The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) urged workers around the world to stand in solidarity with Luis Inácio Lula da Silva, Brazil’s Workers Party nominee for president, who is under attack by the country’s financial oligarchy.
A Brazilian appeals court on January 24 will rule on whether Lula, as his is known, can run for president in 2018.
Polls show that Lula is the most popular politician in Brazil and would likely win Brazil’s October election for president.
To stop him from becoming president, the government, which is controlled by an oligarchy-friendly president, legislature, and judiciary, charged him with corruption.
The charges, which Lula says are false, are based on allegations that he took bribes while serving as Brazil’s president between 2003 and 2011.
Mark Weisbrot in an opinion piece appearing in the New York Times writes that “the evidence against Mr. da Silva is far below the standards that would be taken seriously in, for example, the United States’ judicial system.”
ITUC’s Sharon Burrow in a widely distributed e-mail said that the actions against Lula seem eerily reminiscent of Brazil’s period of dictatorship between 1964 and 1985.
“Lula’s lawyers have listed a number of violations of fundamental rights in the campaign against him, including deprivation of liberty, illegal phone tapping and leaking of correspondence, interception of his communications with his lawyers, the presumption of guilt without any evidence or trial, and the absence of an unbiased judge and of fair legal proceedings,” writes Burrow. “Powerful forces in Brazil are seeking to turn the clock back, undoing the progress his government made and returning the country into the hands of a small but all-powerful elite.”
Brazil’s drift away from democracy began in 2016 when Lula’s democratically elected successor Dilma Rousseff was ousted by what ITUC calls “a group of corrupt politicians led by Michel Temer.”
Rousseff says that she was ousted because she refused to implement austerity measures that the country’s financial elite were demanding.
Temer succeeded her and, with the help of a legislature stacked with supporters of the financial elite, imposed a 20-year austerity program that slashed spending on health care, education, and social welfare, cut pensions, and reduced labor standards.
The Guardian reports that Temer’s austerity policies switched government spending priorities away from the working class and toward the country’s creditors, both national and international financial institutions.
The austerity measures sparked widespread unrest and dissatisfaction with government.
Lula decided to run for president in order to reverse the austerity measures and re-establish government policies that helped working people.
While he was president, Brazil increased spending on health care and education and implemented policies aimed at lifting low-wage workers out of poverty.
Two of his most notable policies were the Bolsa Familia, which provided a basic income for low-wage workers and free education for their children, and the Fome Zero, a wide-ranging social development program aimed at eliminating food shortages for working class people.
Lula’s pro-working class policies, according to ITUC, lifted 30 million people out of poverty.
As the appeals court prepares to make its decision, there is mounting tension in Brazil’s major cities. The government has called the Army in hopes of discouraging street protests that might erupt.
Burrow said that international solidarity has never been more important, not just for Lula but for Brazil’s working class.
“The Brazilian people have seen the possible. With the leadership of Lula, the taste of shared prosperity gave everyone hope,” said Burrow. “Yet since Temer’s business cronies took the reins, 22 million people are now under the poverty line and one in every five families have no income! This is unbelievable in a rich country.
“The elite and the corrupt of this nation cannot be respected if we are serious about healing our fractured world, about peace, democracy and human rights. The international labor movement stands with Lula for the fight for the Brazilian people and their democracy.”