Hunger strikers lose 8-11 kg in 23 days of struggle for Lula's freedom

Doctors examined activists on Wednesday; some lost nearly 11 kg (25 pounds) since they started fasting

Leonardo Soares, one of the hunger strikers, during medical examination; health deteriorates as activists remain fasting / Michelle Calazans/CIMI Press Office

Doctors remain alert as the Hunger Strike For Justice in Brazil's Supreme Court reached the 23-day mark on Wednesday. Since the hunger strikers started fasting, taking only water and salt, some have lost 8 kilos (more than 17.5 pounds), while others lost 11 kilos (nearly 25 pounds).

The strikers demand that the country’s Supreme Court review petitions – called ADCs – that question the legality of imprisoning defendants after their conviction is upheld by an appeals court, but while their cases are still appealable in higher courts.

The matter directly impacts the situation of former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who has been in prison since Apr. 7 in Curitiba, southern Brazil, even though his case is still pending appeal. Lula maintains his lead in voter support for president in the country’s upcoming election.

According to community and family doctor Maria da Paz, the symptoms associated with long-term fasting are worsening now.

“The strikers are experiencing deep muscle pains and aches, as well as hypoglycemia [low blood sugar levels] and hypotension [low blood pressure],” she said.

Seven activists are staging the hunger strike: Friar Sérgio Gorgen, Rafaela Alves, Vilmar Pacífico, Jaime Amorim, Zonália Santos, Luiz “Gegê” Gonzaga Silva, and Leonardo Soares.

As every activist's body is different, the health of some of the protesters is deteriorating faster than others', even though all of them have been fasting for 23 days, except for Soares, who joined the hunger strike a week later.

In addition to outcrying the bias of the Supreme Court, the protest also exposes how hunger is rising again in the country and the poor are being neglected, as well as the rise of violence, especially against women, youth, and black and LGBT people. They also challenge public health issues, attacks on workers’ rights, and other topics they address in a manifesto released when they started the hunger strike.

Edition: Juca Guimarães | Translated by Aline Scátola