Lula: almost free!

If Lula was already the centre of Brazilian political life, even while in prison, now the hope that he could be freed and the phantasm that this means for the right, will dominate Brazilian political life even more.

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In a confirmation that the state of law in Brazil has become a battlefield under “lawfare”, a judge accepted a demand for habeas corpus for Lula (da Silva), requested Friday by three PT (Workers’ Party) members and decreed a release order for the ex-president of Brazil. The document came into the hands of the delegate with the Federal Police (PF) of Curitiba, where Lula has been illegally and arbitrarily detained for three months, as a political prisoner. The decision announced the liberation of Lula for that Sunday morning.


Immediately the news spread throughout all of Brazil, provoking contradictory reactions. Popular demonstrations began to welcome the long hoped-for decision, people demonstrated in front of the Federal Police of Curitiba, where there is a permanent vigil for Lula, ever since he went into prison. Demonstrations were summoned throughout the country. In São Bernardo do Campo, near the house of Lula, a great crown gathered to await his return.


Meanwhile, TV Globo suspended its coverage of the rescue of children in Thailand to announce, with panic, the news that Lula would immediately be freed. They went on to deduce the consequences of Lula being freed, that he could not then be a candidate, but that he would campaign throughout the country for his chosen candidate and that this would totally change the electoral scene.


They called on their legal advisers, alleging the supposed illegality of the judge’s measure, waiting for a reaction from Sergio Mora who, without the power to do anything and enjoying a holiday in Portugal, nonetheless sent instructions to the delegate and made public his opinion that the decision should not be complied with. There was then a series of skirmishes between the judge, who reiterated his decision to liberate Lula and gave a deadline – at 17:30 hours -- that his order be complied with, and other judges contrary to the freeing of Lula. Judges on vacation, the media, popular mobilizations in all the big cities of Brazil, including Curitiba, were expectant for his liberation, as were those gathered in São Bernardo do Campo, near the house of Lula.


Two of the PT members who had presented the demand for habeas corpus arrived early at the PF in order to guarantee the fulfilment of the legal decision, but they noted immediately the inclination of the delegate to postpone it. Then came a phone call from Sergio Mora, on holiday in Portugal, ordering that the decision should not be obeyed. He then sent a long text trying to justify his decision, without his having the right to reject the habeas corpus.


The immense euphoria at the possibility of having Lula freed served, at least, as a general rehearsal for his liberation. The concrete possibility that Lula would be freed came to life in everyone’s mind. And there is nothing that moves the Brazilian people more than this concrete hope.


Lula, for his part, stayed calm and said to a PT member who was with him, that he did not think he would be freed for now. This, in spite of news reports, at the end of the day, that he was to be submitted to examinations for his liberation.


In any case, the legal question is not resolved, even with the annulment of the concession of habeas corpus by the president of the Tribunal that made the decision, because this can only be done by the plenary of the Tribunal. The decision of the Supreme Federal Tribunal is pending, but a judge affirmed that the decision for the concession of habeas corpus was legal and that Moro acted in desperation.


A group of Lawyers for Democracy entered the field with a request for imprisonment of Sergio Moro, for contempt of court, given that he does not have the power to disrespect such a decision of the justice system.


The people mobilized in the streets, as they had not done even during the World Cup Football Matches, with enthusiasm, joy, hope, as if this Sunday were a general rehearsal for when Lula would effectively come out free.


If Lula was already the centre of Brazilian political life, even while in prison, now the hope that he could be freed and the phantasm that this means for the right, will dominate Brazilian political life even more, with fewer than three months to go until the first round of the presidential elections.



(Translated for ALAI by Jordan and Joan Remple Bishop)


- Emir Sader, a Brazilian sociologist and political scientist, is the coordinator of the Laboratory of Public Policies with the State University of Rio e Janeiro (UERJ).
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