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With the most corrupt people are now running the country, the case against former President Lula might proceed with success, says journalist Shobhan Saxena

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SHARMINI PERIES, TRNN: It’s The Real News Network, I’m Sharmini Peries, coming to you from Baltimore. In a new twist on the ongoing political drama in Brazil, a federal prosecutor announced charges against former President Lula Da Silva, on Wednesday. The prosecutor claimed that Lula was at the center of a multi-billion dollar corruption network that involved Brazil’s oil company, Petrobras. Lula responded, emotionally, to the prosecutor’s allegation on Thursday saying the prosecutor has no evidence on him. Here’s what he had to say. LULA DA SILVA: I am aware that my failure would have been appreciated by my adversaries, that my failure would not have awakened so much hate against the Workers’ Party. What did awaken was the success of our government. It was the highest political and social inclusion of this country. PERIES: Lula says, charges aimed at him, is to stop him from running, again, for the presidency. Even though, the prosecutor accused Lula of being the mastermind behind Brazil’s most notorious corruption scandal known as, the Carwash, the actual charges are limited to his taking of bribes in the form of an apartment renovation and the payment for a storage unit. These accusations come just weeks after Lula’s successor Dilma Rousseff was impeached in what her supporters call a legislative coup. Joining us now to discuss these developments is, Shobhan Saxena. He’s an Indian journalist based in Brazil for The Times of India, The Wire and Outlook Magazine. Thanks so much for joining us, Shobhan. SHOBHAN SAXENA: Yes. PERIES: Shobhan, so, tell us about the prosecutor’s accusations, here. Lula and others, not only deny involvement at the center of this corruption ring, but also, they deny that he’s guilty of the more limited accusations, in terms of accepting moneys for renovations or storage unit. What’s your thought in all of this? SAXENA: I think it is all quite bizarre, in my opinion. The prosecutor in the southern state to the press conference, he made a very elaborate power point presentation, trying to prove that, Lula, was the mastermind. He got in the general or commander chair, commandant of the whole operation Carwash, the investigation into the multi-billion dollar scandal in the state oil company, Petrobras. But, the most surprising thing was, he made very very serious allegations, against Lula, but they didn’t produce any evidence, at all. I mean, they tried to prove Lula’s guilty of corruption or Lula was mastermind of this multi-billion dollar scandal, through power point presentation. They made Lula’s name in the center of the slight and all errors pointing towards him, and that was only of this produced. At least two lawyers, one of them said, that we don’t have any evidence against Lula, and the other lawyer said that we are convinced, we have conviction that Lula’s guilty. So, this is a very bizarre case, in my opinion. They’re trying to pronounce someone guilty, without evidence, on the basis that they have conviction that Lula is guilty. PERIES: Now, all of this kind of tactics that the opposition is involved in, succeeded when it came to Dilma Rousseff by having her impeached, although, there was no real evidence of her having done anything extraordinarily illegal. She was just shuffling some accounts in the State’s books. They couldn’t prove any criminality. Do you expect that charges against Lula will end up in the same kind of way? SAXENA: I believe so. Lula, as everybody knows, its open knowledge, he is contemplating to run for president in 2018. And, if we ask supporters of Workers Party, to which Lula and Dilma Rousseff belong, that the whole idea behind this – what they call a legislative coup – is to finish with the Workers Party. The Workers Party has been in power, in this country, for forty years. Under their rule, Lula was president for eight years and then Dilma for six years. Huge, tremendous changes happened in the country. There has been a very very strong reaction from the country’s elite, against these changes, against Workers Party, against Lula and Dilma Rousseff. I’m not saying that there’s no corruption in the Workers Party. Some of its top leaders are in jail for corruption. There has been serious allegations against Lula, as well, but nothing has been proved. The reason that I believe – PERIES: Can I ask you about that particular point? In an interview I did with Alex Cuadros who wrote the book called, Brazillionaires, in that interview, he actually said that there was some receipts that were produced in the premises of Lula Da Silva that could be produced, as evidence, for some of the payments related to the renovation of the apartment, and so forth. You’ve been covering Brazil for a long time, and this particular issue, very acutely. Do you think that has any merit to what Alex Cuadros is saying? SAXENA: I think that the allegation against Lula is that he is the owner of a triplex. The cost of the triplex is about three point seven million reais (BRL), almost one point two million dollars. That is the charge against him. That he got that apartment, he bought that apartment for government money. So, Lula and his wife, they own the apartment, they have to produce the ownership documents and those documents have not been produced, they have not established any money trail. This kind of selective leaking of so-called evidence has been going on in Brazil for two years. All these leaks come from the federal police or from the judge himself. And the judge, Sérgio Moro, the judge overlooking this operation Carwash, he’s been giving interviews, he’s been leaking reports, leaking some kind of evidence to, mostly, to Globo, the biggest media operation in this country and trying to establish Lula’s guilt by suspicion and for this selective media leaking. But if you talk of concrete evidence, or solid evidence, which establishes any kind of guilt, any proof that Lula is the owner of that apartment, or he has something to do with the apartment, in my knowledge, and knowledge of many journalists in this country, nothing has been produced, so far. So, the whole thing has been very very suspicious. PERIES: They seem to not believe in reasonable doubt, whatsoever, when it comes to accusations, allegations, and prosecutions in Brazil. The next step in all of this, now, is a decision by the anti-corruption judge, Sérgio Moro, on whether to take Lula to court. Does it look like that will happen? SAXENA: The way judge Sérgio Moro has behaved, so far, I think he will accept whatever evidence has been produced against Lula. He, if you look at his interviews, he talks like a politician not like a judge, like some kind of moral police force in this country. If you look at the whole Brazilian picture, I’ve been in this country for four years, and I came into -?- at that time, it was looking like a very very promising country, very stable democracy, economy was not in bad shape. Everything was fine. Inequality was coming down. And in just four years, the whole picture has just gone upside down. Dilma Rousseff, who was president, had been impeached. Lula, who was the most popular president, ever, is now facing corruption charges. And the most corrupt party, the PMDB, is in power. So, a whole picture has completely changed, if you like to call it a coup or not, that’s a different issue. The most discredited politicians are actually running the country. So, if you look at the whole picture, I believe, that, yeah, Lula can be arrested. He can be put on trial for these corruption charges. PERIES: Now, Shobhan, the people of Brazil that’s been out protesting on both sides, largely that’s pro-PT and anti-PT, have been seeing, I think, more clearly through the forest that’s getting created, for them. What are the reactions of the public and are they going to be able to, in your opinion, be able to persuade the general opinion, in terms that they want to retain and sustain their democracy, here? SAXENA: I think the large number of people who came out on the streets, in the past two years, against corruption were, basically, marching against the Workers Party. Now, I say that because people who are running Brazil, now, Michel Temer and a lot of others, they are deeply involved in corruption. There were very very serious allegations against Michel Temer, himself. And he is not even eligible to contest election because of his corruption charges. All those people, mostly the upper-middle classes and middle classes have gone back to their homes and they don’t march on the streets, anymore. What I see here, since Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment, and the case against Lula, are a lot of young people are walking the streets, in very big numbers. Students, unions, activists, they’re not really supporters of Workers Party. This is the crowd, these are the people who worry about Brazilian democracy, they’re asking for direct elections. They’re asking Michel Temer to quit, to step down from his post and they want fresh elections so that Brazil can be put, in their opinion, back to democracy. This is what is happening. Also, the people who were out on the street against Dilma Rousseff and Lula, earlier, they’re also, slowly realizing what’s happening in the country. In just a very very short time, in a few months, Michel Temer has been in power since May, he’s completely changing the social and economic policies. Rolling back all these social programs, all the benefits given to poor people, given to working people, given to middle class people. They’re talking of twelve-hour work in Brazil. They’re talking of cutting down pension schemes. They’re talking of doing away with minimum salary. And, I think, Brazil, as a country, is not ready for this kind of drastic, this kind of sharp doctrine, which has been introduced by Michel Temer’s government. So, people are already out on the street. I think in coming days, as people realize the real implications of these policies and they feel the pain of these policies, we can see more people coming out on the street in support of democracy and against these policies. PERIES: All right, Shobhan, I thank you so much for joining us, today. I know you’re going to be keeping a close eye on what’s going on and I hope you join us again. SAXENA: Thank you, very much. PERIES: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.


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