BRASILIA, Brazil — Despite Brazilian pollsters largely predicting a first-round victory for former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, incumbent President Jair Bolsonaro fared much better than expected, forcing his opponent left to a second electoral round at the end of the month.
Yet to many international observers, it may seem curious that Lula is even in the running, considering his recent conviction for corruption.
“I expected the charges of corruption [against Lula] play a bigger role than them. But they certainly had some weight in the electorate,” Tiago Cortez, a political adviser for the Brazilian Republican Party, told Fox News Digital.
Cortez also pointed out that Lula is very popular in elite circles: “Lula is highly favored by the media, the artistic class and part of the business community, who for a decade received favorable treatment through the National Development Bank These are sectors that end up making a great economic and media contribution” to his campaign.
The charges against Lula and the Workers’ Party stem from a widespread influence-peddling and bribery scheme perpetrated by the giant Brazilian construction company Odebrecht, which has been accused of squandering campaign funds on political parties across Latin America in exchange for lucrative construction and infrastructure contracts.
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Marcelo Odebrecht alleged that Lula had pressured foreign governments on behalf of the company in exchange for bribes; the company is alleged to have distributed more than $230 million in bribes to politicians throughout the region.
Following the initial Odebrecht investigation, Brazilian police began investigating Lula and the Workers’ Party in connection with a similar scheme involving state oil company Petrobras, alleging that the company had financed Lula’s campaign in exchange for a favorable treatment.
Investigators uncovered a massive scheme in which money flowed into Workers’ Party coffers from some of the country’s largest companies through bribery and kickbacks. Joao Vaccari Neto, treasurer of the Workers’ Party, was charged with bribery and money laundering and sentenced to 15 years in prison.
As the investigation grew closer to Lula and close associates, President Dilma Rousseff (who succeeded Lula as president) appointed him chief of staff in an attempt to shield him from prosecution, as certain government employees enjoy limited immunity from prosecution. according to Brazilian law. Ultimately, his appointment to the post was rejected by a Brazilian judge, who saw it as a thinly veiled attempt to avoid prosecution.
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In September 2016, the ball dropped, as Lula was accused of heading the entire scheme and faced indictment on corruption charges in Curitiba, Paraná, under the auspices of Judge Sergio Moro.
The ensuing trial polarized Brazil along political lines, as Lula and Rousseff called on their supporters to take to the streets to protest what they saw as politically motivated persecution.
At one point, Lula faced as many as nine separate criminal proceedings, but was ultimately found guilty and sentenced on corruption and money laundering charges related to $1.2 million in renovations to his beachfront apartment by the construction company Grupo OAS, who in turn was said to have received large contracts from Petrobras orchestrated by Lula.
The case eventually reached the Brazilian Federal Supreme Court, which in a narrow 6-5 decision upheld his conviction and ordered him to begin serving his sentence.
Lula’s imprisonment sparked a massive “Lula Livre” or Free Lula campaign and led to an investigation into Judge Moro’s tactics.
Ultimately, Lula was never found innocent of corruption charges. His conviction was annulled by the Federal Supreme Court on two technicalities: first, alleging that Judge Moro had acted improperly in communicating with the prosecution during Lula’s trial, and second, alleging that Moro lacked the legal capacity to try Lula in Curitiba, since that Lula lived in Brasilia. at the time.
On April 15, 2021, the Federal Supreme Court, in a ruling of 8-3, confirmed a previous ruling that annulled their convictions based on this reasoning. Lula only served 580 days of his 12-year sentence.
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The Bolsonaro camp argues that the Federal Supreme Court is biased since the overwhelming majority of its 11 judges were appointed by the Workers’ Party presidential administrations.
While Workers’ Party activists may believe in Lula’s innocence, few Brazilians seem to believe that Lula did nothing wrong. However, almost half voted for him on Sunday, and Lula remains the likely favorite heading into the second round at the end of the month.
Brazilians largely seem to believe that all politicians are corrupt. Lula’s larger-than-life personality seems to have been confirmed by the way she far outranked his list of candidates for Congress and Governor.
Political analyst Flavio Morgenstern told Fox News Digital why Lula remains popular with the electorate: “Lula has a very strong ideological appeal in a country contaminated by socialist ideas,” adding: “He is the only character with charisma in the left due to its already mythical past”.
Morgenstern also said that Lula, despite his background, will continue to have a working relationship with the US, “With Biden, Lula would have an ally with some tension … his interest [in the U.S.] it has always been purely economic,” but “Lula’s friends are enemies even of the American left… the communist dictatorships of Latin America, China, Russia, the Palestinian Authority.”
However, Lula, 76, was still the leader in obtaining votes during the first round of voting on Sunday, as he enters the second round as the favorite against President Bolsonaro. This even when many Brazilians voted for center-right or right-wing candidates for Congress and for governor, but still turned left in the presidential election for him.