Today, former President Lula da Silva was detained for four hours and questioned by Brazilian police in the world´s biggest documented corruption scandal. Lula is suspected of having received illegal services from the cattle baron José Carlos Bumlai and construction giants Odebrecht and OAS. Lula himself denies that any illegality. His supporters claim the detention was unnecessary, absurd and part of a political campaign. Nevertheless, the consequences for Lula, current president Dilma Rousseff, the Workers’ Party (PT) and the Brazilian left are disastrous.
Former president Lula during the four hour detention in São Paulo. Photo: Estadão
Follow the developments as they unfold
Read the BBC’s news story in English here
Read Folha de São Paulo´s news story in Portuguese here
Read Globo´s news story in Portuguese here
Massive political impacts in Brazil
Former president Lula has been gradually more entangled in the corruption case, named Operation Car Wash in Portuguese. Still it was a big surprise that he should be detained for questioning now. There are still no formal charges against him.
Nevertheless, the detention is terrible news for Lula and PT. Some of the consequences are these:
- For Lula personally, it means that his reputation as the most successful president in Brazilian history has received a serious, perhaps fatal blow.
- For current president Dilma Rousseff, owing her position and political status to Lula, it means she will get even bigger trouble directing the party PT, the coalition government she leads and the country Brazil. And that in a time of crisis, where secure leadership is something the country badly needs.
- For the PT it means the definitive end of a 15-year period in control of much of Brazilian politics. Local elections later this year will be a disaster for the party.
- In the longer term, this means that Lula probably will not run as PT´s candidate in the presidential election in 2018. And no other candidate from the left side has any chance to win. 16 years of center-left rule will come to an end in the world’s 5th largest country.
- At the Latin American and global scale, this might be the end of Brazilian leadership. In the 2000´s, Brazil´s influence and power has increased substantially, mainly because of economic growth and the Lula government’s good results for poverty reduction. Now all of this might be lost.
Evidence or political campaign?
In Brazil, there is a heated debate over the detention. Supporters of the ex-president argue that he has always showed up when he has been asked for explanations, and that this police operation was unnecessary, political and absurd. Opponents state it was about time he was detained, and that Lula´s trajectory as the “teflon president” that no suspicions would stick to, is finally over.
The prosecutors say there are quoted in Brazilian media claiming there are «evidence» against the former president. Brazil´s political future will be decided the coming hours and days.
Background: The Brazilian prosecutor’s official statement
«Search warrants and detentions are being fulfilled on this date involving ex-President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva and associated persons, for further investigation of possible crimes of corruption and money laundering arising from Petrobras deviations practiced as covert payments made by José Carlos Bumlai and the two construction companies OAS and Odebrecht.”