UNI Management Committee calls on all affiliates to act to #FreeLula
The UNI Management Committee has resolved to act in defence of imprisoned former Brazilian President and labour leader Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. The committee pledged to rally support from all affiliates on Lula’s behalf.
“Let us be clear that Lula’s sentence has nothing to do with corruption but everything to do with politics. The wealthy and right-wing do not want Lula to stand for president because he would win, and his victory would mean a return to social inclusion,” said Rita Berlofa, President of UNI Finance and a Brazilian labour leader. “At UNI, we are declaring ‘We are Lula.’ We will fight for his freedom, and for the ideals he embodies.”
Last week, amid widespread protests by his supporters, Lula turned himself in to start a twelve-year prison sentence on trumped-up corruption charges, after the Supreme Court denied his appeal for a writ of habeas corpus.
Ms. Berlofa was joined by a delegation from UNI Finance including UNI America’s President Ruben Cortina and CGT Argentina’s Hector Daer to the steelworkers’ union office in Lula’s home town near Sao Paulo before he was incarcerated.
“Lula’s persecution is not only an attack on him and on the Brazilian labour movement. This is an attack on democracy,” said Cortina, UNI America’s President. “This miscarriage of justice will not intimidate us. It will motivate us. Lula transformed the Brazilian economy to make it more fair and equal, and we will organize to continue his work in Brazil and throughout the region.”
Lula’s policies helped lift 40 million Brazilians out of dire poverty, and many of his reforms are threatened by corporate-backed labour reforms.
“We stand with our Brazilian brothers and sisters because we know that the fight for Lula’s freedom is not about one man. It is a struggle for democratic values, for a just economy, and for the strengthening of human rights.” Said Daer, from Argentina. “Lula said he will continue to hold his head high through all of this, and we, as unionists, cannot hold our heads high unless we stand with him and fight.”
The push for Lula’s freedom is made even more urgent due to concerns about the leader’s safety. In March, gunshots rained on his campaign bus. Additionally, Marielle Franco, a thirty-eight-year-old city councillor in Rio de Janeiro, was killed.
“The global labour movement is demanding justice for Lula. We will not let a neo-liberal conspiracy squash the progress he and the Workers’ Party have made, and we demand that the Brazilian courts release him immediately,” said Ann Selin, President of UNI Global Union.
UNI will participate in a global day of action in solidarity with Lula on 23 April. The actions are spearheaded by the ITUC and CUT in Brazil.