Brazil: Socialist Worker’s Party Has No ‘Plan B’ After Lula Conviction, May Run Him from Behind Bars

Lula discursa no 6º Congresso do PT. - Evaristo Sá / AFP/02-06-2017
Evaristo Sá / AFP

Multiple Brazilian newspapers are reporting that the socialist Workers’ Party (PT) has no “plan B” on who to run for president during the 2018 election after the conviction of former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva Wednesday on corruption charges.

Shortly after O GloboFolha de Sao Paulo, and others reported that the PT would stick by Lula, the former president confirmed to reporters at a press conference Thursday that he would run for president in 2018 despite his legal trouble. Judge Sergio Moro, who is in charge of the “Operation Car Wash” investigation into the state-run oil corporation Petrobras, sentenced Lula to 9.5 years in prison on Wednesday for his role in the Petrobras scheme and banned him from public office for nineteen years. Lula is free on appeal, however, and can still campaign until an appellate court affirms Moro’s ruling.

If the appeals court affirms Lula’s sentence after the deadline to officially register as a presidential candidate, there is a possibility that he may appear on ballots, and thus be a viable candidate from prison. The nineteen-year ban may prevent him, however, from assuming the presidency if he wins. Prior to his conviction, Lula was the frontrunner in national presidential polls.

Folha reported Thursday morning that sources within the PT say “it is forbidden to speak of a Plan B,” or a presidential candidate other than convicted felon Lula da Silva. PT insiders tell the newspaper that they are willing to take the case to the Supreme Court if necessary to keep Lula in the campaign, and are planning street protests against Moro, one of Brazil’s few remaining popular political figures.

O Globo, another national newspaper, reported that PT leaders expected the conviction and plan on continuing to campaign for Lula anyway. “The idea of taking the campaign to the streets will be maintained because… the conviction was already expected and the mobilization of supporters is just a way to counteract the legal setback,” the newspaper reported.

O Globo predicted that Lula would launch his campaign next month in the nation’s northeast, deep in the Amazons, where he is popular. Instead, Lula used his first public appearance since his conviction to do so. “If someone thinks that, with that conviction, they got me out of the game, they can know that I’m in the game!” he told supporters, who chanted “Lula presidente!”

“Whoever thinks this is the end of Lula will have egg on their face,” he asserted. “In politics, the only ones who have the right to decree my end are the Brazilian people.”

As of last year, the Brazilian people appeared exasperated with the Workers’ Party. Millions took the streets throughout the year demanding that Lula’s successor and former Minister of Energy Dilma Rousseff be removed from office. The Brazilian Congress impeached and removed Rousseff shortly before Moro convicted the Speaker of the House, Eduardo Cunha, on Petrobras corruption charges, as well.

Rousseff has come out swinging for Lula, who once tried to appoint her chief of staff to grant him immunity from prosecution. “Without proof, they are following the script written by the giants in the media,” she said following his conviction. “For years Lula, the most popular president in the history of the country and one of the most important leaders of the 21st century, has been suffering persecution.”

Rousseff called the conviction “absurd” and “shameful for Brazil.”

Rousseff repeatedly called her own constitutional impeachment a “coup.”

Lula’s announcement also followed an impassioned defense of the leftist leader from his party, which issued a statement accusing Moro of political partisanship. “The sentencing of former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva represents an attack on democracy and the Federal Constitution,” the statement read.

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