Monday, July 9, 2018

Judicial wrangling over Lula (July 9, 2018)

Former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva -- serving a 12-year prison sentence for a corruption conviction -- was the center of a legal battle between judges yesterday, who disputed whether he should be released. (El País

The move to liberate voters' favorite for October's presidential election was ultimately blocked by the chief justice of the TRF-4 appeals court, who granted a request from prosecutors to end the legal uncertainty and keep Lula in prison. (Reuters) The dueling positions over the former president fired up supporters and opposition, who accused the judiciary of acting politically. (El País)

Lula is a strong favorite in October's presidential election, though a law prohibiting people from running for eight years after a corruption conviction will likely bar him from running. The electoral authorities who must determine that ruling cannot do so until September, after the PT officially registers Lula as its presidential candidate -- creating tensions in a race that is otherwise wide open. (Los Angeles Times)

Página 12 and the BBC recount the quick moving plays yesterday, all in the context of the three month judicial holiday that has most judges on vacation. TRF4 judge Rogerio Favreto is on duty this month, and yesterday morning ordered Lula's release in response to an habeas corpus petition presented on Friday by Workers' Party lawmakers. Favreto found that Lula has the right to participate in television debates and campaign acts ahead of October's election. He argued that Lula should be free to campaign while he appeals the conviction, in order to protect the democratic process. Two hours later Judge Sergio Moro -- who is hierarchically below Favreto and was off-duty -- sent a resolution challenging Favreto's authority to release Lula, commanding police authorities to await a legal resolution. He was later backed by another member of TRF4, also on holiday. In the afternoon Favreto ratified his original decision and gave police one hour to release Lula. At 8 pm yesterday the head of TRF-4 blocked the release. 

In the wake of the attempt to liberate Lula, critics are pointing to Favreto's PT ties, though El País notes that most high-profile Brazilian judges have ties to political parties. Lula and his supporters maintain that the corruption case against him is politically motivated. Lula's opponents say the whole move can be chalked up to an attempt to get the case before a favorable judge. (New York Times.)

Since Lula was jailed in April, the PT has filed appeals in numerous courts, including the Supreme Court, though all have been denied so far. (Bloomberg)

News Briefs

  • Rioters kept Port-au-Prince in a virtual state of siege for three days after Haiti's government announced steep fuel price increases on Friday. Protesters blocked roads with trees and rocks, as well as piles of burning tires. Looters stripped some supermarkets that were burned down. Prime Minister Jack Guy Lafontant announced the temporary suspension of the price hikes on Saturday, but failed to quell unrest. Yesterday many protesters demanded the immediate departure of President Jovenel Moise. The decision to raise prices -- gas was to go up by 38 percent, diesel by 47 percent and kerosene by 51 percent -- was part of an IMF agreement aimed at increasing government revenue. Observers also point to dissatisfaction with social problems. The unrest left tourists and volunteer groups stranded due to blocked roads and cancelled flights, though most airlines resumed yesterday evening.  (Miami HeraldDeutsche WelleWashington Post and Reuters)
  • On Saturday, President Daniel Ortega appeared to rule out early elections as a solution to the country's ongoing political crisis, after three months of protests and violent repression. He pinned the unrest criminals, murderers, torturers and terrorists angling to oust him. (Guardian) Yesterday Matagalpa bishop Monsignor Rolando Álvarez accused Ortega and his wife, vice president Rosario Murillo, of carrying out a cleansing operation at a "price of blood and death." Álvarez is a moderator in the negotiation process mediated by the Catholic Church, reports Confidencial.
U.S. Diplomacy
  • Ecuador diplomats say they were threatened by the U.S. with trade measures and withdrawal of military aid in order to force them to drop a resolution supporting breast feeding in the World Health Organization. The measure was expected to pass easily, but the U.S. sought to support the interests of infant formula manufacturers, reports the New York Times.
  • President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador created a coalition of disparate characters from across the political spectrum, and was backed by a broad majority of Mexicans in last week's elections. Now he must marshal all these characters -- many political neophytes -- into a coherent government that doesn't betray the Morena party's leftist leanings, according to the Washington Post.
  • The New York Times profiles Mexico's political shift in Atlacomulco, a municipality that elected a non PRI mayor for the first time since 1929.
  • Mexican authorities extradited Dámaso López, known as El Licenciado, to the U.S., where he faces charges of conspiring to distribute cocaine and commit money laundering and could face life imprisonment if convicted. (Guardian)
  • U.S. Border Patrol is moving further inland in attempts to detain migrants, as smugglers become increasingly sophisticated, reports the New York Times.
  • Victims fear a cases linking former President Álvaro Uribe and his brother Santiago to paramilitary groups could languish now that Uribe's handpicked candidate, Iván Duque, has won the country's presidency, reports the New York Times.
  • The already hobbled UNASUR regional bloc could be further undercut by loss of its Ecuador headquarters, reports the Associated Press.
  • Chile's university students are protesting against sexual harassment and sexual discrimination -- a movement that is translating more broadly to demands in support of access to safe abortion. A protest is planned on July 25. (Guardian)
More Brazil
  • The Guardian profiles Geovani Martins, a young literary sensation from Rio de Janeiro's favelas.
  • Friday's World Cup defeat is being chalked up as representative of a national malaise, according to the Guardian.

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