Profile: Luiz Inacio 'Lula' da Silva

Widely popular leftist politician barred from running in this year's election after Wednesday's appeals court ruling.

    Lula da Silva’s election hopes have been dampened by Wednesday's appeals court ruling [EPA]
    Lula da Silva’s election hopes have been dampened by Wednesday's appeals court ruling [EPA]

    Luiz Inacio "Lula" da Silva - a leftist leader who rose from abject poverty to serve as Brazil's president from 2003 to 2010 - was widely tipped to win the country's 2018 general election.

    However, an appeals court on Wednesday upheld corruption and money-laundering convictions against the 71-year-old, and he is now barred from running.

    Once called "the most popular politician on Earth" by Barack Obama, the former US president, Lula da Silva was sentenced to nine-and-a-half years in prison last year after being accused of receiving more than $1m in bribes from construction giant OAS.

    Lula da Silva is currently free but several of Brazil's elite have been ensnared by Operation Car Wash, a huge investigation into a bribes-and-kickbacks network that has shaken the country's political establishment and cost it more than $40bn.

    Led by a small group of idealistic, young Brazilian prosecutors and a crusading judge, the investigation has exposed a vast international web of corruption involving business leaders and their efforts to bribe politicians to win contracts.

    Lula da Silva and his lawyers maintain he is innocent. He still faces four other charges under the Car Wash investigation.

    "I have peace of mind," he said in a 2016 Talk to Al Jazeera interview.

    "I doubt any prosecutor or police delegate in this country is more honest or more ethical than me."

    Lifted millions out of poverty

    The former trade union leader turned president is hugely popular in Brazil after overseeing a period of sustained growth that saw millions lifted out of poverty during his presidency between 2003 and 2010.

    Under his leadership, the value of Brazil's currency more than doubled against the US dollar, unemployment was at a record low, and illiteracy dropped.

    However, in 2016, his protege and successor, Dilma Rousseff, was impeached after being accused of manipulating federal budgets.


    Rousseff denied any wrongdoing and described efforts to remove her as a coup. Still, she was stripped of the presidency in August following her impeachment and was replaced by Michel Temer.

    But after Temer, the sitting president, was charged with taking bribes, Lula da Silva was widely expected to return to office should he stand in October's elections.

    He currently leads opinion polls by a significant margin, while Temer has the lowest approval rating of a president since 1989.

    Al Jazeera's Teresa Bo, reporting from the southern city of Porto Alegre where the court made its ruling on Wednesday, noted Lula da Silva still has two appeals left, but he will not be able to register in time for the election.

    "Lula remains defiant and says he will continue to challenge the judiciary 'until death', and that he will run in this years' elections," she said.

    The judge leading the charge, Sergio Moro, is viewed by many Brazilians as a superstar anti-corruption crusader, but others see him as a man on a mission to destroy Lula da Silva.

    Lula da Silva's ascent to the presidency in a country with one of the world's biggest wealth gaps was heralded as a success story of Brazil, and he remains the only president to leave office with high approval ratings.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News


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