Ex-Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has kicked off an international tour in support of her predecessor and political member Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who recently began serving a 12-year prison sentence for corruption.
Addressing a conference in Spain’s capital, Madrid, Rousseff on Tuesday called for “international solidarity” and denounced what she described as a politically-motivated decision to jail the leftist politician by the country’s right-wing ahead of presidential elections.
“Democracy in Brazil is at risk” because of a “parliamentary coup”, she said at Casa de America, a consortium created by the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs to strengthen ties between Spain and the Americas.
Rousseff also said that the Workers Party (PT) in Brazil will continue to fight all of the judicial processes so Lula could remain its candidate in October’s elections, according to local reports.
“We don’t have a Plan B. We maintain Lula’s candidacy,” said Rousseff, who was stripped of the presidency in 2016 over allegations of violating fiscal laws.
Her supporters repeatedly refer to her impeachment by the Senate as a “coup“.
Lula on Saturday began serving a 12-year prison sentence for passive corruption and money laundering.
The 72-year-old maintains his innocence, stating the conviction against him is a political witch-hunt to bar him from participating in the presidential race.
Polls suggest that if allowed to run, Lula would win.
Rousseff, who is expected to hold several talks and lectures in Spain and the United States, also met with leaders from with the left-wing Spanish political party, Podemos.
Pablo Iglesias, general secretary of Podemos, condemned the “attack on democracy in Brazil” and requested Lula’s immediate release, according to local media.
In 2014, a federal police investigation in Brazil’s capital, Brasilia at a car wash revealed extensive networks of corruption across the country.
The case, known as the “car wash” operation, is still ongoing. More than 100 people, including politicians, have been convicted and dozens remain under investigation.
“[Lula’s] verdict does not change anything for Brazil, it does not solve the problem of corruption, which is endemic,” said Brazilian Journalist William de Lucca to Al Jazeera.
“Brazilian democracy is fragile and it needs to be built on a constant basis, which has not been happening”, he added.
On Thursday, Rousseff will give further talks in Barcelona before travelling to the US on Saturday.
Pablo Villaca, a Brazilian academic and film critic, explained Rousseff’s influential role following her departure from Brazil’s presidency.
“After she [Rousseff] was deposed, she went back to her roots, fighting power and she’s very good at that”, said Villaca, adding that “she has an international voice”.