Former Brazilian President Lula, who is beginning a 12 year prison term, told supporters he went to jail with head held high, knowing that he had brought 30 million people out of poverty in Brazil and that he was innocent of the charges.
UNI America’s President Ruben Cortina and CGT Argentina’s Hector Daer as well as a delegation from UNI Finance organised by President of UNI Finance Rita Berlofa from Cotraf CUT, witnessed the emotional scenes outside the steelworkers’ union office in Lula’s home town near Sao Paulo before Lula voluntarily handed himself in. Earlier in the day he had been hoisted aloft by the crowd who came to show their unwavering support.
UNI America’s Regional Secretary Marcio Monzane said, “Former President Lula has been imprisoned for political reasons without any evidence he has committed a crime. UNI will continue to support workers and the trade union movement in Brazil, in their struggle to defend workers' rights.
“ 'We are all Lula' is the cry echoing around Brazil and across the world, and we will continue to defend social inclusion, fight poverty and promote work in his name.
“UNI stands in solidarity with Lula and the working people he served so well for so long. The conspiracy against Lula is a vicious example of the closing down of freedom and democracy we are seeing not only in Brazil and Latin America but across the globe. This is the thin end of the wedge – the neo-liberal elite must not be allowed to succeed.”
UNI Global Union General Secretary Philip Jennings added, “Lula’s imprisonment is a travesty of justice and we call for him to be set free! He will continue to be a champion of working people both in Brazil and abroad. UNI’s entire global family stands united in solidarity with him at this terrible time. ”
Lula and Brazil will be an important discussion point when the UNI Management Committee (including UNI representatives from Latin America) meets later this week at its Nyon head office in Switzerland. Peace and human rights is also one of the core themes of the upcoming UNI World Congress in Liverpool in June, where Brazil and Lula’s plight will occupy the two thousand UNI delegates gathered from around the world who will stand in solidarity: ‘We are Lula!’
Background on Lula case
The 5 April decision to allow the imprisonment of Lula and his subsequent 12 year jail sentence are the latest in a series of abuses of his legal rights. Lula has begun his sentence after voluntarily handing himself over to the Brazilian authorities while maintaining his innocence.
ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow said, “Lula was found guilty by a lower court on the basis of no evidence, something that the lower court judges themselves have admitted. Now, with the military threatening to intervene, Supreme Court judges have, by the narrowest of margins, again bowed to powerful business interests which want to undo forever Lula’s achievements in fighting poverty and inequality in Brazil. Lula is Brazil’s most popular politician by a huge margin, and the judicial persecution of him is aimed at stopping him becoming President again,” said ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow.
Lula’s lawyers have taken his case to the UN Human Rights Council, pointing to the blatant bias of judges and prosecutors and asking the Council to recognise that “the regional court which found him guilty, Judge Sergio Moro and the “Car Wash” Federal Prosecutors have violated Lula’s rights to privacy, right to a fair trial, freedom from arbitrary arrest, the right to freedom of movement and right to be presumed innocent until found guilty. Previous evidence submitted to the UNHRC focused on the leaking of confidential material to the media, the unlawful issue of a bench warrant, illegal disclosure of telephone intercepts, use of indeterminate pre-trial detention against “Car Wash” suspects, obtaining plea bargains and numerous examples of the prosecutors and Judge Moro’s pronounced bias against Lula.”
“The collusion between elements of the judiciary, oligarchs who built fortunes under the military dictatorship, military commanders and extreme right-wing forces including armed militias is a severe threat to democracy itself in Latin America’s largest country. The international trade union movement stands in absolute solidarity with our Brazilian colleagues and will assist in every way we can their quest to defend democracy and reinstate the rule of law,” said Burrow.