Amid a severe political and economic crisis, with astronomic unemployment rates and the worst recession since 1990, the Brazilian politics faces a new turn of events with a raid at former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s apartment in São Bernardo do Campo, state of São Paulo.
Lula is an iconic Brazilian figure and also the most notorious name of the Worker’s Party, founded by him and other members with different backgrounds 36 years ago. The raid, on the other hand, contemplates the 24th stage of the Lava Jato operation, led by the Federal Police, called Aletheia (the Greek expression for the pusue of truth).
How to Carwash the dirty linen
Operação Lava Jato (‘Carwash’, in English) began in March, 2014, initially investigating a huge scheme of money laundering and embezzlement and ended up disclosing the Petrobras scandal in Brazil. From this point, the operation revealed several players in a huge net of beneficiaries, among contractors, politicians, lobbyists, marketers and private institutions.
The biggest investigation of its kind in Brazil brought indelible consequences for the national politics, especially for politicians from the Worker’s Party and its coalition, being the current president, Dilma Rousseff, among them. This resulted in many demonstrations during the year of 2015 (and the first of 2016, coming up this month) and an unsteady political environment that considered the impeachment of Dilma as a solution for the situation.
Months have passed and illicit measures were exposed, either from the government and the party, but there wasn’t (and still isn’t) a concrete accusation against Lula. What culminated today was the summon of the former president to give the police his version of the facts – he might have a link to two luxurious properties, one in the countryside and the other on the beach, besides having received donations and money for lectures overseas form the aforementioned contractors (namely OAS and Odebrecht , among others). He claims all the money for the lectures is legal and that he has no connection to those addresses, saying that one those is owned by some friends of his family, being that the reason of his constant visits to the said place.
The workers unite
After being listened by the authorities, Luiz Inácio gave an inflamed speech to the other ‘petistas’ (activists from the party), in which he highlighted how absurd he believed it was obligating him to go to a Police station, when he had volunteered to give information before. He called the militant political activists to go to the streets in his defence and also stated the difficulty Rousseff faces nowadays, when it comes to governing the country – he argues the opposition has blocked all her moves and that it is impossible for a president to rule a country with no support at all. He also referred to Época magazine, which is said to have leaked parts of his fellow party senator’s testimony to the police (Delcídio do Amaral) and to other communication means as biased, questioning, at the same time, the veracity of the said facts.
These words come after a difficult period for the party. As the government and the party’s leaders wouldn’t agree on how to lead the country out of the crisis, Dilma and Lula were apart and in different influence zones, which were key points for a Lula’s possible reelection in 2018, as Dilma’s popularity plunged locally. The president, too, went in Lula’s favour.
As the political figures reunite in their support for each order, the party, as it has been since its irregularities started showing up, along with Lula Institute, went for a more emotional line, which is intrinsically related to the sort of argumentation present in the election rallies and also among the most fervent activists in the party. In the press releases, extracts that explicitly accused the police of having no objective but to expose Lula to an embarrassing situation were not rare – neither was the discourse of those who defended him in front of his house or in Congonhas airport (where he was taken), as it was possible to see at least one banner with a message like “the most honest man in the country”.
Somewhere over the punches
It is still admirable our need for political consciousness. Those discourses, the online rants and also the demonstrations show that, although the law permits the freedom of expression (and that is something to reflect on in another article), we still have a long way to go to reach the so desired political maturity.
Physical aggressions and verbal offenses come from passionate demonstrators and also from politicians (not so long ago, for different reasons, at the lower house). Once again it is harder to distinguish citizens with legit purposes – be them in favour of or opposite to the current scenario in Brazil – from those whose persuasion and diplomacy can be found in their fists. This happened today, and I dare to say it will not be an isolated episode. But I hope that our political development happens independently of that.
Is that all, folks?
Absolutely not. There is a great expectation that many events will occur in the next few days and redefine the direction of the Brazilian politics. There is no formal accusation against Lula, but many believe it to be a matter of time, whereas others cringe, alleging the methods used to investigate his possessions were unfair, even unconstitutional – whatever the closing of this story is, it is going to impact directly in the elections this year, for mayors and council members, and the presidential elections in 2018.
Also, the Worker’s Party is not the only one involved in corruption schemes, naturally. But being the party in the power and having spent so many years in opposition, not to mention being object of the greatest operation of its kind in the country invariably draws a lot of attention to the occurred. It is important to say, nevertheless, that Eduardo Cunha, president of the Chamber of Deputies who authorized the opening of the impeachment process against Dilma, will respond to the Supreme Court for bribery. And, ironically enough, one of the biggest impeachment enthusiasts, the former candidate from PSDB that ran for presidency against Dilma, Aécio Neves, was also cited in denouncements made in the same Operação Lava Jato. That is to say that this is our time to fight corruption, no matter what label it comes in.