President Maduro and over fifty Venezuelan grassroots movements have voiced their solidarity with popular leftist former President Lula da Silva.
Ex-President Lula is carried by supporters before handing himself over to the police. (Rodrigo Capote / Bloomberg)
Merida, April 9, 2018, (venezuelanalysis.com) – President Nicolas Maduro led a multitude of Venezuelan voices who spoke out this weekend in solidarity with the Brazilian people following the imprisonment of the presidential candidate Luis Inacio “Lula” da Silva.
“What is going on in Brazil is a coup d’état,” Maduro declared during a ceremony broadcast on state television Saturday.
Widely viewed as a favorite to win Brazil’s October presidential elections, Lula turned himself in to police Saturday, accompanied by tens of thousands of supporters, following a two-day stand-off in the metal workers union headquarters in Sao Paolo, where the ex-president got his start as a grassroots union organizer.
“First [the Brazilian right-wing] ousted the constitutional President Dilma Rousseff with a parliamentary coup and now they want to imprison Lula da Silva because he is leading in the polls,” Maduro added, referring to the controversial impeachment proceeding that removed elected President Rousseff from office in 2016.
A warrant was issued for Lula’s arrest after Brazil’s Supreme Court issued a controversial ruling Thursday that the leftist presidential hopeful could be jailed despite constitutional guarantees stipulating that the accused have the right to exhaust their appeals in freedom. The ruling was preceded by a highly publicized warning against “impunity” by the Brazilian military, which was widely condemned as an attempt to influence the verdict.
Lula was sentenced to ten years last August for allegedly accepting a US$1 million renovation to a luxury beachfront apartment that he does own and never visited, a sentence which was upheld and extended to twelve years in January. There is no material evidence linking Lula to the apartment, and Lavo Jato chief prosecutor Sergio Mora has been accused of pursuing politically motivated anti-corruption investigations against leftist Brazilian leaders in coordination with the US Justice Department. Lula has proclaimed his innocence and is appealing the conviction.
The former president of Brazil from 2003 to 2010, Lula is a candidate for the center-left Workers Party (PT), which he helped found in the 1980s in opposition to the country’s military dictatorship. He is currently leading polls, but it is unclear how is imprisonment will affect his candidacy.
The current government of Michel Temer, which assumed control of the country following the 2016 ouster of Rousseff, is highly unpopular due to the imposition of a series of neoliberal economic measures, including a constitutional amendment freezing social spending for twenty years. Many of the cabinet are currently being investigated for corruption.
Following Lula’s surrender to police, ex-bus driver Maduro took to Twitter in defense of the Brazilian leftist leader.
“Lula is an honest man who comes from the factories… a democratic and moral leader who is committed to the people,” he declared.
The imprisonment of Lula is “a criminal persecution by the neo-fascist oligarch elite” and “an oppressive and dirty trick,” added Maduro. “This injustice hurts us in our soul.”
But Maduro was just one voice of a growing chorus of Venezuelan popular movements expressing solidarity with Lula.
On Friday, more than fifty Venezuelan grassroots organizations signed a manifesto of support with Lula, the Brazilian people, and the country’s popular mass movements who back him.
The declaration calls for “support[ing] the resistance of the Brazilian workers and social movements” and condemns “the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie which has been installed in Brazil… which looks to extinguish the insurgent and unified national flame of the Brazilian people.”
It was signed following a demonstration in Caracas in front of the Brazilian embassy by a range of popular organisations, including community TV station ALBA TV, the Clara Zetkin women’s movement, the Bolivar and Zamora Revolutionary Current, numerous trade unions, ecological collectives, student groups, and anti-imperialist organisations.
Venezuela’s United Socialist Party (PSUV) also released a communiquearticulating its “complete solidarity with our companion Lula,” as well as denouncing the unpopular economic measures of de facto President Michel Temer.
“Temer isn’t just deploying a neoliberal plan which is doing away with the social conquests achieved during the democratic governments of Lula and Dilma, but he is also part of a plan which looks to take Brazil back to the [dictatorial] times which seemed to be over,” it claimed.
The Communist Party of Venezuela also voiced its solidarity with the “Brazilian revolutionary movement” in light of the events in Sao Paolo.
In its weekly press conference, the party stressed that Lula’s imprisonment “should be a wakeup call for the revolutionary movement in our country of what may happen should the right win the upcoming elections.”
Trade unions in Venezuela, including the Bolivarian Centre of Workers (CBST) confederation, have also made their voices heard, stressing Lula’s origins as a metalworker’s union leader.
“We add our voice to the rest of the political organisations of the working class and popular movements of the continent in defence of sovereignty and self-determination and against exploitation and imperialism,” reads a press release from the Venezuelan government workers’ union SINTRASDE.
“We declare ourselves to be on combative and proletarian alert alongside the Workers Party of Brazil,” the union added.
Venezuela’s Foreign Ministry likewise issued a formal statement expressing the Maduro’s government’s “absolute solidarity” with Lula on Sunday.
Full text of the “Manifesto of Popular Movements against the Unjust Decision of the Brazilian Coup which Imprisoned Lula”
We, the below signed popular and social movements of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, express our deepest rejection of the ruthless attack against our comrade Lula Inacio da Silva by the extreme right of Brazil, who look to impede his imminent election as president and to extinguish the insurgent and unified national flame of the Brazilian people.
Likewise, we express our absolute and resolute solidarity with Lula and with the popular and social movements and organisations which continue to be on the streets in Brazil in defence of the sovereignty of the people. The events which they are living through in our South American sister republic is an example of the continued anti-democratic incursion into Brazil which looks to coerce the progress of the popular sectors, not just in Brazil, but in the whole continent.
We denounce the rupture of the democratic order in Brazil. The will of the people was pushed aside when [President] Dilma Rousseff was unconstitutionally removed [from office], and today justice and human rights suffer a mortal blow with the imprisonment of Lula, impeding that he be chosen the next president of the Federal Republic of Brazil.
Bearing all this in mind and considering the decision of the anti-democratic sectors of Brazil to imprison Lula, we call on all the Venezuelan social and popular movements to support the resistance of the Brazilian workers and social movements and to condemn the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie which has been installed in Brazil with the complicity of the Organisation of American States, which has made no declarations about this obvious rupture of the democratic order.
Today we have the duty to make ourselves heard in all possible areas, on the streets and on social media, we must cry out with dignity that the Venezuelan people join the Brazilian people in their fight against imperialism and for their sovereignty, as a people, and for the Great Nation of Bolivar, Chavez, and Fidel.
Edited and with additional reporting by Lucas Koerner from Caracas.