SAO PAULO – Brazil’s Workers Party (PT) will defend the presidential candidacy of former head of state Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva – now imprisoned – “to the bitter end,” the party chair said Monday.
“We’ll go with Lula until the end,” emphasized Sen. Gleisi Hoffmann in a meeting with foreign correspondents in Sao Paulo to explain the PT strategy with an eye toward the Oct. 7 presidential election.
The PT is scheduled on Wednesday to register the presidential candidacy of Lula, along with his running mate, former Sao Paulo Mayor Fernando Haddad.
Lula, a one-time lathe operator and union leader, governed Brazil from 2003 to 2011 and left office with sky-high approval ratings. He remains the country’s most popular politician and leads in the polls, despite his being behind bars since April.
Hoffmann emphasized on Monday that if Lula is “violently” prevented from running in the presidential race, the election will be “illegitimate.”
The leader of Latin America’s largest center-left party cited cases of other politicians who managed to get elected despite being prevented from running by the 2010 Ficha Limpa (Clean Record) law, which states that a defendant whose conviction has been upheld by an appellate court is barred from public office for eight years.
Lula’s corruption conviction was upheld on appeal earlier this year, though he has not exhausted the appellate process.
In her judgment, Brazil is going through an “abnormal election” and, for that reason, the PT has taken “exceptional measures” to defend Lula’s candidacy.
Hoffmann emphasized that Lula is the only candidate who can “rescue the country from the crisis” and warned that, if he remains incarcerated, “there will be no democratic stabilization” in Brazil.
Despite the fact that Haddad figures in the PT’s potential Plan B in case Lula is prevented from running, Hoffmann said that the PT “is not working with the hypothesis” that the former education minister could assume the presidential candidacy.
In July 2017, Lula was found guilty of accepting bribes in exchange for helping Brazilian construction company OAS obtain lucrative contracts from state oil giant Petrobras and sentenced to nine years and six months in prison.
On Jan. 24, an appeals court voted unanimously to uphold that earlier verdict and to increase Lula’s prison sentence to 12 years and one month.
The case against Lula, who vehemently denies any wrongdoing, is based largely on plea-bargained testimony from people already convicted as part of a sprawling investigation into a bribes-for-inflated-contracts scheme centered on Petrobras.