By Owei Lakemfa
THE former Latin American labour leader and past Brazilian President, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, and African intellectual and ex-President of Cote d’Ivoire, Laurent Gbagbo, have returned from years in prison to be the hope of their various countries. Both are victims of international conspiracy executed by local lackeys employing dubious judicial processes designed to work to a given answer.
Luna and Gbagbo are courageous men who challenged decades of subservience to international powers and profiteers; their leadership gave hope to their people. Both men have just survived vicious schemes to quash them.
Luna had led the Brazilian Workers Party to victory in 2003. The trade unionist who had been imprisoned for opposing military rule, secured 39 million votes or 46.4 per-cent of the votes to become president said after his victory: “I, who so many times was accused of not having a university diploma, won my first diploma as president of the Republic of Brazil.”
He had tried to reverse the exploitative relations between the state and the Brazilian people. He introduced massive social works, lifted 19 million Brazilians from extreme poverty and vastly expanded access to education. His government gave poor families a monthly subsidy of between $12 and $117 per child which covered 12 million homes, and moved 30 million people from the lower classes into the middle class.
Luna was re-elected in the October 2006 elections, this time securing 46 million votes or 48.6 per-cent of total vote cast. He was succeeded in 2010 by fellow party member, Dilma Rousseff who continued in his steps. Since their opponents could not muster the needed votes to defeat them at the polls, they hatched a ‘constitutional coup’ in 2016.
Rousseff was accused in parliament that back in 2014, she did not disclose the true size of the country’s budget deficit and that this was tantamount to an abuse of office and, therefore, impeachable. On that basis, she was removed from office.
Simultaneously, Luna was set up for political incineration by having what turned out to be false cases of corruption brought against him. As a result, in 2017, he was sentenced to a dozen years imprisonment on allegation of receiving a seaside apartment as part of a contract award kickback. On the basis of this, he was banned in 2018 from contesting the presidential election. The Supreme Court in November 2019 allowed him to remain free while his appeals were pending.
This process led to the rise of incumbent President Jair Bolsonaro who tried to reverse the Luna programmes and erase his legacy. Bolsario is not only running an anti-people government but has led the country into ruins with his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. In aping then President Donald Trump of the United States, he had declared the coronavirus a ruse, a “fantasy”.
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He went far beyond the Trump tantrums by actually holding mass rallies of people without masks during which he shook hands to demonstrate to Brazilians that that COVID-19 is a fiction. Even when these rallies spread the virus, he dismissed it and assured Brazilians they are immune to COVID-19 because as he falsely claimed, they have antibodies. He also encouraged them to reject lockdowns by local state officials and went on as President, to declare the lockdowns illegal. The states had to approach the Supreme Court to reverse him.
The result was that Brazilians began to die like flies. On March 23, 2021, Brazil’s daily COVID-19 death toll soared past 3,000 with many hospitals at breaking point. That day, the number of deaths were 3,251 deaths bringing the overall death toll to nearly 299,000.
On that same day, Bolsonaro appointed his fourth Health Minister, a Cardiologist Marcelo Queiroga, 55. He replaced Eduardo Pazuello, an army general with no medical experience who had been appointed based on the President’s questionable conclusion that COVID-19 may require the handling of a strong hand. The first two Health Ministers, Doctors Luiz Henrique Mandetta and Nelson Teich had to go when Bolsonario rejected medical advice in handling the pandemic.
Now, many Brazilians are turning back to Luna to save the country both from the pandemic and its political version: Bolsonaro. The coast for Luna was cleared when on Monday, March 8, 2021, the Supreme Court threw out most of the criminal cases manufactured against him and restored his political rights, including those to contest the October 2, 2022 Presidential elections.
The set up against Luna began to unravel when Justice Sergio Moro, the federal judge who sentenced him, left the bench to join Bolsanaro’s government as Justice Minister in what appeared as a reward for sending Luna to prison.
Then in June 2019, leaked messages between Justice Moro and the prosecutors were published in which the judge gave the prosecutors tips and strategic guidance on how to make the case against Luna appear credible. So the judge was also the prosecutor.
A panicky President Bolsonaro vowed that despite Luna’s judicial victory, the “Brazilian people won’t want to have a candidate like him in 2022 and let’s not even think about his possible election.” But the decision is not in the hands of Bolsonaro, but that of the electorate.
In the case of Gbagbo, a disputed election with French tool, Alassane Ouattara, in 2010 led to violence in which some 3,000 people lost their lives. The French then abducted him, but since they had no basis transferring him to their country, they hauled him before the International Criminal Court, ICC, even when his country was not a member of that court. He was charged with four counts of crimes against humanity, murder, rape and other forms of sexual violence, persecution and “other inhuman acts”.
In 2019 the ICC found him innocent of all charges but under the guise of appealing the decision, Gbagbo was prevented from returning home which would have allowed him contest the presidential election. He was forced to stay in Brussels pending the appeal.
But the Presiding Judge, Chile Eboe-Osuji, has now ruled that: “The appeals chamber, by majority, has found no error that could have materially affected the decision of the trial chamber. The appeals chamber hereby revokes all remaining conditions on the release of Mr. Gbagbo and Mr. Blé Goudé (co-defendant) as a result of this judgement.”
The appeal judges said the evidence against Gbagbo was extremely weak, and wondered why so much time and resources were wasted for such a long time. The simple reason is that it was a political trial designed to punish a vocal African president who had rejected French dictation, including on award of contracts.
Gbagbo’s welcome return will give hope to Ivorians as Ouattara, despite an unconstitutional third term in office has proven to be a disaster.