The authors, three renowned professors of the Law School of the University of Buenos Aires, analyze in depth a phenomenon that, though found worldwide, has developed systematically and with an undesirable frequency in Latin America: the use of the judiciary, especially in the application of criminal law, to interfere in politics.1 This is lawfare, a legal war with illegitimate ends, as my lawyers put it in 2016. As part of a decades-long fight against social policies designed to eradicate poverty and diminish deep social inequalities, the elites of our region, together with the defenders of the interests of international financial capital, have promoted corruption to the category of a “cosmic evil,” pointing to it as the origin and cause of all social problems. Of course, no one approves of corrupt rulers. But this sort of fight against corruption is merely a pretext used by those sectors to attack governments legitimately elected by popular vote.
The courts have become the sphere in which those defeated at the polls seek to impose their own interests over popular sovereignty. In this way, some sectors of the judiciary and of the different organs of the justice system, with the opportunistic support of the hegemonic media, have attacked popular governments concerned with the defense of national interests. Their objective is to criminalize and destroy politics, trying to instill in the collective conscience the idea that all politicians are corrupt. The physical destruction of the adversary is no longer adequate; what is desired is his legal and political death.
Under the pretext of fighting corruption, they violate the legal principle of due process and the constitutional guarantees of the accused. As the authors of this book point out, every case that has occurred in the different countries of our region follows the same method: a part of the press, politically involved, fabricates a fact and widely disseminates it (a lie told a thousand times eventually becomes a “truth”); relying exclusively on this fictional news, the judicial police opens an investigation; the public prosecutor’s office goes in search of elements that can formally support the accusation; even when no evidence is found, the accusation is still often filed, as happened in Brazil, with the assertion that “I have no proof, but I am convinced.” Then it is only necessary to “identify some judges willing to collaborate,” either because they see their long-awaited chance for fame, or a more concrete, personal advantage. Every
These are the legal means for imprisoning an enemy and preventing him from intervening in political life. The mass media, with television at the forefront, then assume the task of incessantly spreading the judicial decision, thereby granting legitimacy to an absolutely spurious process.
With the enemy removed from the political arena, the way is open for the election of men and women loyal to the interests of the market and indifferent to the needs of the population, especially the poorest. National sovereignty is violated by the sale of large public companies, always sold at prices far below their actual worth, in operations that reveal a total disregard for the environment and for so many other basic rights of the people.
The research carried out by these three authors describes very well what happened in many countries, including Brazil, where they tried to impose political and legal death on me. I was a victim of the machination analyzed here: based on false news published in a newspaper, I was investigated, prosecuted and convicted by the so-called “Operation Car Wash” (Operação Lava Jato), which condenses the worst of the Brazilian justice system. Today, no one doubts that there were sectors of the Federal Police and the Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office, under the orders of a notoriously biased judge eager for self-promotion, that formed an organization guided by the objective of annulling my political rights in order to prevent me from running again for the presidency of the Republic and to ensure the Workers’ Party (Partido dos trabalhadores, pt) its fifth consecutive term in office. With a speed never before seen in the conduct of other proceedings, the Federal Regional Court confirmed the sentence,
They did not take into account my defense. They did not take into account the unconditional support given to me by the social movements, the workers and all those people who, from different parts of the country, held the moving Free Lula Vigil (Vigília Lula Livre) in front of the federal police building where I was imprisoned. They did not take into account the reactions of the international political and legal community. And instead of leaving Brazil, as they suggested, I decided to go to jail and, from there, face the cowards who accused me without evidence. It was not in vain, since at least one of the greatest conquests of civilized societies, and one that our Federal Constitution guarantees, was already reestablished by the Federal Supreme Court: the presumption of innocence. A measure that put an end to my unjust imprisonment, which was determined before the higher court ruled on the appeal filed in my defense.
Today I am free, but I am not free. My political rights are still curtailed, even before the appeal I lodged with the higher court has been judged.
My congratulations to Professors Cristina Caamaño, Valeria Vegh Weis, and Raúl Zaffaroni, who, with academic rigor, have shown how “true criminal law” has been distorted and given rise to “shameful criminal law,” which serves to transform the judiciary into an instrument of political persecution of all those here in our beloved Latin America who raise their voices and arms in defense of the abandoned, who stand firm in the face of the powerful representatives of international financial capital and the rulers servile to the market god. I ardently hope that the authors’ objective is achieved: “to take the study of law out of the ivory tower” and place it “at the service of the people.”
Inácio Lula da Silva
President of Brazil (2022–2026)
Former president of the Federative Republic of Brazil between January 1, 2003 and December 31, 2010.