Convictions annulled, Brazil’s Lula sheds no light on political future

By Alba Santandreu

Sao Bernardo do Campo, Brazil, Mar 10 (efe-epa).- Brazilian former head of state Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said Wednesday that he is at peace and free of resentment after a Supreme Court justice threw out his corruption convictions earlier this week.

But he refused to comment on widespread speculation that he will seek the presidency once again next year.

“My head has no time to think about a candidacy in 2022,” Lula said calmly during a 90-minute press conference at the headquarters of the ABC Metalworkers’ Union in this southeastern city, where the 75-year-old icon of the Brazilian and Latin American left first rose to prominence as a labor leader.

The founding member of the leftist Workers’ Party (PT) was making his first public appearance since Supreme Court Justice Luiz Edson Fachin on Monday dismissed the graft convictions that had prevented him from running for president in 2018, when polls showed he would have won by a wide margin.

In his ruling, Fachin said the federal court based in the southern city of Curitiba, then headed by Judge Sergio Moro, lacked jurisdiction in those cases and ordered that Lula – a two-term president from 2003 to 2010 – be retried in a court in Brasilia.

Lula was convicted in 2017 of accepting bribes from construction company OAS in the form of renovations to a seaside condo that the erstwhile head of state never owned or occupied.

The initial conviction of Lula in the OAS case overseen by Moro – known for spearheading the sprawling Lava Jato (Car Wash) corruption probe – was upheld on appeal, leading to his being barred from the 2018 balloting.

Serious questions were later raised about Moro’s conviction of Lula – who vehemently denies any wrongdoing – by online news outlet The Intercept, which in 2019 published the leaked contents of private communications that showed the then-federal judge was deeply involved in shaping the prosecution strategy against the ex-president.

Lula on Wednesday said he was the victim of the “biggest legal lie” – and that Moro was the “biggest liar” – in Brazilian history.

But he shied away from immediately throwing his hat back in the political ring.

“It would be small of me to think about 2022 at this moment,” he said, adding that a decision will be made next year on whether the PT competes as a single party in next year’s general election or as part of a coalition.

But even so he expressed utter contempt for rightist President Jair Bolsonaro, who was the biggest beneficiary of Lula’s exclusion from the 2018 contest and is expected to seek re-election next year.

Amid applause from around 30 of his supporters, the ex-president urged Brazilians to inoculate themselves against Covid-19 and not to heed “any idiotic decisions” made by Bolsonaro, who famously has dismissed Covid-19 as “a measly flu” and cast doubt on the effectiveness of vaccines and remains cavalier about a disease that has claimed nearly 270,000 lives in Brazil.

Nearly 2,000 coronavirus sufferers lost their lives over the most recent 24-hour period, an emotional Lula said with his voice cracking, adding that those deaths could have been avoided if the federal government had “done the minimum” to combat the virus.

Lula, who said he will be vaccinated next week but will not tour the country until the country’s severe health emergency has subsided, insisted he feels young and ready to fight.

“The word ‘stop’ isn’t in my dictionary,” he added. EFE


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