“For­mer Brazil­ian pres­i­dent Luiz Iná­cio Lula da Sil­va has every right to defend his point of view in the coun­try and abroad regard­ing the legal pro­ceed­ings that weigh on him. These led to his impris­on­ment after a fed­er­al court of appeals in Jan­u­ary upheld his con­vic­tion for cor­rup­tion and mon­ey laun­der­ing.

The man­ner in which Lula da Sil­va has cho­sen to defend him­self to the world, how­ev­er, needs to be chal­lenged. In a recent arti­cle he pre­sent­ed a ver­sion of recent Brazil­ian his­to­ry that bears no rela­tion to real­i­ty. This would be a prob­lem for his­to­ri­ans were he not the influ­en­tial polit­i­cal leader that he is.

The for­mer pres­i­dent por­trays Brazil as a democ­ra­cy in ruins, in which the rule of law has giv­en way to arbi­trary mea­sures designed to under­mine him and his par­ty. This is not true.

It is also not true, as Lula da Sil­va claims, that Brazil was direc­tion­less before he assumed the pres­i­den­cy in 2003. One only needs to remem­ber the suc­cess­ful sta­bil­i­sa­tion of the econ­o­my after years of hyper­in­fla­tion, which began with the Real Plan launched by for­mer pres­i­dent Ita­mar Fran­co and con­tin­ued dur­ing my gov­ern­ment. This was also a peri­od marked by the estab­lish­ment of social wel­fare pro­grammes that Lula da Sil­va would sub­se­quent­ly expand.

His is a pecu­liar ver­sion of the past few decades of Brazil­ian his­to­ry in which he some­times appears as the people’s sav­iour and some­times as the vic­tim of an “elite” con­spir­a­cy. It lends itself, inad­ver­tent­ly, to the dele­git­imi­sa­tion of the col­lec­tive effort that is the foun­da­tion of Brazil­ian democ­ra­cy.

Pres­i­dent Dil­ma Rousseff’s impeach­ment and removal from office in 2016 was not, con­trary to what Lula da Sil­va claims, a coup d’état. It was the result of, among oth­er things, her government’s vio­la­tion of Brazil’s fis­cal respon­si­bil­i­ty law in the run-up to the 2014 elec­tion.

The impeach­ment process fol­lowed all the con­sti­tu­tion­al pro­pri­eties under the super­vi­sion of the Brazil­ian supreme court, in which the major­i­ty of jus­tices were nom­i­nat­ed by Lula da Sil­va and Ms Rouss­eff.

My crit­i­cism is not moti­vat­ed by per­son­al antag­o­nism. Lula da Sil­va and I fought togeth­er against the author­i­tar­i­an regime that ruled Brazil between 1964 and 1985. When, sub­se­quent­ly, we ran against each oth­er in demo­c­ra­t­ic elec­tions, I main­tained a con­struc­tive rela­tion­ship with him.

I am sor­ry that the for­mer pres­i­dent faces addi­tion­al charges of cor­rup­tion and mon­ey laun­der­ing. But the fact is that the legal pro­ceed­ings in which he has been involved fol­lowed due process and have been car­ried out in accor­dance with the con­sti­tu­tion and the rule of law.

Lula da Silva’s case is not an iso­lat­ed one. In Brazil there are politi­cians from every par­ty in prison, many of whose con­vic­tions were upheld by an appeals court. They include mem­bers of my own par­ty, the PSDB.

The prece­dent for impris­on­ment after a con­vic­tion is upheld in a fed­er­al appeals court stems from a judg­ment by the supreme court that long pre­cedes Lula da Silva’s con­vic­tion. Con­vict­ed per­sons begin serv­ing their sen­tence with­out this affect­ing their right to appeal to high­er courts.

More­over, Lula da Silva’s inel­i­gi­bil­i­ty to run for pres­i­dent in the forth­com­ing elec­tion is the con­se­quence of a pop­u­lar ini­tia­tive that received more than 1m sig­na­tures, was then approved by Con­gress and signed into law by the for­mer pres­i­dent him­self in 2010. The so-called clean slate law (lei da ficha limpa), the result of a civ­il soci­ety cam­paign against cor­rup­tion, pro­hibits any­one con­vict­ed at the appeals court lev­el from run­ning for office.

The pop­u­lar ini­tia­tive that result­ed in the law was a direct response to the Men­salão scan­dal, a votes-for-cash scam uncov­ered in 2005. The dis­man­tling of this cor­rup­tion scheme did not pre­vent anoth­er, even larg­er one from being per­pe­trat­ed in some of the largest state-owned com­pa­nies, notably Petro­bras. The inves­ti­ga­tion into this scan­dal, known as Lava Jato or “Car Wash”, uncov­ered a scheme to divert bil­lions of dol­lars to Lula da Silva’s Work­ers’ par­ty.
Brazil is going through a painful but nec­es­sary process of re-moral­is­ing its pub­lic life, and the actions of the Fed­er­al prosecutor’s office and the judi­cial branch are part of this.

I am not always com­fort­able with the length of the sen­tences imposed or with the expan­sion of “pre­ven­tive” pre-tri­al deten­tion, in which the accused is impris­oned before even his or her first tri­al in a low­er court.

It is a grave dis­tor­tion of real­i­ty, how­ev­er, to say that there is a tar­get­ed cam­paign in Brazil to per­se­cute spe­cif­ic indi­vid­u­als. My coun­try deserves more respect.”

Pub­li­ca­do orig­i­nal­mente em: https://www.ft.com/content/7775bddc-a46c-11e8-a1b6-f368d365bf0e