Lava Jato Soap Opera Nears Finale

As the Supreme Court invalidates most of the Lava Jato convictions for failing to respect due process, task force members become more and more desperate.

by Florestan Fernandes Jr.*

The telenovela about former President Lula’s political imprisonment had one of its most hate-filled and violent episodes on Tuesday, October 1st, in Curitiba.

This episode starred Judge Carolina Lebbos, as she set a fine of nearly R$5 million for the former President to transfer to house arrest,  clearly demonstrating the type of persecution that has prevailed since the beginning of the Guaruja apartment trial.

As everyone now knows, OAS construction owner Léo Pinheiro’s coerced plea bargain testimony saying that the apartment was Lula’s is devoid of any accompanying material evidence. There is no deed in the name of the former President or anyone in his family, no supporting documentation of any kind and there are no compromising audio or video recordings or photographs. There is absolutely nothing except a verbal statement from a businessman who was jailed for corruption and clearly wanted the freedom that was granted in exchange for his testimony. All they had was his word against Lula’s.

The issue of doubt was glossed over by Sérgio Moro’s “conviction”, which he used to justify the prison sentence. As former Armed Forces Minister Leonides Pires Gonçalvies once told me, truth is the child of power. Whoever holds the power decides what is true. In the case of the Guarujá apartment, the power was in Judge Moro’s hands.

We have seen it all, starting with he Lava Jato telenovela’s first episode. There were audio and video tapes, such as the backpack full of money that JBS meat packing company executive gave to [2014 presidential candidate] Aécio Neves’ cousin, the suitcases full of millions found in Geddel Vieira Lima’s apartment in Bahia, bottomless international credit cards supplied by Paulo Preto to PSDB party politicians, and all kinds of “respectable” citizens revealed to have offshore tax shelters. These people are all still enjoying the good life in absolute freedom despite the presence of robust, material evidence against them.

But the man who is serving 8 years for corruption is Lula, who, after years of investigation, clearly has no foreign bank accounts or assets incompatible with his income. Last May, the OAS construction company auctioned off the Guarujá apartment that was falsely attributed to Lula, for R$2,2 million ($580,000 USD). The money from the sale went straight to the coffers of the Union – after all, the apartment never belonged to the former President. Even so, the person with the power, who controls the truth at the moment, Judge Carolina Lebbos, want’s Lula to pay more than double that value as a requirement for his legal right house arrest after 1/6 time served.

It is also worth remembering that the request to transfer Lula to house arrest by the Lava Jato task force came completely out of the blue last week, during new revelations in the Intercept’s Vaza Jato scandal, which revealed even more evidence of bias the Lula conviction.

Lula made it clear, through public statement,  that he would not bargain for his freedom. He said he wants the sentence overturned and a new trail, conducted in accordance with the law. It was only after  his public statement was released that the Judge apparently decided  to minimize the image damage caused by the level of conviction with which Lula uttered the word “no”, by imposing an absurd fine to make it look like the former President couldn’t afford the transfer.

This soap opera will continue to drag on towards its ending. The Supreme Court will write the final chapters. On this Wednesday, October 2nd, the Supreme Court ruled against the interests of the Lava Jato task force by signaling a move back towards the democratic rule of law. The Court ruled that defendants have the right to a final argument after any testimony by coerced plea bargain witnesses. This guarantees the right to a broad defense and may result in the reversal of most of the Lava Jato convictions, including Lula’s conviction related to the Atibaia vacation home.

This ruling is leading to big hopes that Lula will finally get his freedom so he can go  home and into the arms of his girlfriend, sociologist Rôsangela Silva.

Florestan Fernandes Jr. is a journalist, writer and member of Jornalistas pela Democracia.

This article originally appeared in Brasil 247, was translated by Brian Mier, and can be seen in Portuguese here.