Mike Fox reports from Curitiba, Brazil, where former president Lula da Silva defended himself in court against corruption allegations for the first time
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MICHAEL FOX: Curitiba, Brazil. This week, it was ground zero in the grassroots fight to defend the Brazilian left. Thousands descended on the city. They came in hundreds of buses from around the country. The landless workers movement turned out en masse and camped for several nights. On Wednesday, social movements and unions marched across town. Speaker 2: Lula. Lula. MICHAEL FOX: Why? To defend former President Lula Da Silva. That day, Lula faced off against judge Sergio Moro. Moro has been leading Brazil’s massive Lava Jato corruption investigations. It was the first time Lula testified before the judge. He’s under investigation for benefiting from the bribery scheme. Why is this a big deal? Lula represents the hope for the Brazilian left to regain the presidency after President Dilma Rousseff was ripped from office last year. Lula is far ahead in the polls for the 2018 elections, but if Sergio Moro can implicate him in the scandal, the former president could lose his right to stand for reelection. Lula’s opponents are banking on him being taken down, but the evidence is highly questionable. Supporters say, “If there was proof, he would already be in jail.” They accuse Judge Moro of political maneuvering. They believe he is anything but impartial, with ties to the right-wing PTSB party. Moro has leaked confidential recordings of Lula to the press. Speaker 3: [foreign language 01:47]. MICHAEL FOX: Outside the federal courthouse, the city was on lockdown, but it didn’t stop a small group of landless workers from getting close. Speaker 2: Lula, Lula. MICHAEL FOX: The movements closed with an event that drew thousands, including Lula himself. This showdown was likely just the beginning of a months-long soap opera that could either block the left’s hope in 2018, paving the way for more deadly austerity, or clear the way for Lula’s candidacy.