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DEBATE

Supreme Court verdict that ex-president Lula can go to jail divides Brazil

EVARISTO SA / AFP | Supporters of Brazilian former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva gather as the Supreme Court of Justice deliberates on whether Lula da Silva should start a 12 year prison sentence for corruption, in Brasilia on April 4, 2018.

Former Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was on the verge of going to prison Thursday after the Supreme Court rejected his bid to delay a 12-year sentence for corruption in a ruling that split the country and upended October's election.

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The ruling means that Lula will likely be barred from standing in this year’s presidential election in October, in which he is leading the polls despite sharply dividing public opinion.

“There are so many cases of horrible corruption [in Brazil], but we don’t really hear people crying against other politicians, so I think the matter here is not corruption itself,” said Gabriella Pelligrino Soares, history professor at the University of Sao Paolo, said on FRANCE 24’s The Debate programme.

Alfredo Saad-Filho, professor of political economy at SOAS, University of London, agreed. “This is vindictive justice; this is lawfare – the use of justice to pursue individuals in the name of a political programme,” he said.

However, Daniel Lansberg-Rodriguez, lecturer at Northwestern University in Chicago, demurred, adding that “there is an extent to which the problem in Brazil is systemic: you have a legislature which has 40 parties, where no one can actually dominate without getting a lot of other parties than their own on board, and the way that that has managed to be done since Lula came to power […] was through graft."

Paolo Sotero, Director of the Brazil Institute at the Wilson Center think-tank in Washington D.C., agreed, noting that “five of the six judges who voted to deny habeas corpus to president Lula were nominated to the Supreme Court by Lula or his successor, Dilma Rousseff. A potential candidate has been removed – president Lula – as a consequence of legislation that he signed into law in 2010, that makes convicted criminals ineligible for office”.

Click on the player above to watch the full debate.

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