RIO DE JANEIRO – Thousands of people turned out on Sunday across Brazil and other countries in competing demonstrations favoring and opposing the release from prison of former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who for the past year has been serving a lengthy jail term for corruption and money laundering.
The marches and demonstrations supporting Lula’s release were scheduled in more than 40 cities around the country, including Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Porto Alegre and the capital of Brasilia, as well as in Curitiba, the city where he is incarcerated.
International support was also provided for Lula in Paris, Vienna, Lisbon, London, Berlin and Buenos Aires, where dozens of people participated in protests after calls went out on the social networks to hit the streets.
The activities, which began on Friday and will continue until next Wednesday in support of the leftist former leader, are also scheduled in New York, Copenhagen, Madrid, Barcelona, Montevideo, Mexico City, Munich, Frankfurt, Rome and Amsterdam.
The 73-year-old Lula, who governed Brazil from 2003-2010, was imprisoned on April 7, 2018, by Judge Sergio Moro, Brazil’s current justice minister under ultrarightist President Jair Bolsonaro and who at the time was heading the Lava Jato (Car Wash) trials relating to the largest corruption case in Brazil’s history.
Lula was charged with receiving as a bribe from the OAS construction company an apartment in exchange for beneficial contracts with the state-run oil company, Petrobras.
After a year in prison, Lula – who is Brazil’s most popular ex-president – claims that he is innocent and he reiterated that stance on Sunday in an article published by the Folha de Sao Paulo daily, one of the country’s main newspapers.
“I can sleep with my conscience, calm in my innocence,” Lula wrote, going on to accuse Bolsonaro of being the prime beneficiary of the “political persecution” he claims has been waged against him by rightist movements.
In Brazil, the day of protest led by the Workers Party (PT), founded by Lula, drew the most participants in Curitiba in front of the Federal Police headquarters where the former leader is serving his sentence in a specially-outfitted cell.
Around the site, protesters set up and displayed huge posters and banners with phrases such as “A year of injustice” and “Free Lula.”
However, in the country’s assorted major cities, including Brasilia and Belo Horizonte, huge numbers of people who prefer to see Lula remain behind bars turned out since they feel that his incarceration provides an example for other corrupt or potentially corrupt politicians.
At those anti-Lula demonstrations the colors of green and yellow – Brazil’s national colors – predominated and were headed by the “Get out on the streets” movement, which says that corrupt officials must go to jail.
“It’s not the left against the right. We’re not the rich against the poor, it’s the nation against corruption” and “I support Lava Jato and prison” read some of the signs displayed by the demonstrators.
Lula, who has been sentenced to 25 years in prison for corruption and money laundering in two separate trials, has six additional cases open against him, all of them related to alleged corrupt acts.