Lula’s Sentencing Should Be a Sober Moment for All Brazilians | Wilson Center

Lula’s Sentencing Should Be a Sober Moment for All Brazilians

Lucia Guimarães is a veteran Brazilian journalist and a columnist for O Estado de S. Paulo newspaper.

Former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s sentencing on Wednesday was long expected, but no less of a bombshell. Lula may have fallen from the pedestal of international acclaim and approval ratings north of 80 percent; a majority of Brazilians may think he broke the law, at a time when citizens are becoming more aware of the corrosive impact of corruption. But for vast swaths of Brazilians, the choice seems to be between corrupt right-wing demagoguery and corrupt but generous leftist patronage. Faced with those options, millions of Brazilians still see Lula and his Workers' Party as their only choice; they are so ready to vote him back into office that he continues to lead polls of voter intentions for the 2018 presidential election. What does this say about Brazil?

The three year-old Car Wash probe that ensnared Brazil’s most popular president has fostered much selective outrage. When Sérgio Moro, the feared Car Wash judge who has been populating Brazilian prisons with former "untouchables" like construction mogul Marcelo Odebrecht, turned his attention to Lula and his allies, those on the left accused Moro of being a rightist partisan looking to spare the center-right PSDB, the party that lost to impeached former President Dilma Rousseff in 2014. (The PSDB candidate, Senator Aécio Neves, was caught on tape requesting more than $600,000 in bribes and is the subject of eight corruption probes now moving through Brazil’s Supreme Court.) 

Later, when federal prosecutors set up the recording of a conversation between an executive and current President Michel Temer, apparently catching Temer arranging hush money for the former Speaker of the House and former ally Eduardo Cunha (who has already been sentenced on other corruption-related charges) the right accused the Car Wash task force of being pro-Workers' Party. More than suggesting the right or the left have a monopoly on corruption, the probe has revealed corruption that has tarnished the whole of Brazil’s political spectrum, with rare individual exceptions.

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Photo credit: Pedro França, Wikimedia Commons
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