News Release

* France * Behind Lula’s Prison Sentence


DIANA JOHNSTONE, diana.johnstone at
Johnson is a U.S. political writer based in Paris, France. She focuses primarily on European politics and Western foreign policy. Her writings regularly appear at Counterpunch. Recent pieces include “Macron’s Mission: Save the European Union From Itself,” “The Single Party French State … as the Majority of Voters Abstain” and “Nuclear Weapons Ban? What Needs to be Banned Is U.S. Arrogance.”

Her father was Paul H. Johnstone, who for two decades was a senior analyst in the Strategic Weapons Evaluation Group in the Pentagon. His memoirs, with her commentary, was just published in the book From Mad to Madness: Inside Pentagon Nuclear War Planning. Edward S. Herman states: “In excellent background and updating accounts Diana Johnstone shows that no lessons have been learned from earlier mishaps and near misses; that with its new aggressiveness and upgrading of nuclear weapons the U.S. political class has opened a new round of nuclear madness.”

MARIA LUISA MENDONÇA, marialuisam222 at
Mendonça is coordinator of the Network for Social Justice and Human Rights in Brazil and director of the Feminist Alliance for Rights at the Center for Women’s Global Leadership at Rutgers University. She said today: “Most news stories about the sentence do not explain the actual case against former president Lula da Silva. Even when they quote his lawyers, they fail to include the most important point, which is the fact that there is no concrete evidence that Lula is the owner of an apartment that is portrayed as a key part of an alleged bribe to Lula by a construction company that is accused of involvement in a corruption scheme. A basic question for anyone who defends justice and democracy, independently of their political affiliation, should be: why is someone sentenced to nine and a half years in prison if the prosecutors were not able to produce concrete evidence of a crime? The fact that Lula is still the most popular politician in the country and is ahead in the polls for the 2018 presidential elections raises serious questions around the motivation behind his sentence.

“Similarly, president Dilma Rousseff — also of the Workers’ Party — was impeached last year even though there was no case of corruption against her. Her political opponents used a common budgetary practice observed under previous administrations to justify her impeachment. Even observers who disagree with the Workers Party’s positions need to look further into the specific cases targeting Workers’ Party leaders and ask whether their main purpose is to justify political maneuvers and undermine electoral democracy in Brazil.”

ALEXANDER MAIN, via Dan Beeton: beeton at
Main is senior associate for International Policy at the Center for Economic and Policy Research. He said today: “The sentencing of former president Lula da Silva to over nine years in jail, takes place against a backdrop of unpopular neoliberal reforms forced on the population by a corrupt, unelected government. The sentence against Lula has understandably dominated the news cycle and eclipsed another major piece of news: the Brazilian Congress’ decision to approve government sponsored labor reforms that will lead to the dismantling of workers’ rights in every sector of the economy. It will vastly reduce basic worker protections and job security by opening up all professions to temporary contracts, eliminating limits to the amount of hours that employees can be required to work, as well as other draconian modifications to existing labor laws.

“This is but one of a series of reforms that have taken place since president Dilma Rousseff was removed from office through an illegitimate impeachment process that allowed rightwing political forces to seize executive power and embark on an economic program rejected by a vast majority of Brazilians. Shortly after the impeachment, the government of Rousseff’s illegitimate successor Michel Temer pushed through a constitutional reform that will lead to major cuts in health, education and other public sector programs. Massive protests were met with violent state repression.

“Now, Brazil’s conservative sectors are intent on staying in power and reversing the progressive advances made in recent years. At this stage, only one politician poses a serious threat to their agenda: former president Lula da Silva who is currently the frontrunner in polls despite facing a relentless judicial campaign headed by Judge Sergio Moro. And so, while Lula faces a nearly ten-year sentence based on flimsy charges and no evidence, president Temer remains in power, even as concrete proof of his involvement in major bribery schemes has emerged in the press. Lula has appealed the sentence. The upcoming determination of the appeals court will provide an indication as to whether Brazilians can still trust the judicial system and whether there is still some prospect of a democratic future for the country.”