence connecting Lula to criminal activity. Now, is that because he’s been smart enough to avoid a paper trail? Probably. But Lula and PT really improved Brazil and the anti corruption laws they passed are part of why Lula is in so much trouble. Of course, the corruption everyone rails against was necessary to pass those laws.

So it’s a giant mess. And I have no idea how to think or feel about it.
posted by Glibpaxman at 7:02 PM on April 8, 2018 [3 favorites]

So it’s a giant mess. And I have no idea how to think or feel about it.

The current government is proposing to allow almost 90% of the remaining rain forest to be cut down.

Does that help clarify your feelings?
posted by jamjam at 7:19 PM on April 8, 2018 [17 favorites]

An action described by the NYT as pushing Brazil's democracy into the Abyss.

It seems important to recognize that this is an op-ed by Mark Weisbot, not an official view of the NYT itself.
posted by Going To Maine at 11:53 PM on April 8, 2018

Just going by the comments on this page, it sounds like what is going on in Brasil is the opposite of what is currently happening in the U.S. It appears that in Brasil the ruling political faction has adopted the consensus that Lula, absent any clearly or reliably documented evidence of wrong doing, should be punished with imprisonment, where as in the U.S., the ruling political faction has adopted the consensus, though faced with a combination of evidence of both wrong doing, gross moral turpitude, and an explicit refusal to investigate matters sure to reveal further instances of both, that Donald Trump should be given a free hand to govern as he wishes. Hooray for democracy.
posted by hwestiii at 5:53 AM on April 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

Can we not make this about USA - thanks.
The usurper Temer should be in jail
Flagrant acts of bribery, violence and even murder have proved insufficient reasons for Brazilian legislators to strip their colleagues of office.
Lula's Conviction Turns Brazil Into Model of Regional Control
It is becoming less of a secret that operation Car Wash was brought about under the auspices of the U.S. State and Justice Departments via links with Sergio Moro, the Attorney General's office and the federal police in charge of the investigation. Its most self-evident result has been to isolate the main political threat to the United States, namely the coalition of politicians – supported by the Workers' Party – who favored strengthening Brazil’s multinational companies as global competitors.
Now USA has as national Security advisor John Bolton who in 2002 made an implicit threat against the family of a retired Brazilian diplomat
'We know where your kids live'.
posted by adamvasco at 6:35 AM on April 9, 2018 [11 favorites]

you know Temer just declared himself leader without an election, then passed a law that Brazil wouldn't spend more than something % on social help for a decade or more? Details forgotten, but totally illegal or at least undemocratic. He was also investigated and found guilty or accused but didn't go to trial by the investigators. The investigators i do not believe to be politically motivated by either side. I've been following this for a long time, by the way.
posted by maiamaia at 10:09 AM on April 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

nb it's the same tale as usual in Latin America, starting with the Nicaraguan revolution decades back in my childhood: radical leftwingers attempt to strip feudal-era-holding elites of lands and power to redistribute them, elites organise media and American funding and fight back. Nicaragua actually reversed the land redistribution to landless peasants back to rich feudalists. And then the leaders of the revolutionary party took the American dollar, established a despotic state and (one of the two brothers) raped his daughter a lot and she committed suicide.

Brazil didn't redistribute land, it just started lots of social benefits to stop people and children starving and stuff. The Argentina twist is that vulture capitalists used the American legal and banking system to sink the government, and the radical leftwingers were swept to power in the face of huge debts. Venezuela's twist was a popular strongman/Caesar. Evo Morales of Bolivia was always my favourite and has in fact turned out to do the fewest awful things and have the longest staying power.

If anyone's read Victorian Holocausts by Mike Davis (great book, and really cheap on Verso sales as an epub or mobi and you get to keep it on their website forever if you creat an account) it reveals how Brazil was actually 'owned' by British banks in the 19th century and screwed for cash, and also a couple of very brave Zapatista-like social experiments that were slaughtered by the army. (It mainly deals with China and India.)
posted by maiamaia at 10:19 AM on April 9, 2018 [6 favorites]

nb it's the same tale as usual in Latin America, starting with the Nicaraguan revolution decades back in my childhood:

I don't think that's a fair comparison at all. The Sandinistas were literal, actual revolutionary communists who set up a junta when they took power. Lula and the PT were elected in (at least relatively) fair elections, whereupon he moderated his positions and started using proper democratic processes to try and pass reforms that favored the working class and sought to reduce poverty. Also back then the US publicly supported the Contras both with rhetoric and, famously, cash contributions. Now it appears the attacks on PT are coming from corrupt entities and forces within Brazil. Although with what adamvasco is saying about US involvement in Operation Car Wash, who knows what we'll ultimately discover about that latter aspect.

Still - Lula may not be a saint, but he's no Sandinista either.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 11:39 AM on April 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

I agree the Sandinistas were much better.
posted by Space Coyote at 11:54 AM on April 9, 2018

From October Brazil's Soft Coup hardens
So is the coup all about making Brazil oven-ready for foreign investors? A recent announcement that the state power company Electrobras is to be sold off and the buyer could be a foreign transnational suggests as much. Temer’s government is engaged in a veritable fire-sale of public goods, with 57 public companies, including airports, port terminals, highways, even the national currency-issuing mint, slated for privatization.
Also of interest: The Brazilian Coup and Washington’s “Rollback” in Latin America.
A more difficult question to answer would be : When has America not been involved in government changes in S. America.
posted by adamvasco at 12:31 PM on April 9, 2018 [3 favorites]

The rising star from the Brazilian right is Jair Bolsonaro, a fascist who makes Trump seem like a kind-hearted progressive in comparison. He would lose according to all polls to Lula. Now if Lula doesn't run it doesn't seem as certain.
posted by talos at 3:05 AM on April 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

Is Brazil a dictatorship yet?
Criminalizing Politics in Brazil: The Judiciary vs. Lula da Silva
posted by adamvasco at 12:15 PM on April 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

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