Commentary. ‘Lula is an innocent man in prison, and the goal is to prevent him from running for president.’

Perez Esquivel appeals for solidarity with Lula

I am appealing to the Italian people and to the Italian government, calling on their solidarity towards other peoples, because of the serious situation that the people of Brazil find themselves in. I am asking you to speak up in defense of the people’s rights to live in democracy.

Brazil has been the victim of an institutional coup that has deposed President Dilma Rousseff without any valid reason, and has now gone on to imprison former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and block his candidacy in the upcoming presidential elections.

I was able to see Lula in prison, where he is being held in isolation, cut off from all contact with the Brazilian people. Lula is a political prisoner—this is what I have stated publicly on Aug. 13 in a meeting with the president of the Superior Federal Court, Judge Carmen Lucia, urging her to ponder the unconstitutionality of imprisoning a leader who has not committed any crime.

Lula was sentenced to 12 years in prison on charges of “undetermined actions,” without any evidence found of the crimes of which he is accused. Many other voices have spoken out about this, and well-known personalities, parliamentarians and jurists have all said it clearly: Lula is in prison for nothing other than fighting against poverty and hunger, for lifting 36 million Brazilians, men and women, out of poverty, and for having restored their dignity as persons, along with their ability to educate themselves, to be worthy of respect, to have their own homes and jobs.

Lula is an innocent man in prison, and the goal is to prevent him from running for president. The elections in Brazil without Lula will be a fraud, and this is precisely what some are trying to accomplish:  those who, with the complicity of judges and lawmakers, want to impose austerity policies, unchecked capitalism and privatization at the expense of the lives of the people. They are trying to re-colonize the country, and now the facts have demonstrated this clearly, with the increase in poverty, hunger and repression suffered by the people of Brazil.

On Aug. 17, the United Nations urged the Brazilian government to grant Lula the right to be a candidate and to have free access to media. What is at stake in the case of Lula’s candidacy and freedom is not only the return to democracy and justice in Brazil, but also the value of Lula’s government policies lifting millions of people out of poverty, as well as his policies aimed at uniting the brotherhood of the indigenous peoples through organizations like UNASUR and CELAC, which have proclaimed Latin America a “peace zone.”

Lula is one of the great peacemakers of the world, and the world is recognizing this more and more. This is why we, together with Nobel Prize winner Rigoberta Menchú, are putting forward his candidature for the Nobel Peace Prize. We would like to thank you for anything you can do for the good of the people of Brazil and for Lula’s freedom, as it would be in service of truth and justice. We send you a brotherly embrace and our best wishes for strength and hope.

Adolfo Pérez Esquivel is the 1980 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.

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