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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Brazil Just Passed a Bill That Will Allow Rich Corporations to ‘Skip the Line’ for COVID-19 Vaccines

Things That Matter

Brazil Just Passed a Bill That Will Allow Rich Corporations to ‘Skip the Line’ for COVID-19 Vaccines

Photo via Getty Images

Currently, Brazil is one of the world’s epicenters of the coronavirus. In March 2021, Brazil saw 66,573 COVID-19-related deaths. That means 1 in every 3 COVID-related deaths worldwide are occuring in Brazil.

And it doesn’t appear that the numbers will be slowing down anytime soon. While the United States is making strides in their COVID-19 vaccine distribution, Brazil is lagging far behind. And things are about to get a lot more complicated.

On Tuesday, Brazil passed a bill that would allow corporations to buy up as many vaccines as they can get their hands on, and privately distribute them to their employees first.

Elected officials in Brazil are arguing that the country has become so desperate to vaccinate its citizens, that it doesn’t matter who gets the vaccines first at this point.

The country, once renowned for having one of the most robust and efficient public vaccine-distribution programs in the world, has failed to make strides towards getting their citizens vaccinated.

“We are at war,” said the leader of the chamber, Arthur Lira. “And in war, anything goes to save lives.” We don’t know about you, but usually when it comes to war, we’ve heard that soldiers prioritize the health and safety of young, the weak, and the elderly before their own? We digress…

Brazil’s plan to privatize the vaccine rollout has brought up moral and ethical questions.

From the beginning, the World Health Organization has asked countries to first prioritize essential health workers and then high-risk populations when distributing the vaccine.

Anything other than that would promote a pay-to-play schemes in which the rich could protect their lives before poor people could. And poor people are more likely to die from COVID-19 in the first place.

As Alison Buttenheim, behavioral scientist and expert on the equitable allocation of the COVID-19 vaccine said, vaccine distribution should not “exacerbate disparities and inequities in health care,” but instead address them. Brazil’s vaccine rollout plan would fail to do any of the above.

If countries begin to allow the rich to prioritize their own interests during the vaccine rollout, the consequences could be disastrous.

In a time when the world is stoked by fear and uncertainty, the worst thing that can happen is for rich companies to exacerbate inequalities by effectively choosing who lives or dies.

As the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization said at the beginning of the global vaccine rollout: “any distribution of vaccines should advance human well-being and honor global equity, national equity, reciprocity, and legitimacy.”

Poor Brazilians should not be left to fend for themselves against COVID-19 simply because they are poor.

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AOC Gets Under Ted Cruz’s Skin With Crack About His Mexican Getaway After He Accuses Her Of Pushing For ‘open borders’

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AOC Gets Under Ted Cruz’s Skin With Crack About His Mexican Getaway After He Accuses Her Of Pushing For ‘open borders’

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ted Cruz are at it again on Twitter. This time it’s about immigration policy. After recently traveling to the US-Mexican border to underline the recent rise in immigration, Cruz accused AOC of pushing for a “full open borders” policy.

And of course, AOC got him with some solid zingers.

AOC in turn hit back at Cruz for recently fleeing his home state of Texas during its power grid collapse to vacation in Cancún.

In response to Cruz’s attack, AOC suggested Mexico avoid allowing Cruz in the next time he attempts to vacation there. She also called on him to resign from office for his attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

“Ted, this is pretty rich coming from someone who fled their own home (and responsibilities) during an environmental crisis to cross the border and seek refuge in Mexico,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted. “Also you funded cages, expanded cages, and yet you’re complaining about cages. You have no policy, just puff.”

Ocasio-Cortez accused Republicans of hypocritically attacking the current administration’s detention of migrant children at the border after they supported President Donald Trump’s policy of separating migrant parents from their children.

Currently, Democrats like AOC are calling on Biden to impliment more liberal immigration policies.

Republicans have strongly expressed their dislike for the recent rise in migrants which has come as a result of Biden’s reversal of Trump’s most rigid border policies.

AOC is currently a co-sponsor of the Roadmap to Freedom resolution. The resolution calls on the Federal Government to develop and implement a Roadmap to Freedom “in order to overhaul the outdated immigration system in the United States that has gone without significant reform for decades, and to relieve the great human impact an unjust system bears on communities around the country.”

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