SAO PAULO – Former Colombian President Ernesto Samper urged the Brazilian state on Thursday to offer Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva “all guarantees” to participate in the October elections after a meeting with the ex-president in his prison cell, where he has been serving a lengthy sentence for corruption since April.
“I ask the Brazilian state (to) offer the former president (Lula) all guarantees to which he has the right to compete, under equal conditions to his rivals, in the next presidential election,” said Samper at a press conference after visiting the former Brazilian head of state in prison in the southern city of Curitiba.
Samper also asked for “observers who can verify the compliance” with the UN Commission on Human Rights’ “order” – issued last week – calling in a non-binding decision for Brazil to take “all necessary measures” so that Lula “may exercise his political rights” as a presidential candidate.
“I consider it of great importance for the Commission to send observers ... and review the suitability of the judgment that is being applied to Lula,” said Samper, who called the former Brazilian leader a “political prisoner.”
Samper went on to say that Lula – who is serving a 12-year-and-one-month sentence for corruption – had been subjected to “implacable, almost inhumane, judicial and media harassment” but appears to be “serene, enthusiastic and positive.”
“He’s not alone. The international community is with him as the architect of the policy that transformed Brazil into a world actor,” the former Colombian leader said.
Despite his incarceration, Lula – who served as an extraordinarily popular president from 2003-2010 – is leading the voter surveys in the run-up to the October vote with the support of 39 percent of the electorate, but he has been practically barred from running in the election as per Brazilian law because an appeals court upheld his earlier corruption conviction.
The final decision on Lula’s candidacy, however, will be made by the Brazilian Supreme Electoral Court, which has until Sept. 17 to rule on the matter, when just 20 days remain before the most up-in-the-air elections in Brazil’s recent history.