As the world celebrated 70 years of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights yesterday, Dec. 10, a number of rallies and demonstrations took place in Brazil on the National Day of Struggle to Free Lula.
A rally was held last night at the headquarters of the Metal Workers’ Union of the ABC Area, in São Bernardo do Campo, São Paulo, the same place where former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva delivered a historical speech in April before turning himself in to the police to start serving a 12-year sentence imposed by judge Sergio Moro.
The date and the venue were not chosen by chance. Eight months after Lula’s arrest, hundreds of activists once again gathered at the union headquarters to expose the injustices committed against the Workers’ Party leader.
A lawyer and friend of Lula, Luiz Eduardo Greenhalgh addressed the audience and recalled that the process that took the ex-president to prison was marked by arbitrary decisions aimed at stopping him from running for office in Brazil’s 2018 elections, making sure to perpetuate the coup.
“The judge that called himself a judge, who [allegedly] only ruled based on what was on the record and had no political motivation, is now the [appointed] minister of Justice of [president-elect Jair] Bolsonaro. Now we know the reason behind the persecution [against Lula],” Greenhalgh said. The lawyer argued that, as Lula did not receive a fair trial, Brazil was hijacked by a group that is willing to serve the interests of the bourgeoisie and persecute left-wing organizations.
The representative of the national board of the Landless Workers’ Movement (MST) Raul Amorim pointed out that the National Day of Struggle to Free Lula needs class solidarity to stay the course. “The [Free Lula] committees must gather and fight the battle of ideas. Reach out to the outskirts, to the grassroots. There needs to be grassroots work every day,” he said.
For the national chair of Workers’ Party, Gleisi Hoffmann, her fellow party member Lula is a symbol of the struggle for a country with more equality and development. “As he [Lula] told us here in this union eight months ago before he decided to [turn himself in to] go to prison, ‘I’m not myself, I’m an idea, and ideas travel the world.’ It’s his idea that is here among us. The idea that the people can have and enjoy rights,” she said.
By the end of the rally, the Workers’ Party presidential candidate in the country’s recent election, Fernando Haddad, read a letter sent by the ex-president to activists: “I will not exchange my dignity for my freedom,” Lula wrote, possibly referring to recurring cases of immunity-seekers who turn state’s evidence in Operation Car Wash.
Read Lula’s full letter to activists below.
This is a very special day for humanity. 70 years ago, the UN ratified a declaration inspired by solidarity, in respect for others, and recognizing differences, based on the right of freedom and the search for peace and understanding between men, women and nations. Today is a day to celebrate how far we have advanced, since then, towards implementing these rights.
It is a day to remember the heroes of this struggle on all fronts: Martin Luther King, who was sacrificed in the defense of civil rights; Nelson Mandela, who spent 27 years incarcerated by the apartheid regime; Mahatma Gandhi, who even before the Declaration of Human Rights was transforming non-violence into the strongest resistance against the colonial regime, and so many others who fought for a better world.
Here in Brazil we have had the opportunity to put many of the Declaration’s values into practice, such as freedom of organizing and of expression, the end of censorship and the recognition of the rights of women and of GLBT people. We started to recuperate the centuries-long debt with Afro-Brazilians and Indigenous peoples. And we firmly condemned torture.
It is very sad for me to know that on this date we have to pay homage to two new martyrs to the fight for rights: the comrades José Bernardo “Orlando” da Silva and Rodrigo Celestino, from the MST, who were assassinated last weekend in the Dom José Maria Pires agrarian reform camp in Paraíba.
I ask everyone to pay homage to these heroes of the Brazilian people and to the struggle for human rights. They were victims of the same violent hate speech that reached Marielle and Anderson, Master Moa do Katendê and young Charlione Albuquerque, among so many others who were so persecuted and threatened.
These heroes will continue alive in our struggle. We will defend our people’s conquests in their names, for the right to life in all its fullness, against intolerance, prejudice and arbitration.
Eight months ago I was there at the Metalworkers’ Union, surrounded by the affection and solidarity of thousands of comrades who were not satisfied with my arbitrary and unjust imprisonment. I want to say that I am still with you and I think about the future of our people every day.
Brazil and the world know that the Lava Jato prosecutors, Sergio Moro and the 4th Regional Court set up a judicial farce to prevent me from being elected president again in accordance with the wishes of the majority of voters. I was condemned for “undetermined acts,” that is, for nothing. They did not present any proof against me and threw out all the evidence of my innocence.
Today I am sure that I sleep lighter, with a calmer conscience than those who condemned me. I do not want any favors – I just want justice. I will not exchange my dignity for my freedom.
I am deeply grateful for the solidarity I receive every day from the people in Brazil and from other countries. I thank the comrades from the Lula Livre Vigil, those who send letters or visit me in Curitiba, those who hold protests, write petitions, and act on social networks demanding the fair trial to which I have a right.
I am aware that, even in the difficult conditions that we are experiencing – not only in Brazil but in many countries – the fight for the realization of Human Rights will continue. We will still build a world of peace and fraternity, where everyone, without exception, has the right to a dignified life.
Until the day when we meet again, a hug from your companion
Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.