Last Friday, November 8, 2019, former President of Brazil Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva walked out of a prison in Curitiba and was greeted by throngs of supporters, many of whom had camped out since he was sent to jail more than a year and a half ago. The next day, hoarse from the ordeal and past throat cancer surgery, Lula spoke for 45 minutes before thousands gathered in São Bernardo do Campo, São Paulo, Brazil’s automotive capital and the heart of labor activity in the country. It was a sea of red, as many wore the crimson t-shirts of the Metal Workers Union, whose offices provided the backdrop to the speech.
The Supreme Court of Brazil was finally compelled to admit that Lula had been wrongly imprisoned before his appeal had been heard, in conflict with the country’s constitution. The former president had been accused of accepting a beachfront penthouse apartment as a bribe, just as he announced his candidacy for a return to the presidency. He was swiftly convicted and sentenced to twelve years for corruption, with ultra-conservative Jair Bolsonaro becoming president.
But the penthouse had not even been built and Lula had bought a simpler apartment in a building behind it, away from the beach. Nevertheless, Judge Sérgio Moro found Lula guilty. Moro was subsequently appointed Justice Minister by President Bolsonaro. In June 2019, Glenn Greenwald and David Miranda of Intercept Brasil released “an enormous trove of secret documents” showing “improper and unethical plotting” between chief prosecutor Deltan Dallagnol and Moro.
Lula said that he felt energized about continuing to fight. On Friday night, he said on social media, “I am free to help liberate Brazil from the insanity that is happening in this country.” On Saturday, he displayed the congeniality that endears him to his supporters and also, he said, helped him “make friends” in prison and “spiritually prepare” himself for his return.
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