22:31 GMT +320 February 2019
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    Former Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (L) gestures next to Dilma Rousseff

    Will Brazil’s Most Popular President Return in 2018 or Will He Face Prison?

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    As Brazil falls deeper into political turmoil, the former president Luiz Ignácio Lula da Silva is expecting to be put on trial soon. But the thing is, he’s country’s most popular politician, far exceeding both current president Temer and impeachment-coup victim Dilma Rousseff.

    Luiz Ignácio Lula da Silva, the 35th President of Brazil, known as Lula, is a co-founder and an honorable member of one of the country's most popular political body — the Worker's Party (PT). He was nominated for the presidency three times (in 1989, 1994 and 1998) before eventually winning in 2002. He was subsequently re-elected in 2006.

    Lula's presidency was controversial: what he managed to achieve in social and economic aspects were darkened by the alleged massive expansion of corruption.

    According to Fundação Getulio Vargas (FGV) poll, the level of poverty in Brazil reduced by 67.3% per cent in between 1994 and 2010. And 50% of that happened during Lula's presidency. His government also developed a set of social programs, including the "Family Allowance" (Bolsa Família) that provided monetary support to Brazil's poorest families on the condition that their children attended to school and got vaccinated.

    These programs earned him an 87% approval rating, making him the most popular political figure in the country's history.

    "I sincerely believe this bothered a lot of people. There are now more (newly middle class people) in the streets, in theatres, in airports. Part of the elite don't want to share," Lula says.

    It turned out that such social and economic achievements came at the price of endemic corruption. Lula reportedly set up a scheme where the state-owned oil company Petrobras and other state-owned companies overpaid contractors in return for kickbacks and campaign donations to politicians and parties in the ruling coalition. This was systematized corruption.

    The reason for this came from Worker's Party's inability to attract private sector investment to fuel its political struggle. So the party resorted to such an exotic form of corruption — the kind of corruption that served party's needs rather than common personal enrichment. The government found itself in a difficult position, as the Worker's Party claimed to change the former corrupt system, but apparently got stuck in it itself.

    But regardless, Lula still remains the country's most favored politician. His current support rate of 21%, albeit somewhat low, still far exceeds both that of current president Michel Temer's 13% and the impeached president Dilma Rouseff's 10%.

    This leads some (including Lula himself) to assume that the corruption scandal is being fueled with the sole aim of prevent him from running in presidential elections in 2016.

    "I believe there is an arrangement between some parts of the media, the prosecutor's office and the police to destroy my image," Lula says. "It is all with one objective: to convict Lula. [There are people who believe] ‘we cannot allow this man to run in 2018'."

    Lula, who is currently the focus of at least four ongoing investigations, prefers to keep his presidential intentions to himself.

    "I was the best president in the history of Brazil," he said. "It is almost mission impossible to try to repeat that performance. I'd have to compete against myself."

    There are a significant number of Lula's supporters. They say the Worker's Party corruption scheme was not illegal, by Brazilian laws.

    This, however, remains in the hands of judges. Particularly, in the hands of Sergio Moro, a Curitiba-based judge, who became a nationwide celebrity for his willingness to imprison rich and powerful people who were previously able to commit crimes with impunity. Moro is reportedly a swift and merciless judge who doesn't take reputations into account.

    While many people are concerned that Moro may bring Lula to trial, the former president himself seems to be calm and confident.

    "There is nobody in Brazil who is as tranquil as me," he says. "If I face trial, we'll know whether [the allegations against me] are true or not."

    Apparently, the new round of Lula's political struggle is likely to come. This man who has done so much, both in positive and negative terms, is definitely not remnant of the past.

    "The major achievements of the past 13 years will not be lost whether I'm on trial or not," he says. "I don't plan to change what I am. I was the best [president] ever."


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    presidential election, Corruption, PT, Dilma Rousseff, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Brazil
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