Brazil's Supreme Court rules ex-President Lula can be jailed for corruption

Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva can be jailed on corruption charges, the Supreme Court has ruled. The move would apparently block Lula's reelection bid, despite strong public support.

The Supreme Federal Court (STF) has voted 6-5 to deny Lula's plea and ruled he must start serving a 12-year prison sentence for graft. According to the ruling, Lula may now be arrested at any time and will likely not be allowed to run for president in October. The decision is the latest step in a series of actions in Brazil, which critics of the current government describe as a creeping right-wing takeover of the nation's democratic institutions.

The popular 72-year-old politician, who is leading in all polls ahead of the October presidential election, was convicted of money laundering and passive corruption last July. The court's decision apparently blocks da Silva's expected return to politics. He says his legal troubles are a result of the machinations of his political opponents.

Commonly known as Lula, the Brazilian Workers' Party icon recently spoke on an RT Spanish show hosted by former Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa, where he argued that corruption charges are just a tool used by his political opponents to target people in the leftist camp, including himself.

"The right wing has always used corruption to attack the left. This happened with the fascists and Nazis. This happened when [President] Getúlio Vargas killed himself in Brazil, and that's why [President Juan] Peron fled Argentina. Corruption charges are an instrument in the moral and ethical fight against opponents," he said.

Declaring himself a victim of political persecution, Lula told his supporters in Rio de Janeiro on Monday that his struggle is a continuation of the fight against the former dictatorship of 1964-1985. The possibility of his return to power has driven his supporters, as well as his opponents, onto the streets ahead of the Supreme Court's decision.

Crowds flooded the streets of several Brazilian cities calling for the politician's imprisonment for corruption and money laundering. People chanted "Lula in jail," while others staged a performance with a person dressed as Lula sitting behind bars. Others rushed to defend the leftist politician, calling his potential incarceration an attack on democracy.

The social split follows a downturn in the Brazilian economy, which has shrunk since Lula left power in 2011. Brazilians are also trying to recover from the impeachment of da Silva's protégé, former President Dilma Rousseff, who was herself ousted in 2016 for manipulating the federal budget to hide the nation's growing economic crisis. Her supporters, including Lula, called the impeachment a parliamentary coup.

"Straight away I realized that they would never let me run in 2018, because they impeached Dilma, and they did not want me to return two years after she was deposed," he told RT in the interview. "And then, Rafael, lies swept across Brazil. There is a conspiracy in Brazil between the media, the judiciary, the prosecution service and police."

Rousseff's departure ended 13 years of the leftist Workers' Party hold on government, which was at first characterized by a soaring economy and the movement of millions into the middle class.

Lula was initially sentenced to nine years in jail, and an appeals court in January upheld the ruling, increasing the sentence to 12 years. While Lula's defense has no power to reverse the conviction and obtain an acquittal of the former president (who held the office from 2003 to 2011), it still has the option of appealing to the Regional Federal Court of the 4th Region (TRF-4), which passed the 12-year sentence.

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Brazil's Temer Could Lose Power as Fraud Accusations Pile Up

Temer is increasingly under pressure to resign, while court processes threaten to further jeopardize his executive power.

As multiple corruption scandals continue to swirl around Brazilian President Michel Temer and his government, the country's top electoral court has relaunched a case that could remove the president from office over alleged illegal financing in his 2014 campaign as running mate to former President Dilma Rousseff. 

RELATED: Brazil's Temer Defies Calls to Step Down over Wiretap Scandal

The court entered its second day of debates Wednesday, and analysts predicted the process could take weeks as several judges have requested more time to study the case to continue the hearings.

Just hours ahead of the scheduled start of the hearing Tuesday, Brazil's federal police sent Temer Monday an interrogation document with a list 84 questions as part of a separate investigation probing the president over accusations of corruption, organized crime and obstruction of justice.

Initially, Temer had 24 hours to respond to the questions, a deadline that ended Tuesday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. local time. 

But his lawyers requested an extension as they argued it was "absolutely impossible to demand a manifestation of the President of the Republic in the short term of 24 hours." The new deadline is set for Friday afternoon 5:00 p.m. local time.

Protesters with face masks of Brazil's politicians. Photo: Reuters

Protest against Temer in Sao Paulo. Photo: Reuters

Police patrol in front of the federal court in Brasilia. Photo: Reuters

As the election financing case moves forward and other corruption allegations continue to crash down around the president, protesters gathered outside the federal court in Brasilia to demand Temer's resignation and call for direct elections to choose the next president of Brazil.

The accusations stem from an explosive wiretap, reported May 17, in which Temer was heard appearing to give his approval to bribes to buy the silence of the jailed former president of the lower house of Congress, Eduardo Cunha, the chief mastermind behind the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff last year and a powerful witness in government corruption cases.

RELATED: Protesting Austerity, Brazil's Workers to Shut Down Cities in General Strike June 30th

The conversation was recorded by Joesley Batista, chairman of JBS, the largest meatpacking company in the world, which was also involved in a large corruption scandal for bribing Brazilian politicians, as part of a bid to win a plea bargain deal with prosecutors.

The bribes were intended to keep Cunha silent about embarrassing secrets that could jeopardize the legitimacy of Temer's presidency. In the leaked wiretap, Temer is heard telling Batista about the payments: “Look, you've got to keep that up.”

The president said the recording wasn't proof of wrongdoing. He said that he didn't report the bribery references to authorities because he did not believe them. The case was delayed as authorities investigated the source of the audio.

Attorney General Rodrigo Janot has accused Temer of corruption, criminal organization and obstruction of justice as a result of the wiretap. Temer separately faces accusations of irregular campaign financing and has also been named in the central corruption investigations, known as Operation Car Wash, probing a bribery scheme in the state-run oil campany, Petrobras. 

According to  Brazilian Constitution, if Temer resigns or is dismissed, Congress must approve an indirect election to choose the person who will continue the electoral period that Rousseff began in 2015 and that ends on Jan. 1, 2019. Tuesday's electoral financing trial could unseat the president, or he could face an impeachment process over corruption accusations. Both processes would likely be lengthy. 

Brazilians have taken to the streets to demand Temer's resignation and for immediate direct elections to be held to allow Brazilian voters to elect the next president. Temer has reiterated that he will not be resigning.

According to a new poll released Monday by the country's largest labor union, known as the CUT, nine out of 10 Brazilians prefer direct general elections and 75 percent reject Temer's administration.

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Hundreds of Thousands Protest Chile's Pinochet-Era Pension System

Organizers say it was the largest-ever protest against the private pension system in Chile.

Hundreds of thousands of people took the streets in cities across Chile Sunday to protest the private pension system known as AFP, in what the organizers call the largest march for the cause in the history of the movement.

RELATED: Over 500,000 Chileans Protest Pinochet's Private Pension System

The march, organized by workers' organizations and trade unions, kicked off at 11:00 a.m. local time in the capital city Santiago's in Plaza de las Armas, as well as several other cities.

"We hope today we will have a lot of people and show that the social movements are saying, 'We don't want anymore AFP,'" a protester with the Cabreados Movement told Chile's Bio Bio TV at the demonstration in Santiago. "(AFP) is already a failure, and our political actors need to know that the social movements won't stop."

Luis Messina, spokesperson for the CNT labor union, predicted that Sunday's demonstration would be a "historic" march. "Perhaps the largest in history," he said.The protest comes after several marches in the country to demand President Michelle Bachelet end the AFP private pension system which puts the average retirement pension below the minimum wage.

The contested system also forces workers to deposit a portion of their wages and an administrative fee into accounts managed by private hands. This system handles savings for about 10 million working Chileans.

"Bachelet, don't go without releasing us from the AFP."

Last year, the pension fund was modified to reflect changes in the country's mortality rates starting mid-2016. Workers who retire will now receive close to 2.1 percent less money for their retirement.

The pension system in Chile is a remnant from the era of the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet, which violently ruled the country from the 1973 military coup against President Salvador Allende until 1990. Much of the era's policies, which introduced agressive neoliberalism and sweeping privatization, are still in the Chilean constitution.

RELATED: Chile Strike Against Pinochet-Era Pension System Turns Violent

"We call on all the working families of Chile to go massively this Sunday, to make it clear that we don't want more AFP, private or state-run, and we will not tolerate cosmetic reforms that don't give a real solution to the low pensions or to the permanent scam that has targeted us Chilean workers due to AFP for more than 36 years," said the organizers ahead of the march.

The spokesman of the Movement of Independent Citizens No+AFP, which translates to "No More AFP," Mauricio Mattus, called on all Chileans to participate.

"This is a citizen movement and not a political one, he said. "For that reason, we also make a call not to attend with political allusions, this is a transversal movement in which everyone can join but is far from having a political tendency," he said.

In August 2016, 350,000 people protested in Santiago against the pension system that president Michelle Bachelet promised to reform. The government is expected to present such plan in about a month. 

 

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Amid Protests, Trump Repeats Vow to ´Make America Great Again'

World politics has entered a new period of uncertainty after Trump officially became U.S. president.

Donald Trump, a former real estate mogul and reality television star, was officially sworn in as the 45th president of the United States. Amongst a litany of rhetorical promises to help American workers through protectionism and improve foreign relations to put “America first,” Trump reinforced his combative populism and claimed that the country's forgotten “will never be ignored again.”

RELATED: Live Updates: President Donald Trump Touts American Nationalism in 1st Speech

During his inauguration speech on Friday in Washington D.C., Trump thanked former President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle on their service, but quickly went on the attack claiming that “January 20, 2017 will be remembered as the day that people became the rulers of this nation again.”

Drawing reference to his plan to “drain the swamp,” Trump said that while politicians in Washington have flourished and the “establishment protected itself,” there were many U.S. citizens that were left out in the cold and claimed that “we will get the job done.”

Trump spoke of “rusted-out factories” and the deterioration of the U.S. middle class because of foreign markets. “Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength,” he said and went on to explain his two rules: “Buy American and hire American.”  

The president said that the U.S. had made other nations rich, but its own wealth and strength had “disappeared over the horizon.”

During the transition period, Trump filled his cabinet with millionaires who are worth an estimated $4.5 billion total. He still has not released his tax returns that would show how much his company is worth and how much he has paid in taxes in recent years, if at all. 

Trump painted a country in a crisis, with a lack of good jobs and a wave of crime, gangs and drugs, which have “robbed the country of so much potential,” adding that he wants to bring back the country’s borders and dreams, while building new infrastructure and getting people off welfare.

He vowed to boost the country's military while uniting the “civilized world” to wipe extremist Islam “off the face of the earth.”

“We will no longer accept politicians that are all talk and no action,” he said adding that “the time for empty talk is over. Now arrives the hour of action.”

His speech then echoed a boosted-up version of his campaign rhetoric with ambiguous and ironic patriot rhetoric.

RELATED: Worldwide Anti-Trump Protests

“It’s time to remember that old wisdom our soldiers will never forget, that whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots,” he continued. 

“Together, we will make America strong again. We will make America wealthy again. We will make America proud again. We will make America safe again,” the president said in his final remarks.

Ahead of Trump, Mike Pence was also sworn in as vice president. Political figures from all parties gathered at the inauguration, including outcoming President Barack Obama and former presidents Jimmy Carter, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and defeated Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

Many protest groups braced the cold and the rain in the capital and were kept far away from the main proceedings. Several protesters formed barricades to block entrances to the inauguration ceremony.

RELATED: Trumpsters Partied in the 'Swamp,' Protesters Peppersprayed

Ahead of the official ceremony, Black Lives Matter Protests shut down a police checkpoint at Indiana Avenue, Democracy Now reported. Heavy security was on hand around the capital and clashes between protesters and police occurred in the downtown region.

Police were seen using teargas and pepper spray, with a number of angry protesters breaking the windows of a Bank of America branch, a McDonald's and Starbucks shop. The crowd chanted anti-Trump slogans including "Make Racists Afraid Again." A number of protesters were dragged away by authorities, leading to chants of, "Who do you serve? Who do you protect?."

Others around the country held “teach-ins” at universities and schools to help educate others about Trump and what many believe will be a dangerous agenda for many, particularly for minority groups.

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Donald Trump Inauguration Protests Expose Labor Movement Split

Some unions are reluctant to protest Trump. Others are ready to hit the streets.

By now, you’ve probably heard all about all of the street actions taking place this weekend.

RELATED: The Trailblazing Latinx Women Fighting Trump-Era Fascism

Tens of thousands of Americans across the country are protesting Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration, with their base of resistance in Washington, D.C.

Among them are rank-and-file members of labor organizations from diverse sectors — everything from engineering to fast food service. But not all union workers participating in the counter-inaugural protests are representing their respective labor organizations.

Some workers have been forced to join or help organize non-labor contingents, given that their unions are not officially endorsing the protests. Others, especially those in worker organizations independent from the Democratic Party establishment, are actively endorsing and participating in the demonstrations.

This division exposes a growing split in the labor movement between union leaders who are reluctant to protest Trump and those who are ready to hit the streets.

teleSUR spoke to four members of labor organizations across the country about this split. Here’s what they had to say.

Gregory Lucero, a member of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters in Chicago, says his union’s leadership is not mobilizing workers for the counter-inaugural protests. Although individuals within his union are participating, neither his local nor international office have called for acts of resistance against Trump.

“Both rank-and-file and leadership see Trump as a threat,” Lucero told teleSUR. “I would imagine that the leadership is scared. But they have to make policy decisions for the institution, which is why they are treading carefully against Trump.”

Despite his union not formally organizing a contingent at the counter-inaugural protests, Lucero says he isn’t missing out on the action. He’s one of the main organizers of protests taking place in Chicago this weekend.

“It's up to us, the rank-and-file, to get the unions in motion,” Lucero said. “We’re the ones in the streets who are fighting him from day one.”

The Teamsters endorsed Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Presidential Election.

Flor Rodriguez, director of the CLEAN carwash workers’ center in Los Angeles, says she’s mobilizing workers for counter-inaugural protests taking place in her vicinity. Her organization is joining dozens of other independent worker centers in Southern California to protest Trump’s administration this weekend.

“Rain or shine, we're going to be out marching,” Rodriguez told teleSUR. “We are coming together as workers' organizations and showing that we're an important part of this movement.”

CLEAN, which did not endorse any candidates in the election, is working to make sure members who encounter any problems with the law during protests have access to an attorney. Many carwash workers in Los Angeles are undocumented and have limited legal resources at their disposal.

“The fight is not over just because he won. Now the fight begins,” Rodriguez said. “When bad things like this happen, it's an opportunity to come together. It forces us to organize and fight back.”

Joe Lombardo, a member of the Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA) in Albany, says his union is not officially participating in any anti-Trump actions taking place this weekend. While CSEA is not discouraging members from participating, they are not forming an official contingent for protests taking place in upstate New York.

“I think it would be good if they did. I don’t think we should have a honeymoon for Donald Trump,” Lombardo said. “We need to start opposing the policies he’s put in place.”

Lombardo, who also serves as the co-coordinator of the United National Antiwar Coalition, is helping to organize counter-inaugural protests taking place in Albany alongside other social justice groups that defend immigrants, women, and people of color. He believes that unions like his have natural allies in other social justice movements and that they should work together to protest Trump’s policies.

“A small percentage of people are in unions today,” he said. “They (union leaders) have to realize that in order to win anything during this period, we have to make alliances.”

CSEA also endorsed Clinton in the 2016 Presidential Election.

RELATED: How Trump Will Bring Back Class Struggle

Fernando Ramirez, an organizer with the United Electrical Workers in Los Angeles, says his union is actively participating in anti-Trump actions this weekend. His labor organization was one of the first to endorse Democratic Party candidate Bernie Sanders for the 2016 presidential election. Ramirez says his group has no problem protesting Trump since he represents values which are contrary to their own.

“For us, Trump is the result of neoliberal policies that have devastated the working class since 1980,” he said. “He tried to union bust his own employees and he supports Right To Work laws that weakened our shops.”

Ramirez and other members of his union helped organize a mass protest against Donald Trump in Los Angeles the day after it was announced he won the election. Over 8,000 people attended.

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Trump: President's Inauguration Brings Stress in USA

Washington, Jan 19 (Prensa Latina) One day before the inauguration of President-Elect, Donald Trump, about 35 percent of Americans say they are suffering additional stress from the magnate's inauguration, a poll released today stated.

The survey, conducted by The Washington Post and ABC News, showed that the level of tension for the new president is far superior to 65 percent of those who supported former Democrat candidate, Hillary Clinton, defeated by Trump in the November 8 elections.

Investigators found that about 33 percent of supporters of the former secretary of State assert that the election of the New York businessman did not change the usual level of stress in their daily lives.

According to another Post and ABC News poll released on January 17, when Trump takes over the presidency tomorrow, he will be one of the most unpopular leaders in American history.

According to that survey, about 40 percent of citizens approve the way in which the magnate led the power transition process in recent weeks, very below to 80 percent of the endorsement Barack Obama received in 2009 when he took office.

Presidents George W. Bush, William Clinton and George H. W. Bush had popularity ratings similar to Obama, with 72, 81 and 82 percent, respectively, as presidents-elect.

The poll also showed that about 54 percent of Americans have an unfavorable opinion about Trump, very far above James Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush and Obama, who achieved about 20 percent rejection among voters when they occupied power.

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Trump, Nixon and Bush Top Counter-Inaugural Protests

Tens of thousands of people from across the country are pledging to show up to protest on Jan. 20.

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump is expected to join a club of infamous U.S. leaders who have seen their inauguration ceremonies marred by angry protesters against their reactionary policies.

RELATED: Most Racist US High School to Send Band to Trump Inauguration

Tens of thousands of people from across the country are pledging to show up to protest on Jan. 20, authorities confirmed that several organizations have requested permits to demonstrate.

In the U.S., most recent inaugural protests have been against wars and the presidents who failed to put an end to them, like Richard M. Nixon, who on Jan. 20, 1969, saw hundreds of opponents carrying anti-war banners while he was doing the traditional inaugural parade from the U.S. Capitol to the White House.

The National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam organized against Nixon, and protesters — most of them youth inspired by liberation struggles around the world — threw flowers, rocks, bottles and improvised smoke bombs as Nixon's limousine came down the main thoroughfare.

Riot police and the Secret Service cracked down on protesters and arrested dozens of them.

On Jan. 21, 2001, thousands of demonstrators attended the inauguration of George W. Bush to protest the outcome and controversial circumstances of the 2000 U.S. presidential election, most of the people were carrying banners that read, “Fraud” and "Not my president."

The protests were mostly peaceful, with only four protesters arrested and Bush's limousine was hit by a tennis ball and an egg thrown from the crowd during the inaugural parade.

RELATED: Trump's Inauguration to Be Met with Massive Civil Disobedience

But during his second inauguration in 2005, more than 10,000 demonstrators were estimated to have poured into the capital's streets, as the country was in the throes of the Iraq War. That protest was large and boisterous and those who split off from the permitted marches were arrested, beaten and pepper-sprayed by the police.

For Trump’s inauguration, police expect some 900,000 people to flood Washington, which includes the parade along streets thronged with onlookers. About 3,000 police officers, 5,000 National Guard troops and federal agents will staff buffer crowd-control barriers and bag checkpoints.

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Mexican Employers Disapprove Agreement Announced by Peña Nieto

Mexico, Jan 10 (Prensa Latina) The Confederation of Employers of the Mexican Republic (Coparmex) today refused to join the Agreement for the Economic Strengthening and Protection of the Family Economy announced by President Enrique Peña Nieto.

Considered one of the most important private organizations in the country, the group felt that the agreement was not properly agreed and risks becoming a 'communication strategy or public image'.

After consulting the different governing bodies and technical groups, as well as the 65 business centers throughout the country, Coparmex 'has decided not to sign the agreement,' the agency said in a statement.

The employers said that Coparmex coincides in the urgency of an agreement but that it must be the result of a true and broad social consensus, and not only serve as a 'communication strategy or public image'.

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