The Situation in Brazil – CUT: ‘Lula da Silva is a political prisoner. Free Lula!’

cutbrazil.pngWhen  the STUC recently met a delegation from CUT Brazil, we informed them of the St Andrew’s day march and rally and our intention to have speaker on the situation in Brazil. The CUT provided us with the following statement on the imprisonment of Lula da Silva.

Global Scholars for Brazilian Democracy to supporters of democracy and social justice throughout the world.

Three hundred academics and public intellectuals joined to launch a manifesto entitled “Lula da Silva is a political prisoner. #FreeLula!,” denouncing the detention of the former Brazilian president and current Presidential candidate Lula da Silva. The petition discusses in detail the arbitrary nature of the trial conducted by Judge Sergio Moro against Lula da Silva, stating that he is nothing less than a political prisoner. The document asserts that the international community should treat him as such and demands his immediate release.

Lula da Silva is a political prisoner. Free Lula!

We hereby manifest our deep concern about the circumstances under which the former Brazilian president Lula da Silva was tried and imprisoned. There is abundant evidence that Lula da Silva was a victim of lawfare, that is, the abuse of judicial power for political purposes. Hence, the international community should consider and treat him as a political prisoner.

Lula’s trial was conducted as part of the so-called Operation Car Wash, an investigation of the payment of procurement kickbacks to Petrobras officials and politicians, some of which took place while Lula was president. While critics claim that “Lula should have known” or “Lula must have gained something,” there is no evidence of his participation in the kickbacks. According to Brazilian laws and legal doctrines, corruption is a quid pro quo transaction. To convict Lula for corruption, the prosecution should prove that he had participated in the procurement frauds and that he had been compensated for such illicit acts.

In 2016, Lula was accused of receiving a rather modest apartment from OAS, one of the Petrobras contractors involved in the corruption scheme. However, no wiretapped conversations, bank transactions, transfer of funds or title deeds have ever substantiated the case against Lula. He never used or profited from the apartment. Worse still, it later emerged that the same apartment had already been used as collateral by OAS in a long-term loan transaction when the accusation was made that Lula was the owner.

The lack of incriminating evidence was disregarded by Sergio Moro, the judge responsible for the case against Lula. Moro based his decision on the “informal collaboration” (not even a formal plea bargain) that offered a substantial reduction of jail time if Lula’s codefendant pleaded guilty and produced incriminating evidence against Lula. The co-defendant was Leo Pinheiro, OAS’s owner. Pinheiro had already been sentenced to 26 years when he decided to “collaborate” and implicate Lula. He stated that the apartment was “meant to be given” to Lula, an accusation which contradicted 73 other depositions. But his statement was considered enough for Justice Moro to convict Lula da Silva. Pinheiro’s sentence, in turn, was reduced to three years, and he was released from prison during the day.

Besides failing to prove Lula’s ownership of the apartment, the Prosecution could not point to any specific action or omission that Lula had undertaken to benefit OAS. Lula had been accused of benefiting the co-defendant with three procurement contracts with Petrobras. After months of investigations, no material proof was found. Moro then convicted Lula for performing “indeterminable acts of corruption” that benefited OAS. This categorization shifts the burden of proof and the presumption of innocence and does not exist in the Brazilian legal system.

Inadvertently, Judge Moro himself admitted that he lacked jurisdiction over Lula’s case. When deciding a motion filed by the defense, he declared that he had “never affirmed, not would be required to prove, that the money used to build the apartment allegedly given to Lula originated from contracts between OAS and Petrobras.” If the case has no relationship with the Petrobras corruption, it should not have been reviewed by Moro.

Simply put, Lula’s process was one in which the trial magistrate chose his defendant and, acting as the investigator, prosecutor, and judge, convicted him of having committed “undetermined official acts of corruption.” Such a sentence, by its very wording, is legally and constitutionally unsustainable, including by Brazilian standards, given the reference to undetermined. A sentence referring to undetermined crimes fails all logic and reasonable legal scrutiny and is thoroughly Kafkaesque. Moreover, the reference to official acts is unreal, since the unfounded accusations motivating Moro’s sentence refer to a narrative beginning in 2013, well after Lula was out of office.

The lawfare against Lula also included tactics to keep his case under Moro’s purview at all costs. In March 2016, Moro leaked illegally obtained wiretaps of the sitting president,

Dilma Rousseff, regarding Lula’s appointment as Chief of Staff in her administration. He claimed, again without proof, that this appointment was meant to “obstruct justice,” since once appointed to the administration Lula would be judged by the Supreme Federal Court (STF) and not by Moro himself. Although Moro´s impartiality was questioned, the Federal Regional Court for the 4th Circuit (TRF – 4), the next tribunal to review Lula’s case in the hierarchy of the Brazilian judiciary, ruled that Operation Car Wash was “exceptional” and that “ordinary rules don’t apply.”

The Kafkaesque nature of Lula’s trial was reinforced when, in August 2017, the presiding justice of the TRF-4 declared that Moro’s sentence against Lula was “technically irreproachable,” while admitting that he had not even read the case. Meanwhile, his chief of staff posted a petition requesting Lula da Silva’s imprisonment on her Facebook page.

TRF-4 rushed its decision. The review of Moro’s sentence against Lula was placed ahead of 257 other cases that were pending. The reporting judge for TRF-4 took only six days to issue his findings for a case with literally thousands of pages of transcripts and hours of depositions. The TRF 4 panel took 196 days to decide. On average, it takes 473 days for similar cases. The TRF-4 also ordered Lula’s immediate arrest. Only 3 of the other 20 Car Wash defendants whose appeals were denied were sent to jail, and the incarcerations were implemented months after the decision.

Lula petitioned the Supreme Federal Court (STF), requesting a habeas corpus order against his immediate imprisonment because he still had the right to file appeals. According to the Brazilian Constitution, “no one can be deemed guilty until his or her last appeal has been decided.” Given this constitutional doctrine in Brazilian justice, it is important to note the following: the merits of Moro’s sentence against Lula, sustained and exacerbated by the TRF- 4 (extending imprisonment from 9 to 12 years), still have not been reviewed by the higher courts in the Brazilian judiciary system, including the STJ (Supreme Court of Justice) and the STF, the highest court in the country for constitutional questions.

In a tie-breaking vote denying the habeas corpus petition, a STF Justice declared that she would have voted otherwise if the Court had reviewed the constitutional doctrine in general, instead of its specific application to Lula’s case. The day before the vote, the Army’s Chief Commander tweeted out a message to the Court, saying that “the Army will not tolerate impunity.” For this thinly veiled threat, he got not a reprimand, but a “like” from the Twitter account of the very same TRF-4 that had confirmed Lula’s conviction.

The following morning, the judge presiding over the TRF-4 predicted that Lula’s detention could not occur in less than a month’s time, given all the legal proceedings still pending before the tribunal. In the afternoon, however, the TRF-4 requested Moro to order his arrest. It took Moro nineteen minutes to issue a decision that acknowledged that Lula still had the legal right to have another motion heard by the TRF-4, while declaring that this right to appeal was a “procrastinating pathology” that should be “wiped out of Brazilian laws.”

It should come as no surprise that a recent poll showed that 55% of the Brazilian respondents agree that “Lula is being persecuted by the Judiciary,” and 73% agree with the statement that “the powerful want him out of the elections” in which he still is the favorite candidate by far.

The abuses of judicial power over Lula da Silva are thinly disguised political persecution under a legal cover. Lula da Silva is a political prisoner. His detention tarnishes Brazilian democracy. The supporters of democracy and social justice in the East and the West, in the North and the Global South, should join in a worldwide movement to demand Lula da Silva’s release.

We demand: Free Lula, Lula Libre, Liberté por Lula, Freiheit für Lula, Lula Libero, حري ة , 释放卢拉, 룰라 석방하라!, חוֹפֶשׁ, フリーダム, Свободу Луле, Lula Livre!

Still We Rise: Come and Join the March and Rally!

Today is the moment in Scotland’s calendar when the trade union movement, communities, organisations, and individuals from across Scotland come and stand together against racism. Suki Sangha, Chair of the STUC Black Workers’ Committee, comments:

IMG_6767 (1)

The STUC wall: a symbol of the colours, unity and solidarity of our movement when Donald Trump visited Scotland this year.

This year we march under the banner “Still We Rise: Internationalism, Freedom and Justice”. The undertaking of anti-racist and anti-fascist work has never felt as important and urgent as it does in 2018. 

The far-right are becoming more visible in public life across Britain, Europe and beyond. From world leaders able to push harmful policies and practices, to the YouTubers with 1000s of followers pushing hate-filled agendas. The effects of these trickle down and into our lives, daily.

Years of constitutional, economic and political crisis have replaced hope with fear after fear. We know that racism is by-product of capitalism, we know who our real enemy is.

We need to learn and listen to what freedom and justice means for us all. Let us go beyond marches and build solidarity in every place we enter.

The news recently that the nine police officers involved in the death of Sheku Bayoh will not be prosecuted should not shock us. It should cause fury. How many times must we see black communities plead for justice?

But our anger means nothing unless we are willing to show Sheku’s family our upmost solidarity. Solidarity not just in name but in practice.

The world is increasingly becoming a scary place as seen with the recent election of a far-right candidate in Brazil;  showing solidarity with the Palestinians continues to be an urgent task for us all.

In today’s world being against racism is not enough, we need to be anti-racist and dismantle the systematic oppression that is limiting our lives, our access to decent work, and our access to justice and public services.

Join the march and rally on Saturday 24th November:
10.30 assemble at George Square
11.00 march off
12.00 rally at Adelaide’s Bath Street

St. Andrew’s Day Blogs (part 5)

In this series of guest blogs, we asked the leaders of the main political parties in Scotland to share their thoughts ahead of the annual St.Andrew’s Day Anti-Racism March & Rally which takes place this Saturday. Our final guest blogger is Nicola Sturgeon MSP, leader of the SNP.

There is absolutely no place for racism or discrimination in Scotland. No matter their race, religion, ethnicity or nationality, people should feel safe and secure in their communities – and be able to reach their full potential.

We have come very far but clearly we should never be complacent. None of us can be a bystander –  it is the job of all of us to continue fighting against racism, bigotry and prejudice in all its forms.

The STUC is to be commended for its hard work in sending out this unequivocal message.


Read part 1: Patrick Harvie MSP, leader of the Scottish Green Party

Read part 2: Ruth Davidson MSP, leader of the Scottish Conservative Party

Read part 3: Willie Rennie MSP, leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats

Read part 4: Richard Leonard MSP, leader of the Scottish Labour Party

Join us on Saturday at the biggest annual anti-racism event in Scotland: Find out more and let us know you are coming along here. 

St. Andrew’s Day Blogs (part 4)

In this series of guest blogs, we asked the leaders of the main political parties in Scotland to share their thoughts ahead of the annual St Andrew’s Day Anti-Racism March & Rally which takes place this Saturday. Next up is Richard Leonard MSP, leader of the Scottish Labour Party.

On Saturday 24th November 2018, we will come together in Glasgow for the annual STUC St Andrew’s Day anti-racist march & rally.

In the summer we came together and stood firm to say to Donald Trump no pasaran!

And there are challenges closer to home. The Tories’ hostile policy to immigration has also increased intolerance.

Failing to challenge this intolerance normalises it, and we must not allow such a culture to take root.

So in the summer, Glasgow challenged intolerance towards asylum seekers

The Glasgow community, trade unions and housing associations led protests against the planned evictions, alongside politicians, and this forced Serco to pause this morally unjustifiable action.

This is not the type of country we want to be in 2018.

And that is why Labour is clear that the entire hostile environment policy approach to immigration must go.

History teaches us that truth has to be fought for every step of the way.

And each generation has to fight the same battles over and over again.

To people experiencing racism or discrimination

We say to you that you do not stand alone. We stand with you. Your destiny is our destiny. Until you are free from injustice. No-one is free from injustice. In the words of that old trade union slogan: An injury to one is an injury to all.

This is not about right versus left. It is about right versus wrong.

We stand against the values of hate and intolerance, but we stand for hope and for common humanity. We stand for freedom of speech. We stand for an ideal of world peace.

We stand for the waging of a war on world poverty and inequality. 36 million people will die this year of hunger and yet the richest 500 increased their wealth by one trillion dollars last year.

Our modest goal is a common victory for justice, for peace, for human dignity and racial harmony, by breaking down barriers not building them up.

In the modern world the real test of democracy is not nationhood.

The answer to the challenges of our age is not nationalism: it is internationalism.

We know this as democratic socialists, trade unionists and co-operators.

The real test of our age is whether the mass of people who create the world’s wealth secure economic justice from the few.

So let’s work together to create a better society for all: let’s start in our own communities but let’s understand that we are part of a worldwide movement for real change.

Read part 1: Patrick Harvie MSP, leader of the Scottish Green Party

Read part 2: Ruth Davidson MSP, leader of the Scottish Conservative Party

Read part 3: Willie Rennie MSP, leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats

Join us on Saturday at the biggest annual anti-racism event in Scotland: Find out more and let us know you are coming along here. 

St. Andrew’s Day Blogs (part 3)

In this series of guest blogs, we asked the leaders of the main political parties in Scotland to share their thoughts ahead of the annual St.Andrew’s Day Anti-Racism March & Rally which takes place this Saturday. Next up is Willie Rennie MSP, leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats.

The timing of this march and rally isn’t incidental. St Andrew himself is international. Treasured here and the inspiration behind the saltire flag, but also the patron saint of Greece, Russia, Romania and Barbados. His relics have been scattered as far as Istanbul, Amalfi and Warsaw and he’s a famed figure in both Maltese and Georgian history. You might not have envisioned ties between Bridgetown and Buchan but this biblical figure has achieved just that.

St Andrew’s colourful life and the adventure his bones were taken on after his death teach us a fair few lessons about the close connections and overlaps we have with people around the world. The shared history, the similarities. That’s something we should all keep in mind.

Scotland is a warm, welcoming and embracing place. But let’s not kid ourselves that it is free of hatred and bigotry.

This summer the Guru Nanak Gurdwara Sikh temple and a methodist church in Edinburgh were attacked. In May, Dunfermline Central Mosque was the target of a hateful act. Scotland still has a way to go with acceptance and tolerance. The STUC’s annual march is a chance for the progressive majority among us to show their unity in the face of persistent prejudice.

None of us can afford to be lax when racism or injustice continues to rear its head in the 21st century. We have a duty to march up the Royal Mile to protest Donald Trump’s visit, to condemn Aung San Suu Kyi and revoke her honours for the irresponsible leadership she’s shown in the face of Myanmar’s persecution of the Rohingya people, and to highlight the ongoing plight of the Windrush generation and Chagossian refugees.

The Liberal Democrats tirelessly make the positive case for immigration. We’re defenders of human rights and stand in resolute opposition to any attempt to withdraw the UK from the European Convention. We’re brimming with ideas about how to improve diversity, care for and welcome refugees, tackle modern slavery and improve the lives of people living around the world through international development and standing up for liberal values.

If we go full circle back to St Andrew, it’s worth noting he is also the patron saint of fishmongers, singers, gout sufferers and those with sore throats. It seems he has a knack for bringing together the disparate and detached. This St Andrew’s day when the crowds  march against racism in Glasgow we should each take a leaf out of Jo Cox’s book and reflect on what unites us, rather than what divides us.

Read part 1: Patrick Harvie MSP, leader of the Scottish Green Party

Read part 2: Ruth Davidson MSP, leader of the Scottish Conservative Party

Join us on Saturday at the biggest annual anti-racism event in Scotland: Find out more and let us know you are coming along here. 

St. Andrew’s Day Blogs (part 2)

In this series of guest blogs, we asked the leaders of the main political parties in Scotland to share their thoughts ahead of the annual St.Andrew’s Day Anti-Racism March & Rally which takes place this Saturday. Next up is Ruth Davidson MSP, leader of the Scottish Conservative Party.

All of us in Scotland are rightly proud of our reputation as an open, tolerant and welcoming society – one that values all people, no matter their colour, creed, religion, gender or sexual orientation.

Yet, while we have come a long way in tackling sectarianism and rooting out racist abuse, there is still much to be done.

It’s a hard truth, but to our collective shame, we still have pockets of intolerance in Scotland.

Our response must be to challenge these views directly — be clear that our communities are enriched by those who have chosen to make this country their home; that we are better for our acceptance of different faiths and the protections we afford to all.

And we must encourage others to follow our lead.

Next year, we begin the process of leaving the European Union. While I campaigned passionately to Remain – and understand the strength of feeling Brexit provokes – I recognise the result and that it must be respected.

But this does not mean that UK is about to turn its back on the world or that we will stop championing freedom and justice. Quite the opposite.

We have a proud history of standing up for the oppressed and supporting an international order that upholds human rights and the rule of law.

Brexit will not change this. Nor will it stop us from continuing humanitarian missions around the world or our international development work which, over the last few years, has supported over 11 million children in school, helped more than 60 million people get access to clean water and saved millions of girls from child marriage and Female Genital Mutilation.

So despite the flux, we must continue to act to ensure that cultural and racial diversity is seen as one of our nation’s great strengths. For this diversity is something which makes Scotland such an incredible place to live, work and call home.

The STUC has long shown an admirable commitment to challenging racism in all its forms and the Scottish Conservatives are proud to stand with you. Together, we will continue to defend the values we share.

You can read part 1: Patrick Harvie MSP, leader of the Scottish Green Party here.

Join us on Saturday at the biggest annual anti-racism event in Scotland: Find out more and let us know you are coming along here. 

St. Andrew’s Day Blogs (part 1)

In this series of guest blogs, we ask the leaders of the main political parties in Scotland to share their thoughts ahead of the annual St.Andrew’s Day Anti-Racism March & Rally which takes place this Saturday. First up is Patrick Harvie MSP, co-convener of the Scottish Green Party.

This year’s St Andrews Day anti-racism rally comes at a time when the normalisation of far right views is a threat to us all.

We have just seen US midterm elections plumb new depths in overtly racist and homophobic campaigning. Far right parties have made unprecedented gains in elections across Europe. Closer to home, the BBC has defended giving a platform to Steve Bannon at its NewsXchange event in Edinburgh.

We should be in no doubt that providing an audience for extremist views enables their cause and emboldens to those seek to commit or justify horrific acts, such as the recent Pittsburgh synagogue shooting.

At our annual conference in Glasgow last month, Scottish Greens overwhelmingly backed a new policy motion on challenging the far right.

Developed by members, our policy seeks both to directly challenge the politics of hate and tackle the conditions that allow it to grow. That means reversing the economic and social inequalities that the far right manipulate to further their aims.

In this context, we must also recognise the starkest warnings yet of the risk of climate breakdown, which will have a huge impact as a multiplier of extremism unless we change course urgently and radically.

We call for action at every level, from better legal protections and more comprehensive policing of far right activity, to intervention in the education system, through local communities and online.

We must also call-out those who use a pretence of free speech while shutting down others’ freedoms and spreading hate. Freedom of speech and association are cornerstones of our democracy but they cannot be allowed to become the means by which the far right destroy that democracy.

We can be proud of Scotland’s story of resistance. We should applaud the First Minister for refusing to take part in the NewsXchange event. We should reflect on how we collectively rebuffed the advances of UKIP and how the articulation of a positive, inclusive vision for Scotland – which I believe the Greens have contributed to – followed through to a resounding Remain vote.

And we should celebrate that, this summer, thousands of people took to the streets to protest the visit of Donald Trump, while others mobilised to act as a human shield against asylum seeker evictions proposed by Serco as part of the UK Government’s Hostile Environment agenda.

But we cannot afford any complacency in the face of a resurgent far right and the continuation of austerity.

That is why as Greens we’ll be proud to join other progressive forces at this year’s St Andrews Day rally, sending a clear message to the far-right that we will not allow their hate to spread and showing solidarity with our fellow citizens at home and around the world.


Join us on Saturday at the biggest annual anti-racism event in Scotland: Find out more and let us know you are coming along here. 

Are chief executives overpaid?

We all know that the answer is a resounding ‘Yes’. Bob Wylie says a new book gives trades unionists stonewall arguments for our case.

Are chief executives overpaid is a good question. We can start with the house builder Persimmon. A couple of years ago the government set up the “Help to Buy” scheme to assist first-time buyers and boost house building across the UK. A mini-boom in building followed.

Last year it became clear that the chief executive of Persimmon, one Jeffrey Fairburn, was due to trouser £120m as a result of the bonus scheme he and his boardroom pals had set up following the “Help to Buy” offer. The top 100 managers at Persimmon will share a £300m pot, in addition to Jeffrey’s jackpot.

Fairburn has relented, to a degree, and is now only going to cash in £75m over 2018 and 2019. Given all this is a result of taxpayers footing the bill for house buying this amounts to grand-scale looting of the state in a style that would make a Russian Oligarch blush.

According to Shelter, Fairburn’s pay off is enough to build a new house for every homeless person in York where Persimmon’s HQ is based. But as any trade unionist knows Persimmon is only one of the latest fat cat scandals to escape from the balance sheets funding the bonanza for Britain’s chief executives.


On average their pay packages are now so generous that they only need to turn for work for three or four days and they’ll have put as much in the bank as the ordinary worker takes home in a year. The average pay of a British CEO is now a bundle that makes up more than £5m. That makes their take home ratio 129-1 when compared to that of the average worker.

These facts all come from a new book, just published, titled “Are chief executives overpaid?”. It’s written by Deborah Hargreaves, one time business editor of the Guardian. It is a bombshell of a book which explodes all the myths about executive pay and why these levels of moolah are justified.

What about the one that if we don’t stuff the bosses mouths with gold, our top people will up sticks and go elsewhere to exercise their extraordinary talents? Hargreaves argues with facts from the Fortune Global 500 companies that out of 489 appointments made in these companies, in recent times, only 4 chief executives were recruited from an overseas company. So having to pay chief executives top dollar to guard against losing them to international markets is tosh.

Hargreaves is excellent on explaining how we got here and has a host of policy offers including higher corporate taxes, mandatory workers on the board, binding shareholders voting on executive pay, even binding workforce votes on executive pay. And mandatory maximum pay ratios between the bosses and workers in companies bidding for multi-million Government contracts.

Mind you we have been arguing for these policies for years. The central issue is that there is a direct correlation between the decline of the power of the unions in the UK and the outrageous rise and rise of chief executives’ pay. So maybe the most important thing to be done, without waiting for political ‘manna from heaven’, is to build the power of the unions again. Relentlessly.

 Deborah Hargreaves “Are Chief Executives Overpaid?” (Politi) October 2018 £9.99

Former BBC journalist, Bob Wylie, is currently writing a book on the Carillion scandal.