MTST Occupies Notorious “Lava Jato” Penthouse Apartment

Guaruja, São Paulo. This morning a group of activists from the Homeless Workers Movement (Movimento de Trabalhadores Sem Teto/MTST) and People Without Fear (Povo Sem Medo) the popular front to which they belong, occupied the penthouse apartment that Operation Car Wash prosecutors claim belongs to ex-President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. The claim, based entirely on plea bargain testimony from OAS construction company executive Leo Pinheiro, was used as the sole justification to sentence Lula to 12 years in jail, with no material evidence connecting him to the apartment. Pinheiro, originally sentenced to 8 years in prison on bribery charges, changed his plea bargain testimony twice to implicate Lula before Judge/Prosecutor Sergio Moro reduced his sentence to 3 years of house arrest. In an arrangement which, as UN Human Rights Commission barrister Geoffrey Robertson recently explained on BBC,  dates back to the Inquisition and is still binding under Brazil’s archaic legal system, Moro was allowed to judge his own prosecution of Lula with no jury.

Labor Unions and politicians around the World have issued statements calling  Lula a Political Prisoner, a fact ignored by  most mainstream Anglo media companies.  73% of Brazilians recently agreed with a statement in a poll conducted by Ipsos, that “Lula was imprisoned to prevent him from running for president”. A poll released by DataFolha on April 15, one week after Lula’s imprisonment, shows that he is still the front runner in this years presidential election, with double the support of his nearest competitor, neofascist candidate Jair Bolsonaro.

A recent Guardian article unethically fails to challenge comments by the prosecution team that “Lula was promised a beachfront apartment worth BR$2.2m (£470,000) in a BR$88m graft scheme to help the construction company OAS secure contracts with the state oil firm, Petrobras.” Involvement in the R$88 million graft scheme is not included as an accusation against Lula in the ruling, which is for “undetermined acts”. Furthermore, it is difficult to understand how a civilian could secure state contracts with Petrobras, as the charges against Lula are based on events that they claim happened in 2011, after he had left office.

The northern media continues to avoid talking about US involvement in the 2016 Coup and Lula’s imprisonment.  Operation Car Wash is a joint operation between the US DOJ, FBI, SEC and the Brazilian Public Prosecutors Office and Judiciary. Leaked state department cables show that, in 2009, the Department of Justice held a seminar in Rio de Janeiro which featured Sergio Moro as a key note speaker, in which they suggested initiating a joint anti-corruption operation based out of Curitiba. Since then, DOJ officials such as Patrick Stokes have made repeated visits to Curitiba to meet with Moro and discuss the ongoing investigation. At a speech at the Atlantic Council in July, 2017,   Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Blanco bragged about Lula’s conviction and said that a key factor was the constant level of “informal communication” between the Department of Justice and the Operation Car Wash team.  Informal communication between Brazilian government officials with foreign governments is a crime in Brazil, and as a result of this speech, Lula’s defense lawyers filed a motion to dismiss all charges in January. Whereas Lula’s conviction and denial of Habeas Corpus were pushed through in record time, the reply to the motion to dismiss is being delayed in the court system. The tactics used by Moro, previously unheard of in Brazil, are standard procedure in DOJ investigations.  These include: arresting people and threatening them with huge prison sentences and then vastly reducing them if they agree to testify against a specific person; shutting down business operations in large companies; continual  leaking of information to the press before trials begin; destroying or hiding evidence that benefits the defendant; and building cases without material evidence based entirely on plea bargain testimony.

This morning in Guaruja, MTST leader Guilherme Boulous said, “The triplex apartment in Lava Jato has been occupied by the people. If it belongs to Lula, the people can stay. If it doesn’t, Judge Sergio Moro has to explain why Lula is in jail.”

Photo: Midia Ninja


By Brian Mier

Writer, geographer and former development professional who has lived in Brazil for 26 years. Former directorate member of the Fórum Nacional de Reforma Urbana (National Urban Reform Forum). Has lived in São Luis, Recife, Salvador, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. Author of “Os Megaeventos Esportivos na Cidade do Rio de Janeiro e o Direito á Cidade” (CEPR: Porto Alegre. 2016). Editor of "Voices of the Brazilian Left" (Sumare: São Paulo. 2018). Editor of "Year of Lead: Washington, Wall Street and the New Imperialism in Brazil" ((Sumare: São Paulo. 2019) Irregular correspondent for the Chicago radio show This is Hell.