The Party for Socialism and Liberation stands in solidarity with Brazilian workers and larger communities who are taking to the streets in São Bernardo, São Paulo and across the rest of the country in repudiation of the order for the arrest of former President Luís Inácio Lula da Silva and in defense of their democratic rights.

We further denounce the threats of intervention from General Eduardo Dias da Costa Villas Bôas, Commander of the Brazilian Army and other high-ranking commanders of the Brazilian military immediately preceding the ruling from Brazil’s Supreme Federal Tribunal clearing the way for Lula’s arrest. These explicit threats were calculated to ensure the divided court would “decide the right way” and evoke the memory of the brutal military dictatorship that ruled the country from 1964 to 1985 and stripped Brazilians of their most basic rights.

The sharply divided Supreme Federal Tribunal vote of 6-to-5 denying Lula’s constitutional right to appeal his conviction in liberty highlights the political nature of the ruling.

Lula, Brazil’s most popular president ever and the likely winner of the upcoming October presidential elections, has now been ordered by Judge Sérgio Moro to surrender by 5 p.m. today or face arrest. The ultimate aim is to exclude Lula from the elections.

The Brazilian people have received support from several international leaders. Bolivian President Evo Morales denounced the “outrageous decision of the justice system of Brazil, threatened by corrupt oligarchies.” Former Uruguayan President José Mujica denounced the “very corrupt rule of law in Brazil.” Cuba’s Ministry of International Relations denounced the attempt to “deprive the followers of Lula of the right to elect him again as its president,” with Raul Castro adding that Lula, ousted President Dilma Rousseff, and the Brazilian people “will always have Cuba at their side.”

The response among the left has been swift. Workers across Brazil are responding to mobilization calls from Brazil’s trade unions, grassroots organizations and left parties to defend Lula and democracy in Brazil. Thousands have converged at the steelworkers union offices in São Bernardo do Campo to form a human blockade to protect Lula, who is presently inside. As many as 37 major highway blockades have been reported across the country, including in the states of Goiás, Alagoas, Bahia, Rio Grande do Norte, Espírito Santo and Paraíba, where a protester was shot and wounded. Protesters have gathered in the streets of São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and other major cities.

The Central Única dos Trabalhadores (Brazil’s largest trade union federation), Movimento dos Trabalhadores Sem Terra (Landless Workers Movement), Movimento dos Trabalhadores Sem Teto (Movement of the Workers Without Shelter), together with several left parties, are actively calling on their political base to join the mobilizations.

Lula, a former steelworker and union leader, helped organized massive strikes in the late 1970s challenging the military dictatorship that ruled the country. During his two-term presidency from 2003 to 2011, poverty in Brazil was vastly reduced through internationally acclaimed social programs that provided a basic income and subsidized housing for millions, and helped youth of color from impoverished communities gain access to higher education.

Lula’s criminal conviction on unsubstantiated corruption charges is part and parcel of the right-wing campaign to crush the Brazilian left generally and the Workers’ Party specifically. The Brazilian elites ousted president Dilma Rousseff through a political coup in 2016 that they hoped would cement their rule. Less than two years later, coup president Michel Temer polls at around 5 percent approval, and Lula has been the projected winner of the October elections under all scenarios. Lula’s conviction and arrest are aimed squarely at preventing poor and working-class Brazilians from having a voice in the country’s political future.

This is a critical and dangerous time for Brazil, with an ever-growing possibility of military intervention looming. The PSL salutes all Brazilians who are putting their lives on the line to defend their hard-earned political rights, and supports their right to freely choose their next president.