A Brazilian Supreme Court judge on Monday overturned the corruption convictions of former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, restoring the left-wing leader’s political rights ahead of next year’s elections.
Judge Edson Fachin ruled that the federal court in the southern city of Curitiba that tried Lula did not have the appropriate jurisdiction. According to his ruling, the former president, who ruled Brazil between 2003 and 2010, should be retried in a court in Brasilia.
If the decision holds, it could set the stage for a presidential battle next year between Lula da Silva and outgoing President Jair Bolsonaro, a right-wing populist and one of Lula da Silva’s most vocal critics. and from his left. Workers Party, or PT.
The two men maintain a large block of grassroots supporters. A poll this month by Ipec, a research institute, found that 50% of those polled said they would vote for Lula da Silva if possible in the next presidential race, compared to 38% for Bolsonaro.
Fachin’s decision can, however, be overturned on appeal by the plenary Supreme Court, an option already sought by the Attorney General of Brazil.
“Fachin has a strong connection to the Workers’ Party, so we are not surprised by this decision. But it will have to go through the plenary to be properly effective, ”Bolsonaro said on Monday.
Given the difficult pace of the Brazilian justice system, few experts expect Lula’s retrial to be completed before the presidential elections in October next year.
Markets reacted badly to Fachin’s announcement as investors digested the prospect of a return to left-wing governance in Latin America’s largest economy and the likelihood that Bolsonaro will abandon economic reforms to focus on populist spending before the elections.
The real fell against the US dollar, losing 2.9 percent of its value to $ 5.77, while the benchmark Ibovespa fell 1.9 percent.
Lula da Silva was the most prominent person convicted in the long-standing Lava Jato – or Car Wash – transplant investigation in Brazil, which revealed a vast program of bribery contracts involving dozens of prominent politicians and businessmen.
In 2018, Lula da Silva, former union leader, was condemned to 12 years in prison for corruption. He had been charged with money laundering and receiving illicit benefits in the form of an apartment on the coast of São Paulo and the renovation of a farmhouse in the countryside.
Lula da Silva was also blocked from running in this year’s presidential elections because of his convictions, paving the way for Bolsonaro’s victory.
The sentence was subsequently reduced to nine years before he was released, following a controversial Supreme Court ruling that defendants could only be jailed after exhausting all of their multiple appeals.
Lula da Silva retains a loyal following among left-wing Brazilians, who credit him with poverty reduction and economic growth in the early 2000s. For his opponents, however, he is the epitome of deep corruption and cronyism that were discovered in the Lava Jato probe.
The Lava Jato survey was defended by Bolsonaro as the former army captain campaigned for the president in 2018. However, since his election, investigators have faced mounting political pressure and the investigation has been discarded in February.
“I find it absurd that all the decisions were overturned after almost four years. It is a waste of public resources, creates legal uncertainty and it is a decision that fundamentally favors Lula and Bolsonaro, ”said João Amoêdo, founder of the right-wing Novo party.
Rogério Taffarello, a partner in the white-collar firm of Mattos Filho who defended the businessmen accused in the Lava Jato cases, said there had previously been “questions and criticism” about the scope of the court of Curitiba and if it had become broader than the Brazilian procedure. the law states. “
Additional reporting by Carolina Pulice