BRAZIL – THE PERMANENT VIGIL ‘FREE LULA!’

The FREE LULA CAMPAIGN: From its camp outside the Curitiba prison where Luiz Inácio Lula is detained, the Permanent Vigília Lula Livre demands Lula’s liberation.

CampLulaLivre Curitiba

Supporters of Lula’s liberation animate a permanent camp outside Lula’s jail and receive delegations from all over the world

Last week, some friends and myself went to Curitiba to show our solidarity and spend one day with the Vigil.

There are Facebook and Youtube videos illustrative of the life of the camp outside the jail, and the support which it receives from the working class and masses of Brazil and the world. At the end of this document, several links depict the militant and political work of the Vigília, as well as that of International Free Lula campaigns.

Outside Lula’s prison, the Vigília maintains a permanent presence of about 60 supporters at all times.

On the day we arrived (the 3rd of October), the militant camp was completing its 544th day of protest — well over one year therefore.

There is not a day without the visit of some world leader or representative. Nobel Prize awardee Adolfo Pérez Esquivel [1] came, the co-founder of the International Peace and Justice Human Rights Committee (SERJA). Then the lawyer (now president elect of Argentina) Alberto Ángel Fernández came too, to see Lula directly in his cell [2]. For Lula gives interviews to reporters and their teams from inside. Media come from international  circuits (BBC, El pais) whilst others are on-line TVs or progressive bloggers.

Lula sends a letter to the Labour Party Conference, around 26 Sept 2019
Lula dictates a message to the Labour Party Conference in Britain, around 26 Sept 2019

In those interviews, you can see Lula’s political capacity growing richer by the day. The same can be said for the political orientations he gives to the left and the social movements.  His balances, his reviews and his perspectives show him in the light of a national and international leader. The State coup that has not managed to silence him is doing well in displaying of its own weakness.

Lula tells the world that he reads a lot these days. All the things he could not have read before. This is clearly helping him to mature much. In a recent interview he said: “Had I read in the past all the things that I read now, I would have become a revolutionary. I have been a democrat […]”.

The Vigília is run mostly through the militants of the MST (the Landless Rural Workers’ Movement) and other peasant organisations. The camp is a shining example of how to achieve the best with very few means. This was always the MST strong point, but the result is that the Vigília organises teachings, debates and cadres-schools. On the day of our visit, a course was in progress on the theme:  “Militant youth at the crossroad internationally and in Latin America”.

The Vigília salutes Lula three times a day. This is done by repeating a dozen times: “Bom dia president Lula!”, “Buenas tardes!” and “Buena noche presidente Lula!”. This is interspaced with slogans, shouts, cries and the singing of well-known militant songs through megaphones, to be heard by Lula from his cell. It is all very moving.

When we arrived on the 3rdOctober, a big delegation of the Petrobras [3] workers was already on the ground, with some of their delegates already visiting Lula inside. They were on strike against the privatisation of their enterprise. On that same day, the Judge Garzon – the one who got Pinochet arrested in London – was visiting Lula too. He had just flown in from Spain. For our part, we had come with souvenirs, photographs and books especially selected for Lula. One of these was J Posadas’ book on “The historic function of the Internationals” with dedications from world and national Posadists.

What we had brought went over to Lula. He receives thousands of letters. On the visitors’ book, there were more than 20,000 signatures from people who had come over from every corner of the world. You will find more such details of “The Vigília Lula Livre” on FaceBook and social media, besides the links at the end of this document.

Alberto Fernandez, soon president of Argentina, visits Lula in his jail
Alberto Fernandez, soon president of Argentina, visits Lula in his jail

In Argentina, the victory of Cristina and Alberto Fernández is practically assured [4]. Such a victory will be bad news for the Brazilian bourgeoisie and for Bolsonaro. The same can be said about the marvellous rebellion now taking place in Ecuador. In Bolivia, there is the probable re-election of Evo Morales, and there are good electoral prospects in Uruguay too.

The Cuban president Miguel Díaz-Canel made a combative speech at the UN general assembly [5]. Meanwhile, there is a growing Rafael Correa-Maduro alliance, and in Mexico, Manuel Lopez Obrador has real support. All this is favourable to progressive change in Brazil, and in Latin America.

In Brazil and in the whole region, what you see is the preparation for bigger struggles and more anti-imperialist co-ordinations.

Posadistashoje.com – 12.10.19

 

Addendum to the above:

VIGILIA AND STRUGGLE: NO ONE TO LET GO OF LULA’S HAND!

IMG-20191003-WA0033

An inspiring symbiosis – this Vigília Lula Livre! Here you have Lula arrested, and there you have the Vigília on stand-by! To Lula in his cell, the protest brings hopes of liberty and of life, with flows of energy and earnest resistance coursing between them. This perfect and moving interaction enters the annals of our history. It will not be forgotten until a completely free and sovereign Brazil has arrived.

Demonstrations outside Lula's jail in Curitiba, 3.10.2019
Demonstrations outside Lula’s jail in Curitiba,
3.10.2019

On that 3rd of October, 544 days had passed since president’s Lula’s arrest. Our Vigília Lula Livre had been in Curitiba all that time, in this small space, through its political actions of concentrated love, through its resistance rich in thoughts and constructive plans. And all this in the presence of momentous political delegations, trade union ones and delegations from the social movements.

Let no one underestimate this resolute Vigília which is run by volunteers from MST, PT, MAB, CUT [6] alongside those of the Frente Popular de Brazil and many others who contribute to it and who reinforce it. Founded by Getùlio Vargas [7] in 1953, the oil company Petrobras [8] is now 66 years old. Lula looked after it and expanded it greatly, but now Jair Bolsonaro and his economic minister Nunes Guedes are threatening it with privatisation [9]. An important delegation of the FUP oil workers (Federation Unica de Petroleros) came to visit the Vigília. Their caravan had come down to Curitiba from Sao Paulo, through Paraná and Santa Catarina. Together with the Vigília and Lula, they commemorated the Petrobras’ 66th birthday. This occasion, they called ‘the day of national sovereignty’. For Lula had been the President who added the Pre-Salt oilfields to Petrobras, and due to that, had become the target of the Lava Jato coup [10], itself backed by the power of the United States and international finance.

On that ‘day of national sovereignty’, Mario Dal Zot spoke for the FUP (PR/SC) Single Trade Union Federation of the Brazilian Oil-workers. And he said:

“We commemorate ‘sovereignty day’. It is the day when Petrobras was founded, and all that which it has meant in the country’s economic, technological and social development. All this came under attack in 2014 with the Lava Jato. Everyone knows how a probe into money-laundering and arms-and-drugs trafficking ended up in a war against Petrobras. This could only happen because Petrobras means wealth, and wealth-distribution. Petrobras’ staunchest defender (Lula) is in prison because his government gave to the country this great oil company, the 4th greatest in the world. Let this not be destroyed! The Pre-Salt basin, the greatest in the world, was discovered in the late 50s. It belongs to the Brazilian people and not to the market! Pre-Salt is for the Brazilian people. Lula who fought the most for it  is in jail because the government has it in its clutches. We, the Brazilian people, shall not stand for this. We resist! Our general strike wants to stop the bids against our smaller refineries; we don’t want the other refineries to go the same way either, but our opponents don’t give up, they want all of them [11]. And so, we decided to organise this action and to celebrate the 66th anniversary of Petrobras here, in Curitiba”.

This speech was important, particularly as it accompanied that of other FUP and CUT leaders in the “Buen dia President Lula” and the “Buena tarde”. This is not a mere solidarity speech. It sets out a platform for political debate.

On that same day of ‘national sovereignty’, Lula had received in his cell the visit of two top trade union leaders: José Maria Rangel, the FUP General Coordinator, and Sérgio Nobre, the CUT General Secretary (equivalent to the TUC). The CUT is going to place its forthcoming 13th National Congress (7-10th October 2019) under the banner of “Lula Livre!”. On that day, workers’ militants will organise counter-currents against the relative apathy and organisational sluggishness of the trade union movement. Thanks to their actions, the National Congress of the CUT is already acquiescing to some political positions beyond its strict bread and butter demands. It is to be hoped that alongside wage matters, it will give pride of place to the defence of national sovereignty, the recovery of the lost State enterprises and the liberation of president Lula.

It was José Maria Rangel (FUP) who said that: “Lula Livre is a working class right”. The left in general needs to get more involved with the movement of the oil workers. It needs to recognise the role of these workers in upholding national sovereignty. The ‘mad’, incendiary and nazi verbosity of Bolsonaro – quite apart from it being so concerning – plays the role of distracting attention. People are made to look away from the centres where the destructive economic decisions are taken. A case in point is the privatisations that actually dismantle the State, the Social Security, the Pensions. The National Congress of the CUT must not be complicit in this. There is so much to prepare for, to think about and to organise for when Lula returns – when the Supreme Court decides to respect the constitution!

The Vigília highlights how much Lula concentrates the positive and transformational energies coming from everywhere in the country. And from everywhere in the world, because as we have seen, someone like Balthazar Garzón came to visit Lula in his cell. This is the judge who received the René Cassin Freedom and Democracy Prize at Science Po in Paris – and he is not the only world personality to visit Lula in jail. Organisations of international solidarity and their delegations have come from many countries like Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Chile.

Hats off to the coordinators of the Vigília, because beyond being the host, they are also the organisers of political formation and of political schools, on themes as transcendent as the one we witnessed when we visited on the 3rd of October.

Imagine how this Vigília manages to work collectively, in all weathers, with few means, under the constant threat of repression. Just on the other side of the road, there is Lula between four walls opening his mind to the world. For he studies, reads, gives interviews and conferences. He reviews his experience and that of his political leadership. He looks into the national and international situation to provide orientation, and – as he says: “Had I read before all that I am reading now, I would have been a revolutionary. I have been a democrat [….]”

Roberto Baggio of the MST leadership is also the coordinator of the Vigília. He says:

“Those who made the coup appropriate this wealth, but this is the wealth produced by the labour of the Brazilian people for over 500 years. And so here we are now after 544 days of resistance. We say to this country, whose name is Brazil, that it has all the conditions to develop autonomously from the power of the world’s capitalists. We have natural resources: in the ground, in the waters, in the oil, in the scientific means, in science, in technology; and what we have most of all, in this historic moment, is a workforce that wants to get hold of science to make it serve the Brazilians, all the 200 million of them [12]. This is the aim of our struggle, and it is the aim of our companion, our brother and our dear comrade Lula in this jail. They jailed Lula to put the working class in jail. The bourgeoisie knows that the working class is capable of organising a different Brazil; a Brazil that answers to its own interests, not to those of the capitalists. As we have come here, we meant more than to say: “Lula is our friend”. We have come here because our class is in here, [in prison]. Our loyalty to Lula demands that we get him freed. We came for this. We want him to feel the proximity of our working class. He is not trapped in here. Here, he is in solidarity with us and we are in solidarity with him. The Vigília fulfils the task of making him feel our human presence, near him, by his side. Our presence is nourishment to him, and this feeds our own resistance. This shows to the whole of Brazil, and in every corner of it, how everybody wins in this cooperation. Lula builds the strength for his daily combat, and we build the strength to have him freed. On the 27th of October coming – which will be Lula’s own 74th birthday – we will roll out political and cultural events throughout the country. On the 26th, the oil workers will start a new strike. They want to give a boost to the class struggle for the liberation of Lula, which amounts to the liberation of the workers themselves”.

The militants of the PT demonstrate alongside other organisations
The militants of the PT demonstrate alongside other organisations

Do look up the Lula Livre Campaigns. You will revisit the moments and the pronouncements we reported above, from this energised corner of the world, buoyed by good tidings coming from the rebellion in Ecuador and other countries against the IMF and its sponsors, against the decadence.

It is worth reading the inspiring speech by the Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez to the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly:

http://en.granma.cu/mundo/2018-09-26/president-miguel-diaz-canel-bermudez-addresses-the-un-general-assembly

Strong resistance comes from the governments of Venezuela, Mexico, Nicaragua and others. This resistance forms part of the encouraging electoral prospects coming from Argentina, Bolivia, Uruguay.

The seeds of a counter-offensive are being sown in Latin America, against the devastation of neoliberalism. It cannot be far the day when an exonerated Lula will return to the bosom of the working class.

Curitiba – Oct. 2019

Some links:

International Committee: Free Lula: https://comitelulalivre.org/en/lula-eng/

Brazil Solidarity Initiative: https://nocoupinbrazil.wordpress.com

Lula receives world leaders in his jail : https://comitelulalivre.org/en/tag/lulas-jail-visits-in-curitiba/

Angela Davis joins the international movement demanding Lula’s freedom in Brazil

[1] Captured by the military in Argentina and tortured in 1977 in Buenos Aires.

[2] Alberto Fernandez had been chief of the Cabinet of Ministers under Nestor Kirchner.

[3] Petrobras is the State Oil Company threatened with privatisation by the Bolsonaro government.

[4] This was written before the electoral results. Alberto Fernandez did indeed win the presidency in Argentina, with Cristina Kirchner his vice-president.

[5] http://en.granma.cu/mundo/2018-09-26/president-miguel-diaz-canel-bermudez-addresses-the-un-general-assembly

[6] PT, is the Workers Party of Lula. MAB is the Movement of People Affected by Dams. CUT is the TUC, the Trade Union Centre.

[7] Getulio Vargas, 1892-1954, Left wing nationalist lawyer and President 1934-1945.

[8] Petrobras was created as the legal property of the nation under the slogan: “The Oil is Ours’”.

[9] In the first 9 months of 2019, the Bolsonaro government has privatised State properties to the tune of 23 billion dollars, well over his earlier target of 20 billion.

[10] Lava Jato is a series of false accusations to stop Lula becoming president in the 2018 elections, and to keep him out of the way whilst steps are taken to privatise Petrobras.

[11] It would appear that 20 foreign oil companies (like Glencore plc, Raizen, Royal Dutch Shell, PetroChina Co, Sinopec, Saudi Aramco) were to finalise negotiations for partial access into four Petrobras refineries on 11 October; and that another 4 such refineries are under threat.

[12] In September 2019, Brazil’s population was estimated at 211,412,613 million.