The Case for Lula

He Deserves a Fair Trial, Not Persecution

Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in Santo Andre, Brazil, August 15, 2016. Paulo Whitaker / Reuters

Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, known simply as Lula, remains one of Brazil’s most popular politicians. An uneducated lathe operator turned union leader, Lula helped found Brazil’s Workers’ Party, in 1980, before winning the presidency in both 2002 and 2008 with large majorities. Under Lula’s governance, Brazil became a major power, was awarded the honor of hosting the 2016 Olympic Games, and lifted 40 million of its people out of poverty. The most recent opinion poll shows that he remains the favorite in the 2018 presidential race. Since 2016, however, he has been under investigation as part of the anticorruption campaign known as Operation Car Wash, and a conviction would disqualify him from running.

Lula has denied all the accusations against him. He believes that the investigation is politically motivated, and many of his compatriots agree: according to a poll conducted by Instituto Paraná Pesquisas, a market research firm, 42.7 percent of Brazilians agree that Lula is being persecuted by the media and the judiciary in an effort to remove him from the 2018 presidential race. So far, prosecutors have found no hard evidence linking him to the alleged crimes, yet they have used aggressive tactics, such as leaking recordings of wiretapped phone calls he made to his family, to publicly embarrass him. In this and other ways, Lula’s case has raised crucial questions about Brazil’s judicial system: specifically, whether it can give Lula a fair trial and protect the due process rights of those accused of corruption.

Brazil maintains an antiquated system for investigating and judging criminal offenses, which it inherited from Portugal in the early nineteenth century (but which Portugal itself has long since abandoned). This system offers no separation between the role of the investigating judge, who supervises and approves the work of the police and the prosecutors, and that of the trial judge, who should hear cases without bias or preconceptions. In Brazil, both of these roles are played by the same person, even when, as in Lula's case, the

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