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Lula, Brazil’s Top Polling Presidential Hopeful Launches Candidacy from Jail

Lula being embraced just before going to jail - Photo: Ricardo Stuckert

Electoral authorities have to determine if the embattled ex-president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s controversial candidacy is legal, given his criminal conviction. Lula is the current frontrunner in the October elections.

The Brazilian Workers Party (PT) registered the former president last week as their candidate for the upcoming presidential elections, despite the fact that he is in jail.

Some 10,000 PT members marched to the Supreme Electoral Court in Brasilia, where top party officials filled out Lula’s candidacy paperwork.

Former Mayor of São Paulo, Fernando Haddad, was registered as Lula’s running mate. He would likely serve as the PT’s presidential candidate if Lula is not able to participate in the October 7 elections.

The Brazilian ex-president is currently in jail serving a 12-year sentence for corruption, in a case that has deeply divided the country.

Electoral authorities will have until September 17 to issue a ruling on whether Lula can be a candidate, less than a month before the vote. But he is expected to be barred as Brazilian law does not allow people with criminal records to run for president.

Leading in the Polls

Haddad and PT (Workers Party) President Gleisi Hoffmann addressed the crowd that had gathered and read a letter from Lula out loud.

“I registered my candidacy for the presidency of the republic…, certain that I can do a lot to pull Brazil from one of its worst crises in history,” the former president wrote.

Lula was defiant in the face of the uncertainty over his candidacy’s chances. “I will only not be a candidate if I die, give up or am ripped from the race by electoral authorities,” he said.

“I don’t expect to die. I will not give up. And I will fight for my rights in the electoral justice system until the end,” he added.

Despite the charges against him, Lula is the current frontrunner in October’s presidential election, with 30 percent of voters saying they would cast a ballot for him. But he remains a divisive figure, with simultaneously high negative ratings.

Lula’s supporters view the former president believe as a political prisoner and victim of right-wing efforts to keep him from coming back to the political arena. He is revered by many for his humble beginnings and a presidential tenure that focused on the poor and working classes.

Many of the supporters who attended the event wore red shirts, the PT’s color, and chanted “free Lula!” Party boss Gleisi Hoffmann told those gathered that Lula was a presidential candidate “in the name of the people and because the people want it.”

The Brazilian former president was convicted of trading favors with Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht, which allegedly promised him a beachfront apartment.

His case was part of the “Car Wash” probe, one of the biggest corruption scandals in Latin America, in which prosecutors allege that government officials in Brazil and other countries in the region systematically exchanged favors and state contracts for bribes and campaign contributions from the powerful firm.

The investigation has shaken Brazil’s political system and put dozens of powerful people in jail, including some of the country’s richest men.

DW

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