By: Eric Nepomuceno, From: Rio de Janeiro / Source Resumen Latinoamericano / The Dawn News / March 5, 2016.
Lula was arrested and taken to the airport of Sao Paulo, where he testified for nearly four hours. This procedure caused outrage and street protests. The former President denounced connivance between “the judge, the police and mainstream media”.
Shortly before seven o’clock in the morning, the Federal Police showed up at the apartment where former President Lula da Silva resides in San Bernardo, Sao Paulo’s industrial belt. Shortly before, the escort to which Lula is entitled to as former President, had arrived to the place and had warned him of the presence of the judicial police. Lula himself opened the door.
By order of the first instance judge Sergio Moro, the Federal Police led Lula da Silva to the Sao Paulo Metropolitan Airport. In the room reserved for the authorities —a courtesy granted to the political figure of greatest importance in Brazil— Lula provided testimony for nearly four hours. More than once, the questions of the commissioners of the Federal Police irritated him. He was angered, for example, when he was asked about a few bottles —some of them, of imported wine— that had been found in the cottage that the former President frequently visits on weekends. Also, when asked about the two boats that his wife bought for the couple’s grandchildren. “Don’t you have anything more important to do than asking this stupid questions?” Lula da Silva snapped during the interrogation. A lawyer who accompanied the interrogation said that Lula answered all questions without hesitation, not even for a moment.
The news that the former president was being the target of an order taken by the police to testify, had immense impact across the country.
On Friday afternoon, Lula and President Dilma Rousseff expressed their “indignation” over the action taken by Judge Sergio Moro. “I felt like a prisoner this morning”, Lula said. “If they wanted to hear me, they just had to call me because I don’t owe nothing nor have any fear”. In turn, Dilma expressed her “complete disagreement” by the police operation in a televised message recorded in the Presidential Palace, accompanied by her ministers. “I express my complete disagreement with the fact that a former President of the Republic, who often cooperated voluntarily to provide clarifications to the competent authorities, is being now subjected to an unnecessary coercive arrest to testify”, said the President of Brazil.
Also, Marco Aurelio Mello, member of the Supreme Federal Court, the highest instance of Justice in Brazil, said the decision of the judge in charge of the Lava Jato Operation(1), which investigated the corruption scheme unveiled in the state company Petrobras, was abusive. Even José Gregori, prominent figure in the main opposition party, the social democrat Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB), who was Minister of Justice and then of Human Rights in the infamous government of Fernando Henrique Cardoso, denounced that he considered the actions of the province judge a “blatant abuse”. Economist Luis Carlos Bresser-Pereira, one of the founders of PSDB, was even more categorical, and said that “it is time for the Supreme Court to intervene in the Lava Jato Operation, to prevent further abuses of power, such as sentencing a former President, who had not even been summoned to testify, to coercive transfer and temporary imprisonment”.
In the afternoon, Lula da Silva stated conclusively: “It was not necessary for Moro to send people to my house, to my children’s houses and my fellow party members’ houses”, he said indignantly, recalling that only this year he had already attended court three times to make statements. “It was a gesture of arrogance” he added.
Once again, Lula recalled that it was precisely during his two administrations (2003-2010) that autonomy was granted, as never before, to the Federal Police and independence to the Public Ministry. “We did it”. He said this was “because we believe in democracy. Moro, doesn’t. Long before Moro, I was already a Democrat. While he was doing nothing, we were fighting to restore democracy to the country”.
The former President, after declaring he was outraged because of the humiliation he had to face, went on to explain the scheme plotted by the Federal Police, Moro’s court and mass media. “At seven o’clock, without even my lawyers being aware of the situation, some media were already announcing the operation”, he pointed out.
The arguments of the Federal Police and prosecutors in charge of the the Lava Jato (in Portuguese, “Car Wash”) Operation to justify the use of coercion, which were promptly attacked by judge Moro, refer vaguely and broadly to contributions from large companies to the Lula Institute. In addition, it has been hinted that the talks given by Lula in Brazil and other countries were a facade to pass the money of bribes collected in Petrobras. Lula is also accused of having hidden assets, especially an apartment in the decadent resort of Guaruja, and a cottage located one hour and a half away from San Pablo. The transfer of the two buildings was allegedly a concealed way for paying bribes to Lula.
The former President already said repeatedly that he does not own the apartment on the beach and does not own the cottage, which belongs to a former fellow militant, who has been his friend for more than 40 years.
Lula da Silva said that, in his talks abroad, for which he earned up to $200,000 —“everything is accounted for in my statement to the Treasury Department” he said— the questions of the attendees were always referred to the social achievements of Brazil since he took office. “Why can Bill Clinton come to Brazil, as he did recently, and speak at the National Confederation of Industry and collect a million dollars, and I’m not allowed to speak to our African or Latin American friends how we managed to reduce poverty in this country of eternal injustice?”
Lula announced that he is ready to tour the country defending his case and the history of the Workers Party (PT). “They wanted to kill the yarará snake, but instead of beating her in the head, they’ve hit the tail. And the yarará snake is alive and ready to come back”, he said in clear reference to the 2018 elections.
The most worrisome aspect of this story, however, is that it shows that the complot between judge Moro, the Federal Police, the Public Ministry and the great hegemonic press, is very well-oiled.
Lula da Silva’s forceful appearance in court shows that Moro is a judge without limits, and who is acting in perfect synchrony with the coup calendar. Harassing Lula means harassing Dilma. It serves to strengthen the weakened impeachment process, which rests calmly in the Chamber of Deputies, only a week away from street demonstrations called by the radical right for March 13.
The euphoria recorded in the financial market — where the dollar plummeted, and stock market rose as a rocket— shows exactly who are the ones that rejoice at the prospect of Dilma Rousseff’s overthrowing and with Lula’s degradation: the owners of capital. Now, we must wait and see the reaction of social movements, of the Worker’s Party militancy and the electorate that has defeated the PSDB in the polls on four successive occasions.
Great Displays of Solidarity
Supporters of the Workers’ Party protested in support of Former Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on Friday, March 4, in downtown Rio de Janeiro (Brazil). Lula da Silva returned this afternoon to his home in Sao Paulo hailed by supporters who accompanied him to the door of his home after being taken by police to a police station to testify.
(1) Operação Lava Jato (English: Operation Car Wash, contextually Operation Speedy Wash) is an investigation being carried out by the Federal Police of Brazil, Curitiba Branch, and judicially commanded by Judge Sérgio Moro since March 17, 2014. Initially a money laundering investigation, it has expanded to cover allegations of corruption at the state-controlled oil company Petrobras, where it is alleged that executives accepted bribes in return for awarding contracts to construction firms at inflated prices.