First Time in Decades Brazil’s Unions and Left Unite, Demanding Lula’s Freedom

First Time in Decades Brazil’s Unions and Left Unite, Demanding Lula’s Freedom


This Worker’s Day in Brazil was like no other. Thousands traveled from across the country
to the city of Curitiba, in southern Brazil. They came in caravans of buses, riding overnight,
or even for several days. This is the first time all seven of Brazil’s
major trade union federations have united for Worker’s Day since the fall of the country’s
military dictatorship in 1985. This May 1st is historic because it not only
unites the trade union federations, but also the social movement fronts. The popular Brazil Front and The People Without
Fear Front in working class unity, never before seen in our country. Lula, fighter for the Brazilian people They’re united behind one common goal: freeing
Lula. For the last month, former President Luis
Ignacio Lula da Silva has been serving time in this federal prison in Curitiba. In a controversial trial, judges convicted
him of corruption for allegedly accepting a beachside apartment from a company seeking
government contracts. He was sentenced to 12 years. But Lula and Brazilian workers say he’s innocent. They believe his imprisonment is just a ruse
to knock him out of the running for this year’s presidential elections. Despite prison, Lula is still well ahead in
the polls. Eliana Rocha traveled by bus from Rio de Janeiro
with dozens of companions. I’m here against this absurd decision, by
those behind the coup, to jail the country’s most important leader. He’s innocent. That’s why everyone is here, to say that his
imprisonment is unjust. Since Lula’s jailing, hundreds have participated
in an around-the-clock vigil just down the street from where he’s being held. With supporters from around the country, the
crowd swelled on Worker’s Day into the thousands. Workers have taken a beating under President
Michel Temer, who rose to power after the impeachment of Lula’s successor, Dilma Rousseff. Last year, Congress passed a new labor reform,
gutting workers’ rights and opening the door to sidestep unions. Lula, they hope, could turn the tide. Right now, we can see, that the coup was not
just against Dilma Rousseff. It was against the workers. It was a terrible coup, and it united the
working class, in defense of Lula, to undo this reality, which is disastrous for the
working class. Saying, “Free Lula,” that he’s innocent, that
he’s our president, is the greatest tool that we have to get our rights back. On stage, union leaders stood side by side. Lula’s imprisonment has, paradoxically, united
the country’s left in a way that has not been seen in decades. Unions, social movements, leftist parties. At stake, they say, is nothing less than the
fate of Brazilian democracy. This May 1st is for workers’ rights, for the
workers’ struggle. But is is also for the democratic struggle
in our country, a democracy that is being wounded every day. Under the Temer government, the country has
also seen a dramatic rise of the right, hate groups, and violence. The pro-Lula camp in Curitiba was attacked
by a gunman less than a week ago. Two people were injured, one of them hospitalized. The bullets were found to come from police
stocks, just like those used in the assassination of Marielle Franco, the black LGBT councilwoman
from Rio whose killing sparked international outrage in March. Calls for justice for both Marielle and Lula
rang out from the stage. They killed Marielle, and they jailed Lula. But we are here to say that Marielle lives! She lives on in us! Long live Marielle! Free Lula! Long live democracy. The struggle continues. The months leading up to the October election
will likely define Brazil for the coming years. If Lula is allowed to run, it will only be
because of the unity and organizing happening today in Curitiba and across the country.

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