Lula to senators: “I will do everything to prove my innocence”

Brazil’s former president complains about isolation imposed by Federal Police, but keeps good relationship with agents

Brasil de Fato, en São Paulo |
11 members of the Senate’s Human Rights Commission have visited ex-president Lula at the Federal Police headquarters in Curitiba
11 members of the Senate’s Human Rights Commission have visited ex-president Lula at the Federal Police headquarters in Curitiba - Ricardo Stuckert

A delegation of members of the Human Rights Commission of the Brazilian Senate conducted a visit at the Federal Police headquarters in Curitiba on Tuesday (17), where Brazil's ex-president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has been held for a week, since judge Sérgio Moro issued an arrest warrant ordering that he start to serve a 12-year prison sentence while appealing his conviction.

After the visit, the senators said the facilities where Lula is – a room turned into a cell with a private bathroom and no bars – are appropriate and the work of the agents responsible for his safety is very professional. However, they complained about what they called “solitary confinement” that Lula has been kept in.

“We have a lot of visitor requests, as Lula has a lot of friends. The situation is barbaric. How is it possible that a former president who has not been tried in an appeals court, because he is still pending ruling by the Supreme Court, cannot receive visitors? What is that about? Is this a state of exception? This is blatantly infringing human rights,” said senator and Workers’ Party chair Gleisi Hoffmann. She pointed out that world-renowned personalities are waiting to receive permission to visit Lula, including Uruguay’s former president Pepe Mujica and Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, who has won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1980 for fighting for human rights during the military dictatorship in Argentina.

According to senator Paulo Paim, also a fellow member of Lula’s Workers’ Party, despite the isolation, the Brazilian ex-president can hear the speeches at the rallies held at the Free Lula camp, where 2,000 Lula supporters are camping outside the Federal Police building. Paim said the former president is feeling confident. “It was a remarkable, gratifying visit, because the [ex-]president seems to be feeling composed. He is concerned about the Brazilian people, the institutions, and everyone’s freedom, but not with his own,” Paim said.

The senator also said Lula had received numerous invitations to leave the country before his arrest warrant was issued, but he did not leave because he intends to do everything he can to prove his innocence. “I know why I am in prison: for what I did for the poor in this country,” Lula told Workers’ Party senator Lindbergh Farias. As the members of the delegation expressed their sadness in face of Lula’s imprisonment, the former president said: “I don’t want any tears!”

“Lula said the watchword is resistance,” senator Regina Souza, also from the Workers’ Party, told supporters at the pro-Lula camp. “So if the police come to take you out of here, pretend to leave, and then come back. Your ‘good morning’ chants to him are making all the difference,” Souza. The campers are singing chants of “good morning” and “good night” to the former president every day and night in front of the building where he is being held.

Senator João Capiberibe, from the Brazilian Socialist Party, will draft the report on the visit and said he will point out that Lula is not being granted the right to visits he is legally entitled to. “Tell me whether or not he is a political prisoner. A man who 30 or 35 percent of voters would vote for today. That’s something extremely rare in Brazil’s history. Our visit today was ordered by the Senate’s Human Rights Commission, but it is also a political visit, because Lula is a political prisoner.”

“If Lula weren’t the clear front-runner in the polls, would he be arrested? We are sure he would not. It’s been two years today since the coup [when president Dilma Rousseff was ousted], and the coup continues with Lula’s imprisonment,” said senator Vanessa Grazziotin, from Brazil’s Communist Party.

In addition to hearing pro-Lula activists and supporters outside the Federal Police facilities, the ex-president has been reading letters sent by people from all over Brazil to Curitiba, and also books. He has finished reading "A Elite do Atraso"[Backwards Elite] by Jessé de Souza, in which the sociologist argues that the corruption investigation that has led to Lula’s conviction, known as Operation Car Wash, is actually part of a plot to maintain wealth and power in the hands of the elite. Now, the former president is reading "Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow," by Israeli professor Yuval Harari.

Document theft

After the visit, the Workers’ Party Chair, Gleisi Hoffmann, also reported a crime committed the night before (16). One of Lula’s advisors had objects stolen from his car as he was taking clean clothes and bedclothes, letters from supporters, and documents to Brazil’s former president, including his passport. “Ex-president Lula has suffered harassment enough, and now his belongings are stolen. The law enforcement authorities of the state of Paraná have to carefully investigate this case. Maybe it was an ordinary case of theft, or maybe it was something else. Maybe someone has been following the [ex-]president’s advisor,” Hoffmann said.

Edited by: Diego Sartorato | Translated by: Aline Scátola