What is the real reason for the imprisonment of former President Lula da Silva? According to sociologist, hatred of the poor and policies lifting Brazilians out of poverty



Note from BW of Brazil: I must say, the past few years have seemed like a modern witch hunt. However one feels about embattled former Brazilian President Lula da Silva, we can all agree that the labor leader is clearly a figure that divides the country. A few years ago, we saw all sorts of demonstrations calling for the end of the 13-year rule of da Silva’s Workers’ Party culminating with the impeachment and ouster of the country’s first female president, and Lula’s hand-picked successor, Dilma Rousseff in 2016. And while corruption charges against politicians are nothing new, there seemed to be a desire to see the blood of the man former US President Barack Obama once called “the most popular politician on earth” spilled in the streets. 

Better days: US President Barack Obama with Lula, who he defined as the “most popular politician on the planet”


If you’re not one to follow international politics, let me just tell you that the last few days have been a true spectacle. Yesterday, sometime between 6-7pm, I drove down to “auntie’s house” and took a seat in the living room in front of the big screen TV that was tuned to Globo TV’s all-news channel.

And for the next few hours, I watched a scene of which I can only compare to a certain event in June of 1994 when a former American athlete captivated television viewers with his highway getaway in the infamous white Ford Bronco chase. As I listened to journalists discussing details that led to current event unfolding live, I sat slightly bewildered as I watched both street and helicopter shots showing numerous vehicles and motorcycles accompany da Silva to Federal Police headquarters. 

Lula se entrega à Polícia Federal
Da Silva preparing to hand himself over to Federal Police

Lula’s habeas corpus to avoid prison sentencing until all appeals were heard was denied in a 6-5 Supreme Court vote on Thursday which gave the go-ahead for his subsequent arrest. But what transpired over the next 24 hours days just added to former president’s mystique. With the order to turn himself in on Friday by 5pm, Lula defied the law and declared he would turn himself in until he was able to attend a Saturday morning mass in memory of his wife, Marisa, who died last year. The defiant labor leader remained holed away at the Metalworker Union’s building in São Bernardo do Campo, in metro São Paulo surrounded by supporters, some of whom camped outside of the building overnight. 

On that same Saturday, Lula gave a rousing speech in which he demanded the chief judge leading his prosecution, Sérgio Moro, to show the evidence that would prove his guilt. He, like perhaps millions of his supporters, saw this whole trauma as simply a mechanism to do away with him as early polls showed that if he were to run again in 2018 for the presidency, he would surely win. Lula’s conviction, as well as Rousseff impeachment, were the result of a calculated conspiracy to return Brazil to a land of vast inequalities, which were slowly decreasing under the reign of da Silva’s Workers’ Party. 

Da Silva spoke of his “crimes” during his speech. His “crime” of helping millions of Brazilians out of poverty and allowing them the possibility of being to partake in an economy that was booming during Lula’s presidency. In his own defense, Lula went on to say:

“And if the charges are for these crimes, for including the poor in universities, black people in universities, [making it possible for] poor people to eat meat, poor people to buy cars, poor people to travel by plane, poor people to have their small farm, have a small business, have their own home. If that is the crime I’ve committed, then I’d like to say I am going to continue to be a criminal in this country, because I am going to do so much more. I am going to do so much more.” – Read the full speech here.

A Lula supporter discouraged about the Supreme Court's decision
A Lula supporter after Supreme Court decision

Some would say the speech was just rhetoric of a corrupt politician trying to deflect attention away from his crimes. But is that the truth? The proof is readily available. Numerous articles on this blog have shown that Brazilian society detests seeing black and poor people in areas where they are believed to be “out of place”. The resentment of the middle class seeing their children attending the same university as the family’s maid. During Lula’s presidency, Afro-Brazilians gained unprecedented access to middle-class consumption in numbers never seen before in the nation’s history, and as one article showed, certain segments of society were “none too pleased about it.” 

Demonstrators in Sao Paulo parade inflatable dolls depicting former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da
Numerous protests leading up to Rousseff’s 2016 impeachment, depicted Lula and Dilma as criminals

And then what about what has happened in the aftermath of the exit of Lula from the presidency and the ouster of Rousseff? To put it simply chaos. A President who is fighting his own corruption charges and single digit approval ratings. A tanking economy, which to be fair, was already in a tailspin fall before the impeachment. The return of many who had managed to rise out of poverty back to the ranks of the poor, numerous draconian reform policies that threaten to take Brazil back to the stone ages and a recent decision to send in the army to police Rio’s poor. All of this just to keep the (black and poor) masses “in their place”. Don’t believe me? Check what sociologist Jesse Souza had to say on the issue. 

Jesse Souza
Sociologist Jessé Souza, author of the best-selling ‘A Elite do Atraso’

Hatred of the poor is the modern version of the hate of the slave

Sociologist Jessé Souza, author of the bestseller A elite do atraso (The elite of the delay), evaluates that the military intervention in Rio de Janeiro is an open sociology class, with favelados (slum dwellers) being booked by soldiers, who also come from the peripheries; according to him, “hatred of the poor is the modern version of hatred of the slave,” which was the mark of colonial Brazil; according to him, “the PT has not left and is not being persecuted because of corruption, but because it has allocated more resources to the poor”.

policing ofthe poor
Brazil’s black and poor have been the principal target of politicians, elites and police

The sociologist Jessé Souza, author of the bestseller A elite do atraso, evaluates that the military intervention in Rio de Janeiro is an open sociology class, with residents of the favelas being booked by soldiers, who also come from peripheries (slums).  According to him, “hatred of the poor is the modern version of hatred of the slave,” which was the mark of colonial Brazil.

For many, the take down of Lula was ultimately a strike to keep the poor classes in “their place”

According to Jesse, “hatred of the poor is the main Brazilian political and social problem and comes from 500 years.” He points out that there is “the indiscriminate killing of the poor as an informal policy in all major Brazilian cities.” “It’s not the police, the police only do it because it’s supported by the middle class and the elite,” he says. “Hatred of the poor is the modern version of the hatred of the slave.”

The PT (Workers’ Party) in his view, “didn’t leave and is not being persecuted because of corruption,” but because it has allocated more resources to the poor. “What I say in the book is that a power alliance between the elite and the middle class has been in place since 1930, and that the guarantor of this block is maintaining the distance from the poor. The Lula government diminished this distance, not only giving consumption power to the poorest, but increasing from three to eight million people in the universities.”

Source: Brasil 24/7

About Marques Travae 3747 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.


  1. this article was inaccurate. To be more specific, the Brazilian “elite” i.e. rich whites do not want the rise of the BLACKS. Lula’s policy will inevitably lead to the rie of a Black Brazilian Obama – but in the case of Brazil, the situation is more severe.

    Brazil unlike the U.S. has the second largest BLACK population in the world after Nigeria. So, Lula’s policies will not create an Obama – it will create 1 million Obamas – thereafter white racist domination of Brazilian society will come to an end.

    What Brazilian elite fail to understand is that the giant has been awakened and it will not go back to sleep. Either they allow the changes to happen peacefully and democratically OR there will be revolution in which they will not win.

    • al, I’m curious to hear your and Black Women of Brazil’s thoughts on environmentalist and former Senator Marina Silva’s candidacy. If Lula is not allowed to run this fall, which seems increasingly likely, she–a Black woman, an evangelical, an environmentalist, with ties to the center-left and right–could quickly become one of the leading candidates for this fall. She would break several glass barriers at once were she to be elected, becoming both Brazil’s first Black president and its first Black woman president.

      But what are Marina’s politics, and what would her policies be? In 2014, she was one of the first candidates to espouse several far-reaching pro-LGBTQ policies, only to retract them when criticism came from her conservative supporters. On the other hand, she also took a neoliberal line on finances to distance herself from Lula and Dilma. As a well-known environmentalist and former member of Lula’s Cabinet, she would most certainly be to the left of many of the other candidates–Jair Bolsonaro, Doria, Aécio, etc.–and if she pushed for even part of Lula’s and Dilma’s program, it would have a profound effect on Brazil, especially after the short and brutal post-coup tenure of Temer. At least that’s what seems likely were she to win. Since Bolsonaro was taken to court over charge of racism, she pulled into a virtual tie with him.

      Also, could she run with Joaquim Barbosa, who has joined the PSB for a potential run? Could the Brazilian elite possibly deal with their victory?

  2. she is puppet and a fraud.

    Either the public unrest will force the establishment to release Lula early OR

    another organic candidate will rise: a Brazilian Obama.

    he will be a Black Male.

    It is clear from trajectory, that the Blacks and Brown are starting to feel their power. The so called elites made a big mistake in taking down Lula. Lula was still white. The white leader of a black and brown mass. Now that he has been removed the created vacuum may be filled by the very thing the establishment doesnt want to see.

    A Brazilian OBAMA.

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