Brazil’s Supreme Court has ruled that former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (Lula) will be jailed as he appeals the conviction for corruption charges brought against him.
Brazil, in South America, is one of the world’s biggest democracies. From 2000 to 2012, the country’s average annual GDP grew at a rate of over 5%. In 2012, the economy surpassed that of the United Kingdom, temporarily making it sixth largest economy in the world. In 2017, it was reported that it was in the midst of its worst ever recession. The growth rate is now 8% lesser than it was in December 2014. However, it still remains one of the most influential countries in the region.
Former President Lula was regarded as one of the most popular presidents in the history of Brazil. It was during his tenure that a number of economic reforms were introduced and the country had a period of sustained growth. However, his critics regarded him as a polarising figure and labelled him as opportunistic and corrupt.
Politics and politicians in Brazil have long been mired by allegations of corruption. Federal prosecutors in the nation have will be opening fresh inquiries into the conduct of eight ministers in the currently serving in President Michel Temer’s Cabinet. There are also inquires to be held into 24 senators and 39 lawmakers in the lower house of Congress.
In July 2017, Lula was convicted on charges of money laundering and corruption. The politician was sentenced to nine and half years. Lula was found guilty of having accepted bribes worth $1.2 million from an engineering firm OAS SA. Prosecutors of the case have said that this money was used to renovate a beach house owned by the former president. Lula is said to have helped the firm secure lucrative contracts with the state oil company.
Earlier in January 2018, an appeals court in the country upheld the July 2017 corruption conviction against the former president. In addition, the appeal court’s three judges added two years to the 10-year jail sentence. He spoke at a rally shortly afterward and stated that he will still be contesting for the Presidency. "I know I haven't committed any crime," he told thousands of his supporters. He can still appeal to the nation’s Supreme Court.
The nation’s Supreme Court has now ruled that Lula will be jailed even as he appeals the conviction for corruption charges. This is a stunning reversal of fortunes for one of the most popular president’s the region has witnessed. He left the office in 2010 with an astounding 80% approval rating.
The former president is currently facing 12 years in prison as a result of this conviction. He has already signaled that he will be appealing the conviction. However, he had also noted that he wanted to remain free until the appeal was conducted. This request has now been denied. According to reports, until the paperwork for his arrest is processed, he will remain free.
“The crisis that Brazil is in today comes from the bad planning and corruption of [politicians’] mandate, we’ll take 10 years to recover,” said Douglas Grandini, a trained economist who works at a real estate brokerage who attended a protest anti-Lula protest. Lula is still regarded highly by the public. His poll numbers are high even as he battles the corruption scandals.
The ruling comes during a period of heightened tension in Brazil. Recently, the commander of Brazil's army, General Eduardo Villas Boas took to Twitter to call on the court to stand guard against impunity. He wrote that the army along with "all good citizens, repudiates impunity and respects the Constitution, social peace and democracy." The comments from the army has rattled nerves as the nation was under military dictatorship between 1964 to 1985.
Our assessment is that the political career of Lula could be in serious jeopardy if he is imprisoned. It is most likely that he will not be able to stand for the next general elections. We believe that Lula’s fait acompli has serious ramifications on Brazilian politics. We have witnessed largescale corruption in Brazil in recent times. We also feel that Lula’s disqualification will create a leadership crisis that lies in the heart of Brazil.