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Protesters in Brazil Demand Release of Lula da Silva

Demonstrations arise in Brazil demanding the release of former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva from prison on the first anniversary of his imprisonment.

Former President Lula da Silva, who held office from 2003 to 2010, was sentenced to 12 years in prison for charges of corruption and money laundering relating to lucrative contract deals with Petrobras, a state-owned oil company, in return for political and personal favors.

His imprisonment has proven to be a polarizing force in Brazilian politics. While some view his imprisonment as an act of justice against political corruption, others maintain that Lula da Silva is innocent and that he is the victim of a political persecution aimed at preventing his reelection.

Protesters gathered around the prison where Lula da Silva is jailed in the city of Curitiba. These demonstrators demanded the release of Lula from prison under the chant “Free Lula!” The protesters were also there to denounce the current president, Jair Bolsonaro.

Protesters demanding the release of Lula da Silva with signs that read, “Free Lula.”  Photo: Amanda Perobelli/ Reuters/  France24

Protesters demanding the release of Lula da Silva with signs that read, “Free Lula.”

Photo: Amanda Perobelli/ Reuters/ France24

Protester Ana Cristina Guilherme stated, “It is part of the same struggle. First they convicted him without evidence to remove him from the presidential election which he was going to win, and then they locked him up because they know what a powerful mobilizing force Lula is.”

Protests have erupted throughout the country in Brasilia, São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and Porto Alegre, and have even spread internationally to cities throughout Latin America and Europe.

The Folha newspaper published a letter written by Lula da Silva which he addressed to the public. The letter reads, “One year ago I was imprisoned unfairly, accused and condemned for a crime that never existed.” Lula da Silva concludes the letter with a final question, “Why are you so afraid of a free Lula, if you have already achieved your objective of impeding my election?”

On the other hand, there were also counter-protests throughout Brazil that celebrated Lula da Silva’s imprisonment as a victory over corruption. One protester in Rio de Janeiro’s Copacabana beach cheered, “Today marks one whole year that Lula hasn’t stolen!”

Yasmin Albudane, a university student, commented on her reason for participating in the counter-protests, “I’m here to call for the impeachment of the corrupt Supreme Court. As long as the court is corrupt, Lula and other corrupt politicians have a chance to be free.”

Presidential candidate Fernando Haddad of the Workers’ Party also commented that the political opposition that demanded the release of Lula de Silva “wouldn’t stop until they put possibly one of the worst Brazilians in the presidency and one of the best Brazilians in prison.” Haddad lost to Bolsonaro in the 2018 Presidential elections.

A demonstrator in Rio de Janeiro dressed up as Lula da Silva, protesting against corruption and celebrating his imprisonment. Photo: Raquel Cunha/ Reuters/  France 24

A demonstrator in Rio de Janeiro dressed up as Lula da Silva, protesting against corruption and celebrating his imprisonment. Photo: Raquel Cunha/ Reuters/ France 24

As of now, Lula da Silva is still scheduled to serve the remaining 11 years of his sentence in prison.