Brazil: Past president Lula da Silva speaks out on the corporate media’s attempt to criminalize the ruling party

With English introduction and subtitles

Source: The Intercept
Date:  April 11 2016

This transcript has been edited for content and clarity.

GLENN GREENWALD: Good morning, Mr. President. Thank you for the interview.

LUIZ INÁCIO LULA DA SILVA: Good morning.

GREENWALD: Let’s begin with the Operation Car Wash investigation. In 2008, Wall Street’s fraud and corruption created a terrible financial crisis. It generated extreme economic suffering for many countries, including Brazil, which continues through to today.

Most incredibly, not a single big businessman went to jail or suffered legal consequences for these crimes. It created the perception that the wealthy and powerful are above the law. Only the poor and disenfranchised are punished for their crimes.

Yet here in Brazil, with Operation Car Wash, we’re seeing the opposite: the country’s wealthy and powerful going to jail. Billionaires, magnates, members of almost every political party.

I know you have many objections about the ongoing process. I have also reported on how [chief Car Wash] Judge Sérgio Moro’s behavior has become political.

But do you agree that there is a positive aspect to this moment? That it is sending a powerful message, saying that all — no matter their power, connections, or wealth — are subject to that law?

DA SILVA: First, our party, the PT [Workers’ Party], the government and I have no reason to be upset about the investigation process because the government carries a lot of responsibility for what is happening. It was during PT’s government that we created all the conditions for our institutions to work correctly.

Our government consolidated the Public Prosecutor’s Office’s autonomy by always nominating a prosecutor that was chosen by his peers. We were the ones who made the Federal Police a functioning institution. We invested in hiring new professionals, intelligence and on the Federal Police’s autonomy.

We were the ones who created the government transparency websites. We created a law that allows any journalist to have all the information they want about the government at any time.

We were the ones who strengthened the Public Property Controllership, which is in charge of investigating every ministry and sending their findings to the National Accounts Tribunal. And we were the ones who developed — along with the Accounts Tribunal — a process that gave them agility in this oversight.

So, first of all, the government has responsibility for everything that is happening.

Second, I believe it is important that for the first time, the wealthy are being arrested. In Brazil, we arrested the poor for stealing bread, but not the rich for stealing a billion. We arrested the poor for stealing medication, but not someone rich for tax evasion.

brazil down with the coup.jpg

A demonstrator hold a Brazilian flag with a sticker that reads in Portuguese “Down with the  coup, impeachment no” during a protest in support of President Rousseff and former President Lula da Silva in Sao Paulo, Brazil, March 31, 2016.  Photo:  Andre Penner/AP

Photo: Laura Colucci/Fireworx Media

GREENWALD: Is that the positive side of things?

DA SILVA: Yes, that’s the positive side — a positive that I believe is very important and that allows us to dream that this will be a serious country someday.

What do I think is negative? That’s something I ask myself every single day this investigation goes on. For this investigation to go on, is it really necessary to make “reality TV” out of it, to put up a fireworks display every single day? And never account for the fact that with a headline or a TV segment you could be condemning someone who will later turn out to be innocent?

Is it possible to conduct the same investigation, arrest the same people without the pyrotechnics? I believe it is.

Is it possible to analyze how much this operation is costing, how much it will return to our public accounts and how much it is costing the country? How much this operation is costing our GDP, unemployment rates, what investments fled the country.

GREENWALD: But do you believe this process is about destroying PT? Because 60 percent of the accused politicians belong to PP, a right-wing party, not PT.

DA SILVA: I will go into this matter about PT because I hope there will be a specific question coming. First of all, when you create a law, establish conditions for institutions to work properly, there is no protection — the only protection one has is following the law. It is doing things right, not making mistakes. And if PT makes mistakes, PT has to pay for it like any other political party or any other person that doesn’t belong to a party, because after all, the law applies to everyone. That’s the way to consolidate democracy in Brazil and anywhere else on Earth.

Secondly, what I find odd with plea bargaining — and I denounced that in December of 2014, it is not something new — what I find odd is how information is selectively leaked. And it is usually against the PT. When there is an accusation against another political party, the press puts it out in small print. It is on TV for five seconds. When it is something against PT, you’ll have 20 minutes on television, the front page of every newspaper, making it crystal clear that for the past two years there’s been an attempt to criminalize the PT.

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