“The word ‘give up’ does not exist in my dictionary. I learned from my mother: ‘always struggle’,” said former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in the main office of the ABC Metalworkers’ Union, which is situated in São Bernardo do Campo in the metropolitan region of São Paulo. His address occurred on 10 March after the annulment of the sentences he received related to the Operation Car Wash case in the 13th Federal Court of Curitiba in the state of Paraná. The decision, made on 8 March, was published by Justice Edson Fachin of the Supreme Federal Court.
People voiced their support for the ex-president on social media and by shouting greetings to Lula from their windows in cities like São Paulo.
With the annulment of the convictions, Lula recovers his political rights and is eligible to be a candidate for public office in the upcoming presidential elections that are expected to take place in the second half of 2022.
However, Lula did not confirm that he will be the presidential candidate in his speech. “Now the PT [the Workers’ Party of Brazil] must send its leaders across the country to discuss with the people about the economy, vaccines, emergency aid, the employment question. Right now I don’t even have time to think about 2022 candidacy,” he said.
Lula affirmed that he was the “victim of a great lie committed in the legal system” that took him out of the presidential race in 2018 and kept him in prison for 580 days. The former president also reminded people of Marisa Letícia, his former partner, who died on 3 February 2017. “She died due to pressure, the stroke came early. I was prohibited even from visiting my brother when he was in a coffin. So if there is a Brazilian that has reason to have many, deep grudges, it’s me. But I do not. I sincerely do not. Because the suffering faced by the Brazilian people right now, what the poor people are going through in this country, is infinitely worse than any crime that they committed against me.”
About Operation Car Wash, which condemned Lula for alleged crimes of corruption, Lula criticised the judge overseeing the ruling at the time, Sérgio Moro, who later became the minister of justice of President Jair Bolsonaro.
“We are going to continue fighting so that Moro is considered as a suspect. He does not have the right to become the biggest liar in the history of Brazil and then become a hero. I am certain that today he is probably suffering even more than what I suffered,” said the ex-president, who accused the media of having “signed an agreement” with Operation Car Wash.
Criticism of Bolsonaro government
The government of Bolsonaro was criticised by Lula. “I need to speak with you about the situation in this country. It would be an error on my part to not mention that Brazil did not have to go through this. Many people are suffering. This is why I want to express my solidarity with the victims of coronavirus and the healthcare workers. And above all, the heroes of the SUS [national Brazilian healthcare system] that were even politically discredited. If it wasn’t for the SUS, we would have lost many more people to coronavirus.”
The ex-president called on Brazilians to take the vaccine against Covid-19: “Do not follow any imbecile decision of the president of the republic or the health minister. Get vaccinated.”
Adding to his sharp criticisms of Bolsonaro’s administration, he said: “This country does not have a government, it does not take care of the economy, of employment, of the salary, of health, of the environment, of education, and it does not take care of the youth in the peripheries of the cities. So what do they take care of?”
In one part of Lula’s address, he extended thanks for the support that he received during the time when he was put on trial and detained in the federal police station in Curitiba. “Prison was not the suffering that I thought it would be. I do not know of anyone else in history that had so much support. I have to thank the trade union movement and the landless workers’ movement,” Lula highlighted, remembering the Free Lula vigil outside the police station that was maintained for the 580 days of his time in prison.
Argentina drew special attention from Lula. “I cannot forget to thank President Alberto Fernández, who had the decency, against the extreme right, and the courage to go to the federal police station in Curitiba to visit me. I even told him to not give an interview so he would not suffer. He told me: ‘Lula, I do not have a problem with what the right wing will say. I came here to be in solidarity with you because you are suffering the worst political injustice that has happened in Latin America.’”
Lula also spoke of another Argentine. “I also extend thanks to our dear Pope Francisco. He sent someone to see me in Curitiba with a letter that the Federal Police did not allow to enter. I only later received the letter from the pope. In addition, the pope made statements on several occasions.”
Other political leaders were also mentioned, such as the former president of Uruguay, Pepe Mujica, United States senator Bernie Sanders and the mayor of Paris, Ana Hidalgo.
While responding to questions, he also thanked the Cuban president, Miguel Díaz-Canel, and the Venezuelan president, Nicolás Maduro, for their solidarity. He also criticised the US for interfering with the sovereignty of these countries. “I think that the Americans should not get involved in Venezuela, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, in Brazil, in Cuba. The Americans should just deal with their country and leave each one to take care [of their own country]. The issues of democracy in Venezuela pertain to the Venezuelan people.”