Judge Blocks Lula’s Appointment, Setting Stage for Supreme Court Battle
When Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva left the presidency in 2011, he did so with acclaim as one of Brazil’s most popular political figures. From humble beginnings, Lula ascended to the country’s highest office and led an administration that oversaw an economic boom that helped lift millions from poverty. But recent corruption allegations have both tarnished the former president’s image and cast doubt about his motivation for reentering politics.
Federal prosecutors have charged Lula with money laundering and fraud as part of the government’s investigation into corruption at oil giant Petrobras. Lula has denied the allegations, but that hasn’t stopped Rousseff from trying to bring her former mentor into her administration. It may even be a motivating factor. Judge Sergio Moro, who is leading the Petrobras investigation, recently released a recording of a phone conversation between Rousseff and Lula, a conversation that suggests the former president was brought into Rousseff’s administration as a way to protect him from prosecution. Under Brazilian law, only the Supreme Court would have jurisdiction in a case against Lula once he joins the president’s team.
Others say that the political appointment benefits Rousseff. According to the BBC, some analysts suggest that the president appointed Lula so he could influence Congress against voting for her impeachment. Rousseff has not yet faced any charges and she has denied any wrongdoing, but that has not stopped growing protests and calls for her resignation.
In a court filing cited by Reuters, Moro said that the recorded phone conversation did not prove that Lula and Rousseff planned to interfere with the corruption investigation. Rather, he released the recordings because he felt that citizens have a right to know how they are being governed. Rousseff responded by attacking the act of recording the conversation. She said that Judge Moro’s actions violated the law and the constitution, and she would order an investigation.
Whether or not Lula will be allowed to join the Rousseff administration as the president’s chief of staff will soon be settled by the Supreme Court. Comprised of appointees from both presidents, one might assume that the justices will favor the administration. But like the rest of Brazilian society, it seems the justices have also become fed up with the current state of Brazilian politics.