Brazil army commander 'repudiates impunity' on eve of Lula ruling

Saul Bowman
April 6, 2018

The country's top court began reviewing a petition by da Silva to stay out of prison while he continues to appeal a conviction for corruption.

Lula had hoped to be spared prison during the appeals process, as he leads preference polls for October's presidential election.

The import of the general's tweet was lost on no one in Brazil, and caused an uproar across the political spectrum.

Brazilian society remains deeply divided after Lula's successor, President Dilma Rousseff, was impeached and removed from office amid a corruption scandal and economic crisis. When he stepped down in 2011, his approval ratings were still in the 80s.

The final decision on imprisonment, including the choice of jail, is likely to come before Moro on Monday, and the trial judge's track record in Brazil's infamous Car Wash corruption probe does not bode well for Lula.

Lula's conviction was upheld on a first appeal.

Before that ruling, appeals in Brazil's complex and badly backlogged legal system could stretched out for several years, guaranteeing impunity for those rich enough to afford lawyers who could launch countless technical appeals.

Tension increased before the vote as on Tuesday night the commander of Brazil's armed forces General Villas Boas Tweeted the army "repudiates impunity" and is "attentive to its institutional missions".

Villas Boas wrote that the army would stick to its constitutional role.

The court battle mirrored the increasingly polarised election campaign in which a hard-right former army officer, Jair Bolsonaro, is now second in the polls behind Lula, with centrists struggling to make ground. The court denied his plea to remain free until he has exhausted all possible appeals, Reuters reported.

In the latest election polling, Lula scores more than 30 percent, with his nearest rivals in a crowded field getting only around half that.

In January of this year, the Federal Regional Court of the 4th Region (TRF-4), in Porto Alegre, ratified Judge Moro's sentence and extended it to 12 years and one month in prison.

"He is calm, relaxed, with the clear conscience of an innocent person", said Gleisi Hoffmann, leader of the leftist Workers' Party founded by Lula after he rose from poverty as a trade union organizer during Brazil's 1964-85 dictatorship.

Prosecutors say he received a beachfront apartment worth BR$2.2m ($700,000) in a multimillion dollar graft scheme in return for help to secure lucrative contacts with state oil firm Petrobras for construction company OAS.

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