Em entrevista ao jornal britânico, o ex-presidente afirmou que Operação Lava Jato tem como objetivo o condenar e impedir sua candidatura à presidência em 2018
O ex-presidente Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, durante entrevista concedida ao jornalista Jonathan Watts, do jornal britânico The Guardian, afirmou que a Operação Lava Jato tem como objetivo o condenar, evitando que se candidate para presidência da República nas próximas eleições, em 2018.
Sobre as investigações e a possibilidade de processos criminais, Lula soa confiante: “As conquistas dos últimos 13 anos não serão perdidas com o fato de eu ser processado ou não. Não pretendo mudar o que eu sou. E eu fui o melhor presidente da história do Brasil”, disse.
Lula não é pré-candidato às eleições ainda e já disse, em outras ocasiões, que um candidato mais novo, “apoiado pelas forças da esquerda” seria o ideal. Além disso, o ex-presidente aponta que teria que concorrer com ele mesmo.
Confira o texto integral de Jonathan Watts:
‘There is no crime’: Brazil’s ex-president keeps faith in party and justice system
On the night Brazil’s lower house voted to impeach the country’s president Dilma Rousseff, she watched the proceedings on television with her predecessor in office, Luiz Ignácio Lula da Silva.
Rousseff appeared calm throughout and even ordered popcorn. But Lula – an unapologetically emotional man – broke into tears at least three times.
“It was very sad. I suffered a lot,” the Workers’ party founder recalled in an interview with the Guardian. “I saw the project to transform this country falling apart.”
Once a beacon of hope for a fairer global society, the Workers’ party that Lula founded is being decapitated, and its achievements over 13 years of government in alleviating poverty, increasing access to education and boosting healthcare spending are unravelling as a result of recession and budget cuts.
When he left office in 2010, Lula – as he is universally known – was the world’s most popular president, a charismatic figurehead of a newly confident developing world and the architect of a democratic, centre-left project to reduce inequality in Brazil.
Since then, however, the economy has deteriorated, the global political winds have changed direction from cooperation to competition, and a vast anti-corruption investigation in Brazil has claimed swathes of senior politicians, including several of Lula’s allies.
Today, he knows he could be put on trial any day. The former president is the target of at least four criminal investigations; his private phone calls have been secretly recorded and leaked to the media; police have briefly detained him for questioning. His successor, Roussef,f has been suspended, impeached and so undermined by the interim centre-right government that even though she is still officially president of Brazil, friends have started a crowdfunding campaign to pay for her travel expenses.
The downfall of the Workers’ party government has been of Shakespearean proportions, though whether Lula is the victim or the villain remains a subject of fierce debate.
The question of who is to blame splits the country largely on political fault lines. The right claims Lula is a King Lear-like figure who authored his own demise through economic mismanagement, political mistakes and by fostering a culture of corruption throughout the state sector. The left portray him more as an Othello, a great leader undermined by treachery.
Mass protests earlier this year suggest many voters were tired of a politician and a party that failed to meet rising expectations and became enmeshed in a system they had promised to change.
Lula sees things differently. He believes the Workers’ party’s emphasis on the poor, redistribution policies and increased spending on public education and health were resented by a political class that had grown used to having thing their way.
“I sincerely believe this bothered a lot of people. There are now more (newly middle class people) in the streets, in theatres, in airports. Part of the elite don’t want to share,” he says.
The leaks and investigations, as he sees them, are part of a plot to remove the Workers’ party and to prevent him from running again for president in two years’ time.
“I believe there is an arrangement between some parts of the media, the prosecutors’ office and the police to destroy my image,” he says. “It is all with one objective: to convict Lula. [There are people who believe] ‘we cannot allow this man to run in 2018’.”
Given the broader regional context of recent election defeats for leftwing governments in Argentina, Venezuela and Bolivia, some on the left go further. They see darker forces at work, including plots by the CIA.
But Lula dismisses suggestions the United States is involved in conspiracies to undermine leftwing leaders in the region . “I don’t believe it,” he says. “Venezuelans have reason to suspect the US because of the coup [that briefly removed Hugo Chávez] in 2002 … But I think the brothers in Venezuela are making a mistake. They need dialogue with all sectors of society.”
Lula was a close ally of Chávez and of Nestor Kirchner in Argentina. Earlier this year, he reached for a football metaphor to describe the three of them in their heyday as the “Messi, Neymar and Suárez” of the Latin American left.
I lost three elections, but I respected the people’s choice of the winner. But the right won’t wait
Luiz Ignácio Lula da Silva
Unlike his Venezuelan counterpart, however, Lula preferred negotiation to confrontation and refused to amend the constitution so he could run endlessly for office. Instead, he stood down at the end of his second term and let Rousseff take his place. “I’ve said many times that the most important thing in a democracy is a change in power. I didn’t run for a third (consecutive) term. I don’t believe in people who can’t be replaced. That’s how dictatorship is born.”
This makes him all the more frustrated at the way the Workers’ party has been pushed from power although it has not been beaten in a national election since 1998. In 2014, it won another four-year presidential mandate. Yet less than half way through that term, it has been forced out.
“I lost three elections, but I respected the people’s choice of the winner,” he said. “But the right won’t wait.”
He has not yet given up hope that Rousseff can make a comeback. To survive in the final vote on 17 August, she needs to persuade six senators to change their minds. It sounds like a small number, but Lula acknowledges they will require a huge amount of convincing. Although he doesn’t say it directly, he seems exasperated that Rousseff does not put up more of a fight.
“Dilma needs to say what will happen in Brazil if she returns to the presidency. She has to say what she will do that will be new, how she will build new political relationships. She must say that. I can’t. She must make people believe.”
There has been constant speculation of a rift between Lula and Rousseff, particularly on the right. One former president, Fernando Henrique Cordoso, told the Guardian Lula’s biggest mistake was his choice of successor. Another former president, José Sarney, was secretly recorded saying Lula had told him much the same thing. The plea-bargainer Delcídio do Amaral suggested the relationship between the two Workers’ party leaders is competitive. Adding fuel to this talk was Lula’s decision not to join other senior party members at a farewell press conference for Rousseff at the Planalto presidential palace.
Lula, however, insists he has no regrets. “I’m proud of nominating Dilma and getting her elected,” he says.
It is Lula, however, who has generated the greatest passions. Polls suggest he is still the most popular politician in Brazil, with a 21% support rate, narrowly ahead of the former environment minister Marina Silva, on 19%, and the former pro-business presidential candidate Aécio Neves, on 17%. Rousseff barely scrapes 10%, and the interim president, Michel Temer, according to the most recent survey, has an approval rating of 13%.
Lula – a deeply divisive figure – also has the highest rejection rate of any politician, but he remains the focus of Workers’ party hopes. Many hope he will run and win again. He says the decision will be up to the party.
“I’d like someone else to run. I left with an 87% approval rating. I was the best president in the history of Brazil. It is almost mission impossible to try to repeat that performance. I’d have to compete against myself.”
The decision will also be up to the judges. Lula is the prime target of the Lava Jato (Car Wash) investigation into corruption at the state-run oil company Petrobras. Prosecutors have uncovered a mountain of evidence that directors at Petrobras and other state-owned companies paid over the odds to contractors in return for kickbacks and campaign donations to politicians and parties in the ruling coalition.
Lula’s supporters argue this common practice was ethically ugly but not illegal, adding that it predated the Workers’ party and applied to all the other parties and also private sector deals. Critics say that under Lula, corruption was systematised and elevated to new levels.
There is a reason for that. Unlike the right, the Workers’ party could not call on the private sector to provide the huge campaign funds needed to win elections and buy support in congress. The best that can be said of this is that it was corruption for ideological rather than personal goals. The worst is that it ran utterly contrary to the party’s promise to clean up politics. Instead, the Workers’ party was sucked into the mire.
Lula claims the issue is simply one of campaign funding and could best be cleared up by reform.
“Why don’t they investigate how all political parties raise funds?” the former president says. “The way it has been done, you get the impression that all the money for the PT [Workers’ party] is dirty, and all the money to the PSDB [the rightwing Brazilian Social Democratic party] is clean.”
But regardless of the claim of double standards, shouldn’t Lula – as the former leader of the country and the party who benefited politically from this system – be held responsible for endemic corruption that cheated the public out of billions of reais? That is the charge that has been made by prosecutors, who allege Lula was the mastermind of the illegal Petrobras scheme.
There is nobody in Brazil as tranquil as me. If I face trial, we’ll know whether (the allegations) are true or not
The former president insists this is based on a mistaken assumption.
“There is the theory that ‘the boss must know’ or that we are guilty of incompetence [for not knowing]. But there is no crime,” he claims.
This is not the only threat from investigators. The most advanced case against him is that he obstructed justice and set in motion an attempt to buy off a potential witness against him. The plea-bargainer Amaral told the Guardian he had testified that Lula asked him to “help out” a former Petrobras director, Nestor Cervero, who was arrested last year. This led first to payments to the detained man’s family and then to discussions about how to get him out of the country by plane or boat. Lula says Amaral is lying. “He’s built a fantasy narrative to help himself,” he says, arguing that the judge’s use of preventive detentions to secure plea-bargains is bound to produce distorted testimonies.
Several of these cases are now in the hands of Sergio Moro, a Curitiba-based judge who has become a nationwide celebrity thanks to his willingness to imprison rich and powerful people who were previously able to enjoy impunity. Moro has a reputation for working quickly and ignoring reputations. Many of Lula’s family members and friends fear Moro will soon put the former president on trial.
Lula claims he faces the prospect with equanimity because he believes in the Brazilian justice system.
“There is nobody in Brazil who is as tranquil as me,” he says. “If I face trial, we’ll know whether [the allegations against me] are true or not.”
At 70 years of age, the Brazilian Workers’ party founder may feel he has earned the right to be sanguine. He has experienced far worse. He was brought up in such abject poverty that he sometimes lacked enough to eat as a child. His brother was jailed and tortured during the dictatorship era. He fought alongside British miners in their failed challenge to Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s. He lost three presidential elections before a historic win in 2002. More recently, he underwent chemotherapy for throat cancer.
Despite the legal Sword of Damocles hanging over him, Lula feels his place in history is secure. “The major achievements of the past 13 years will not be lost whether I’m on trial or not,” he says. “I don’t plan to change what I am. I was the best [president] ever.”
Foto: Ricardo Stuckert / Instituto Lula