A Brazilian appeals court is set to decide tomorrow on whether to uphold the conviction of former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva on corruption and money laundering charges. Lula was sentenced to a nine-and-a-half year sentence last July, part of the sprawling Operation Car Wash investigation into graft at state-owned oil company Petrobras.
If the conviction is upheld he will be in-eligible to run for president in October's election, reports Reuters. The historic decision could remove voters' favorite from the running and highlights the country's political fragility, according to the BBC. Early polling shows that 36 percent of voters favor Lula. Nonetheless, the legal battle could well continue until September, notes the Washington Post.
In fact, if the conviction is upheld, Lula can take the case to the Supreme Court, and the battle could feasibly extend beyond the election itself, potentially rendering him ineligible after a win, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Authorities in Puerto Alegre are bracing for upheaval tomorrow: they have have closed airspace over the court, sealed off the surrounding streets, and plan to deploy helicopters, elevated observation platforms and even rooftop sharpshooters, reports the Guardian. The appeals court has confirmed 95 percent of the convictions and sentences handed down by crusading anti-corruption judge Sergio Moro, who sentenced Lula.
A decision that prevents Lula from running, while permitting other candidates who are also suspected of wrongdoing, would be detrimental and could provoke backlash, Peter Hakim, the president-emeritus of the Inter-American Dialogue told Bloomberg. Former President Dilma Rousseff, ousted in 2016, went further, saying a decision against Lula would make Brazil ungovernable. "Any government that assumes power by winning the 2018 elections, without a transparent and correct electoral process, without maneuvers to invalidate candidates -- as in Lula's case -- will not be able to govern this country," Rousseff told AFP.
Weisbrot reviews what he calls "scanty" evidence against Lula. The charismatic former leader says the charges against him are politically motivated, a trial against his government and the socially favorable policies he championed. The case itself demonstrates the polarization of Brazilian society, according to Reuters: Lula supporters say the charges are trumped up, while opponents demand for him to be put in jail.
Though the decision to uphold the sentence could mean jail-time for the former president, analysts say its likely the 72-year-old will be permitted to continue the appeals process in freedom, reports the Washington Post.
Markets have been rallying as investors hope that Lula will be taken out of the running, clearing the way for a more moderate candidate, reports Reuters.
The case will be the biggest test yet for the watershed Clean Record law, passed under Lula's administration in 2010, which blocks convicted criminals from running for office, reports the WSJ.
Americas Quarterly's latest edition has a timely piece by former prosecutor Rodrigo Janot focusing on the lessons of Operation Car Wash.
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