Things That Matter

A Former Brazilian President Was Just Released From Prison And Here’s What That Could Mean For The Country

A judge ordered the release of former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, affectionately known as Lula, from prison today. Lula was sentenced to eight years and 10 months in prison in 2018, following a conviction on charges that he took bribes from engineering firms in exchange for government contracts. However, many Brazilians and officials felt Lula’s conviction was the result of corruption. 

The decision came after Brazil’s Supreme Court overturned a law that required convicts to be imprisoned if they lose their first appeal. The ruling could end up benefiting other high profile prisoners and thousands of other convicts, according to Al Jazeera, and was not met without detractors. 

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is freed from prison.

On Thursday, Brazil’s Supreme Court decided in a 6-5 vote that a person can only be imprisoned after they’ve exhausted every possible appeal to the higher courts. Lula, who is currently appealing his case, benefited from the new rule. 

“There are no grounds for the continuation of this provisional criminal enforcement,” Judge Danilo Pereira Júnior said.

The ruling could release almost 5,000 inmates who are currently appealing their convictions, according to The Guardian. 

In 2016, the courts operated on the premise that defendants who have been convicted can be imprisoned pending the decisions of any appeals. However, Brazil’s constitution states that no one can be labeled guilty unless due process is completed in its entirety. 

Justice Gilmar Mendes acknowledged that Lula’s involvement in the discourse overshadowed the discussion, but that overall it is good for the public, according to the Guardian. However, analysts say that incarcerating people before they have appealed gives authorities leverage to strike plea deals that can garner vital information. 

Many analysts are criticizing the new rule. 

The “Car Wash” operation, as it is nicknamed, that got Lula arrested, benefited from the rule. By trading plea deals that would keep convicts out of prison, prosecutors obtained information that allowed them to unravel a massive conspiracy of corruption that resulted in entrepreneurs and politicians being imprisoned for bribes and kickbacks. 

According to Al Jazeera, “The Car Wash prosecutors said the ruling would make their job harder and favor impunity because of Brazil’s ‘excessive’ appeal processes. They said in a statement that the court’s decision was out of sync with a country that wants an end to corruption.”

Not only are officials displeased with Lula’s release, but some Brazilians are also angry as well. 

“I’m not surprised, politicians rarely stay very long in jail,” Rivaldo Santos, a 43-year-old waiter in São Paulo, told The Associated Press. 

Brazilians rally in support of Lula’s release. 

Lula was a once-beloved conduit of change. The Bolsa Familia welfare program significantly reduced poverty in Brazil, and his policies created widespread economic growth. Lula left the office with an 80% approval rating, only to have his legacy tarnished by his involvement in the Car Wash operation. 

In a turning point over the summer, Brazilians were left stunned by allegations that prosecutors and a judge colluded together in the criminal investigation of Lula. Sergio Moro, the judge who convicted Lula, allegedly gave prosecutors strategic advice and tips during the investigation. 

“The judge’s relationship with prosecutors is scandalous,” the Intercept Brasil’s executive editor, Leandro Demori, told The Guardian. “This is illegal under Brazilian law.”

The revelations caused many to wonder if Lula had been wrongfully imprisoned altogether. Last year, Lula was the left-leaning presidential frontrunner only to have his imprisonment pave the way for the far-right Jair Bolsonaro to snag the presidency. Thus, many Brazilians still revere Lula for the sweeping changes he brought to Brazil while wondering all that could have been.

“He is very happy and so are we,” Gilberto Carvalho, Lula’s former chief of staff and one of the leaders of the Workers Party, told The Washington Post. “We are pinching ourselves to make sure this is all true.”

Bernie Sanders and others praise the release of Lula.

“As President, Lula has done more than anyone to lower poverty in Brazil and to stand up for workers. I am delighted that he has been released from jail, something that never should have happened in the first place,” Sanders tweeted.  

“Lula is free. He walked out of Sergio Moro’s prison today, where he spent almost 2 years as a result of corrupted process conducted by a corrupt judge (now Bolsonaro’s Minister of Justice and Public Security) and corrupt prosecutors,” journalist Glenn Greenwald said on Twitter. 

While Brazil was set on an entirely different course after Bolsonaro’s election, perhaps, Lula’s release can usher in needed change.

“[Lula] is eager to come out, but at the same time he is asking everyone to stay calm and be careful with provocations to keep an atmosphere of peace,” Carvalho said. 

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What I Wish My Family Knew About How Their Vote For Trump Impacts My Life

Culture

What I Wish My Family Knew About How Their Vote For Trump Impacts My Life

fidmart85 / cantstayput / Instagram

Politics is a tricky topic for families and friends, especially when you are on opposite sides of the aisle. It’s hard not to take things personally when it comes to how those closest to you vote. Those feelings have been heightened since 2016 when President Donald Trump won on a campaign based on fear and hate. His rhetoric has never changed and his words and policies are having a real impact on the lives of millions, including me and my husband.

My family is a Cuban family living in Florida. They fit the description in more ways than one. They are a close-knit unit always visiting each other and having mini family reunions for every occasion. Covid changed that for a while but over time they have safely created a bubble with themselves. I am one of three in my immediately-extended family to leave Florida so they don’t see my life on a daily basis. I can only imagine that living in Florida would change that.

With the 2020 elections in just days, I have had some hard conversations with my family about things they’ve never understood or asked about. As a gay Latino man living in the U.S., my life hasn’t always been easy and safe. I grew up in a rural town in the Florida panhandle where it was not okay to be visibly and audibly Latino nor gay.

I was 16 when I had my first run-in with violent homophobia. I was at a keg party and I was pouring a beverage. A college student came up to me and asked if I was gay. Knowing the importance of self-preservation, I immediately said no. Without missing a beat, the man sucker-punched me in the face, called me a faggot, and ran to a waiting car that sped off.

My parents never heard that story. I lied to them when they noticed the welt on my face and told them I got elbowed at cheerleading practice. I know. I was a cheerleader and my parents couldn’t see I was gay. It was safer for me to lie and not let my parents know I was targeted for being gay, something they were in no place to accept are Cuban immigrants living in a rural, conservative southern town.

That moment instilled in me a fear that I live with to this day. No matter where I am or what I am doing, I always function at the level that I can be attacked at any time for being gay. President Trump’s rhetoric and administration has made that worse.

During President Barack Obama’s administration, I felt safe for the first time in a long time. I know that comes with some privilege, but it was the first time in in my gay life that I felt safe to be who I was. I came out to my parents. I became involved in politics to get people elected. I traveled as an openly gay man. I was no longer living in the shadows.

The 2016 elections shattered the feeling of safety and peace for me and my friends. Suddenly, all of us were on the chopping block as our rights and dignity were under attack again. The Pulse Nightclub shooting in June 2016 reminded me of how much hate there still was for people like me and the Trump campaign was fanning those flames. I was scared. My family didn’t understand why.

Most of my family voted for President Trump that year. It was a knife through the heart to know that most of my family was not concerned about my own safety and dignity. For them, President Trump’s election was more important than the very real threat he posed to millions of people.

I remember confiding in my family my fear that President Trump would try to eliminate marriage equality, won just one year before. I was made to feel like I was being dramatic. My husband and I got married the Friday after Thanksgiving because we just did not trust what the administration would do.

Four years later, Supreme Court justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito signaled that they want to overturn Obergefell v. Hodges, the case that made my marriage legal. How? With the help of Amy Coney Barrett, who was rushed in with just days left till election day. Marriage equality became law of the land in a 5-4 ruling.

This blow to the LGBTQ+ community comes after the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that LGBTQ+ people cannot be fired for being LGBTQ+. The ruling in June stated that LGBTQ+ were included in the Civil Rights Act under protection from discrimination based on sex.

The lawsuit brought to the Supreme Court to make discrimination against me legal was drafted by the Trump administration. The man my family voted for wanted to make me less than everyone else.

One of the first cases before the majority conservative court that could erode LGBTQ+ rights is Fulton v. City of Philadelphia. The case, which will be heard the day after the election, will decide if private agencies that receive government dollars can refuse people based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, and even religion. How is this happening in the U.S. in 2020?

I am also a recently diagnosed diabetic. The Trump administration has been a hostile enemy of the Affordable Care Act since day one. The ACA, also known as Obamacare, has become increasingly popular with Americans, especially now during the pandemic.

Another case being heard on behalf of the Trump administration is a case to dismantle the ACA once and for all. This would throw millions of people off of their healthcare and would leave millions more with pre-existing conditions without healthcare.

A vote for Trump is a vote to strip people of necessary and life-saving healthcare. We have all read the horror stories of people dying of diabetes because they couldn’t afford their insulin. The Trump administration wants us to go back to those days. The court case could force numerous people to die from treatable and manageable diseases for the sake of profit over lives.

Republicans have no plan to replace the ACA. However, they have continued to lie to the American people and claim that they do.

There are several communities under attack right now. Black lives are at stake. Abortion rights are at stake. Healthcare is at stake. Immigrant rights are at stake. Trans lives are at stake. LGBTQ+ rights are at stake. Our standing in the world is at stake. The soul of our nation is at stake.

Under this current administration, I have seen my friends live in fear that they will lose rights. I have watched friends grapple with the understanding that they have lost rights.

My family claims to care for me, and I am sure that on some level they really believe that. However, as a gay Latino man living in the Trump administration, I have grown resentful. I resent that their votes are costing me and my friends their human dignity. I resent that their vote exacerbated the ongoing pandemic that has cost more lives than it should have. I resent that they ask why I don’t visit despite voting to limit my rights and freedom.

To my family members who have voted against this administration, thank you. Thank you for standing by my side. Thank you for understanding what is at stake for me and my marriage. Thank you for rebuking an administration that has caused unnecessary harm to millions of innocent people.

It is not too late to have your voice heard. Go vote. Millions of us are relying on you using your voice to determine the future of this nation.

READ: Remembering The Victims Of The Orlando Shooting, Many Of Whom Were Latino

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Marco Rubio Writes Letter Asking For TPS For Venezuelans After Republicans Voted Against It

Things That Matter

Marco Rubio Writes Letter Asking For TPS For Venezuelans After Republicans Voted Against It

Stefanie Reynolds / Getty Images

The Trump administration is letting Temporary Protected Status expire for hundreds of thousands of people. A lot of these people have been here for years and have started families and businesses. Republicans voted against TPS for Venezuelans so Sen. Marco Rubio is now asking Trump to do something about it.

Sen. Marco Rubio wrote a letter to President Trump asking for TPS for Venezuelans.

It is a break from the usual tactic of ignoring TPS needs in Florida by Haitians, Hondurans, and Salvadorans. These people are at risk of losing their TPS after the Trump administration decided to let those protections expire. Venezuelans started fleeing the South American country when the economy started to collapse. Many of them have settled in South Florida.

People immediately started to call Sen. Rubio out for his glaring inaction for years.

Venezuelan nationals have been coming to the U.S. for years to escape the terrifying situation in Venezuela. An economic downfall led to millions of Venezuelans going without food, school, medicine, and other necessities. The crisis was an international fascination as Venezuelans took to the streets and were killed for protesting against their government.

Senate Republicans refused to vote on a bill last year to provide TPS to Venezuelans.

In August 2019, Senate Republicans had the chance to vote on a bill that would have protected Venezuelans living in the U.S. A bill in the Democrat-led House passed but the Senate bill stalled because of Senate Republicans. The failure by the Senate to pass the bill has left Venezuelans vulnerable to deportation back to the country they fled.

“Not this week, I don’t anticipate movement on it,” Rubio told the Miami Herald back then. “I anticipate hopefully getting the administration to do something. That’s what we’ve been working on behind the scenes here, we’ve made a little progress on it. We have 17 votes already scheduled this week, a bunch of nominees, the spending bill, the veto override. The votes this week have already been scheduled.”

During this time, the Trump administration has quietly been deporting Venezuelans back.

Venezuelans nationals have been deported back to President Nicolás Maduro’s brutal regime. With no economic prospects, the deportations are sending people to their deaths as one in three Venezuelans aren’t getting enough food. This is just one of the many issues compounded on the Venezuelan people after years of economic and political turmoil.

Venezuelans are also pointing out how Sen. Rubio waited until after Amy Coney Barrett to fight for TPS.

Senate Republicans recently confirmed Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. The confirmation was rushed to secure a conservative majority on the court and went against the wish of the American people. A majority of Americans preferred that the Senate wait until after the election.

There are four days left until the elections and every vote matters. Make sure you get out there and make your voice heard.

READ: The RNC Wants You To Think Biden-Harris Policies Are Socialist, These Cuban And Venezuelan-Americans Think Otherwise

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