On April 6 people gathered at Union Square in New York City in an action called by Defend Democracy in Brazil to denounce the escalation of fascism in that country and to defend ex-president Lula da Silva. Lula, who was president from 2003-2011, is an advocate for the workers. He was the most popular president in Brazil’s history, and is expected to become president if allowed to run in the upcoming elections.
On this same day Israel attacked Gaza leaving at least eight people dead and many injured. Because of that there was an emergency protest in support of Palestine at Union Square as well. Lula always defended the Palestinian people and the right of Palestine to exist as a country. To honor this relationship, Lula supporters start to chant, “Free Lula, Free Palestine,” connecting both crowds and showing the support that exist between the people in struggle.
This action was one of the many around the world and in Brazil since the Supreme Federal Court of Brazil ruled April 4 against Lula’s habeas corpus request. Their decision denies Lula’s constitutional right to be considered innocent till found guilty, and to defend himself until all legal resources are exhausted.
On April 3, the day before the ruling, Brazilian Army head General Eduardo Villas Boas tweeted on the case, saying if Lula were to get the habeas corpus request, the Army would have to act. This was seen as the most dangerous moment towards another military coup in Brazil since 1964. The establishment media praised Villas Boas’s words, calling him “a savior” of the nation.
The day after the court ruling, April 5, Judge Sergio Moro gave Lula a deadline to surrender to the police at 5 PM on Saturday April 7. Moro is the lead judge in the politically motivated corruption inquiry which resulted in convicting Lula of corruption without evidence. The political nature of this conviction is recognized by many national and international jurists.
Lula responded by going to the steelworkers union headquarters in São Bernardo de Campo, where he started his political life as a union leader. He stayed there until Saturday April 7 with thousands of supporters gathered around the building.
On Saturday, a ceremony was celebrated in front of the steelworkers union building in memory of Marisa Letícia Lula da Silva (Dona Marisa), Lula’s deceased wife who would have been 68 that day. After the ceremony, Lula gave a passionate speech to thousands of supporters.
He spoke about the struggles he has been part of, from 1968 when he unionized, through 1978 when he led strikes that pushed him into notoriety. He recalled the founding of the Workers Party, celebrated his presidency, and ended up by introducing and endorsing other leaders of a younger generation who would continue the struggle. The talk was called ‘historic” by the news agency Telesur, which printed it in full.
He mentioned one by one the union directors who were on the sound car. He was very direct and clear with his message that the Workers Party must turn to the social-union base of its origin if it wants a future in Brazil’s political scenario. He presented Guilherme Boulos, the leader of the Homeless Workers Movement (MTST) and pre-presidential candidate for the Socialism and Liberty Party (PSOL) and also presented Manuela D’Avila, pre-candidate for the Communist Party of Brazil (PCdoB). They are each younger than 40 years old.
He explained that he was going to turn himself into the authorities. “I’m going to prove my innocence,” he said, “Do what you want, the powerful can kill one, two or 100 roses. But they’ll never manage to stop the arrival of spring.”
He was carried all the way back to the union building by the crowd shouting “Free Lula.” Lula tried to go the Federal Police in São Bernardo to turn himself in, but the thousands of people outside of the steelworkers union building blocked the gates.
Eventually Lula made his way to the police station, then was taken by helicopter to a jail in Curitiba. The conditions at this jail conformed to demands made by his lawyer that Lula receive the dignified treatment due to an ex-president and such an important figure for the country. Outside there were two crowds, one in support of Lula and one against of him, celebrating his arrest. As the helicopter landed the riot police start to attack only the pro-Lula crowd with tear gas and rubber bullets leaving many injured.
Some might not understand Lula’s motive for presenting himself for arrest. He and his supporters are following legal procedures because they have not given up the fight for Lula to resume his campaign for Brazil’s presidency. His lawyers have actions currently pending in different courts, and are expecting decisions soon. Pedro Stédile, from the Landless Workers Movement (MST), said in an interview that if these court actions are successful, Lula could optimistically leave jail in a week or so and be back on his tour around the country. If Lula defied the court, and did not turn himself in, Stédile said, he risked Judge Moro’s seeking a ‘preventive prison’ order to jail him for an additional 80 days.
Of course, with Lula in the hands of hostile authorities and coup mongers, there is the danger that they will break more laws to keep him in jail. This is why the forces on Brazil’s left are uniting and putting forward others who can be leaders. As Lula said in his speech, the struggle is not about just one person. “All of you, from now on, will become Lula and will walk through this country doing what you must do every day.”
Brazil main progressive groups, social movements, student movements, parties from the left and alternative media have called for April 17 to be a National Day Against Globo TV, the biggest media group in Brazil that has an active role in the coup. They plan to build May Day to be a big day of struggle for Lula.
Many groups around the world have also come out in support of Lula. The Party for Socialism and Liberation has published a statement in support of Lula, and is organizing a forum in Philadelphia on Sunday April 15 about the situation in Brazil, if you are in the area. For NYC check DDB facebook page for upcoming actions to support the struggle in Brazil. Or if you can’t come to the actions and events, you can join a letter writing campaign and send letter to Lula in jail. This is another big campaign going on in Brazil that people all around the world can join, the address is:
Superintendência Policia Federal
To: Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva/
R Profa. Sandália Monzon, 210 – Santa Cândida
Curitiba – PR – Brazil
CEP – 82640-040