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Brazil: Leftist Presidential Frontrunner Attacked with Gunfire as Court Rejects Corruption Appeal

Campaign caravan of Brazil's da Silva shot at; no one hurt
AP Photo/Eraldo Peres

Brazil’s leftist former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva lost a final appeal on his corruption conviction that could soon land him in prison and keep him out of the 2018 presidential race.

While still a heavy favorite to win, signs of opposition are starting to grow, including recent eggings at campaign stops and gunfire aimed at his campaign convoy on Tuesday.

Lula was convicted and sentenced to 9.5 years in prison for corruption charges stemming from a sprawling investigation known as “Operation Car Wash.” Specifically, he was found guilty of using over one million dollars in bribes to purchase a luxury beachfront property. In January, Lula lost his first appeal and judges extended his sentence to 12 years in prison. A poll taken shortly after the appeal verdict found that nearly one in four Brazilians were unaware that Lula had been convicted for engaging in corruption.

On Monday, Brazilian judges unanimously rejected yet another appeal against Lula’s conviction, based on the defense’s claim of procedural inconsistencies in the original trial. Attorneys also filed a habeas corpus petition arguing against sending Lula to prison, despite the multiple rejections of his appeals. It is likely that Lula will be forced to begin his prison sentence—and end his illegal campaigning for the presidency—if the Supreme Court rejects his habeas corpus petition on April 4.

According to Brazil’s “Clean Slate” law, passed under the first Lula presidency, any individual convicted of corruption charges is banned from holding public office, which means Lula cannot serve as president even if he wins the October election. The Brazilian outlet O Globo reports that his attorneys’ next move may be to challenge the constitutionality of the Clean Slate law.

Lula himself rejected the affirmation of his conviction in remarks this week.

“I don’t respect the decision because if I respect a decision that is a lie, when my great-granddaughter … grows up, she will feel shame that her grandfather was a coward who didn’t have the courage to fight,” he said at a campaign stop, according to the Associated Press.

Reuters recites a popular line in mainstream media when describing Lula in its report on his new appeals loss: that he is “the most popular politician in Latin America’s biggest nation” and “Brazil’s first working-class leader.” While he remains a presidential frontrunner, protesters have begun to show up to his campaign events and express their displeasure in a way that has become increasingly common on the continent: by throwing eggs.

At one campaign stop in the south of the country, protesters hurled eggs at Lula while he was addressing a crowd on stage. The eggs appeared to come out of a nearby building.

“I hope police will assume the responsibility of entering that home, grabbing that scoundrel that correcting him,” Lula said following the incident.

Similar incidents have occurred in Venezuela, where protesters have pelted dictator Nicolás Maduro with trash and eggs, and in Colombia, where repeated incited of being attacked with garbage forced the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) to cancel campaign stops for its former presidential candidate, the terrorist “Timochenko” (as per a peace deal with Bogotá, the FARC have been legalized as a political party despite not abandoning its terrorist activities).

The situation escalated significantly on Tuesday night, as Lula’s caravan was met on its travels in the south with gunfire. According to O Globo, two of the three campaign tour buses were damaged by gunfire while traveling out of the southern city of Quedas do Iguaçu, Paraná state. While no injuries were recorded, the incident has alarmed the Lula campaign and the journalists trailing it, who were in one of the buses hit.

Lula lumped the violent attack in with the egg protests and has demanded that the federal government fund security for his campaign, despite the fact that he cannot legally become president anymore.

“We are being persecuted by fascist groups,” he reportedly said. “They threw eggs, rocks, they even shot the bus.”

A coalition of left-wing groups has also united to demand peaceful campaigning for the upcoming elections.

“We have different views on the left and it is legitimate that these are expressed in different ways, but that cannot stop us from sitting at the same table to defend democracy,” Guilherme Boulos, the head of the Movement of Homeless Workers (MTST), told Folha de Sao Paulo. “What is at stake is that at the moment, attitudes of hatred and intolerance are prevailing.”

 

Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.

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