Brazil’s Moro questions authenticity of leaked messages

Brazil's justice minister on Saturday questioned the authenticity of leaked personal messages published by a news website that appear to show him when he was still a judge improperly advising prosecutors in a case against former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

The Intercept posted purported chats between then-judge Sergio Moro and ex-prosecutor Carlos Dos Santos Lima in which Moro offers strategy advice to the prosecutor in the corruption case against da Silva. According to the website, the conversation suggests Moro acted "as an informal coordinator" of the prosecution in the judicial process that led to da Silva's conviction for receiving a beachfront apartment as a bribe.

The website said Moro at one point suggested the prosecutors release a statement highlighting contradictions in da Silva's declaration.

The conviction ended da Silva's 2018 presidential run and Moro went on to become justice minister in President Jair Bolsonaro's government.

A statement from the Justice Ministry, led by Moro, said it did not recognize the authenticity of the messages. It said the messages were leaked because of a "criminal invasion by hackers."

It reiterated that "the supposed material must be presented to an independent authority for certification."

Moro and prosecutors deny any wrongdoing, but the Brazilian Bar Association has called for the suspension of the minister and others pending an inquiry.

On Thursday, Bolsonaro offered words of support for his justice minister, saying Moro's accomplishments in the sprawling Car Wash investigation have "no price."

Launched in 2014, Car Wash has looked into billions of dollars in contracts with oil-giant Petrobras and ended the careers of some of the most prominent business and political figures in the South American nation.

In an interview recorded earlier this week in Curitibia, where da Silva has been held in a federal prison since April 7, 2018, Brazil's former president said the leaked communications between the members of the Car Wash task force and then-judge Moro demonstrate what he has been saying all along.

"I take advantage now to tell you that I'm happy because the country is finally going to know the truth. I always said that Moro is a liar," da Silva said.

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Brazil's Lula convicted to keep him from 2018 election: Report

Brazil's justice minister and prosecutors collaborated to convict left-wing icon Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on corruption charges to prevent him from contesting the 2018 election, an investigative news outlet has reported.

The Intercept said on Sunday an anonymous source provided material, including private chats, audio recordings, videos and photos, that show "serious wrongdoing, unethical behaviour, and systematic deceit".

"Secret documents reveal that Brazil's most powerful prosecutors ... plotted to prevent the Workers' Party [PT] from winning the 2018 presidential election by blocking or weakening a pre-election interview with former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva," said the news report. 

Among the explosive claims, The Intercept said prosecutors in a massive, years-long anti-corruption probe known as "Car Wash" had expressed "serious doubts whether there was sufficient evidence to establish Lula's guilt".

Justice Minister Sergio Moro was the anti-corruption judge who handed Lula his first conviction in 2017, which prevented him from running in a presidential election he was widely expected to win.

President Jair Bolsonaro, who said during his campaign that he hoped Lula would "rot in prison", later made Moro part of his cabinet.

Glenn Greenwald, a cofounder of The Intercept and member of the team that first interviewed Edward Snowden in 2013, said on Twitter the leak was "one of the largest & most important in years".

This is "just the very beginning of what we intend to reveal from this massive archive about him [Moro] & the prosecutors with whom he unethically worked", said Greenwald.

The claims come at a bad time for Bolsonaro, who is already facing mounting opposition less than six months into his term, as Latin America's biggest economy teeters on the edge of recession and his signature pension reform remains stuck in a hostile Congress.

'Out of context'

In response to The Intercept's stories, Moro defended his actions as a judge in the ongoing Car Wash probe, and said the material obtained through the "criminal invasion of prosecutors' cell phones" had been "taken out of context".

"Careful reading reveals that there is nothing there despite the sensational material," Moro said on Twitter.

The Car Wash task force confirmed its investigators had been hacked, but said it did not know the extent of the breach.

1/ EXCLUSIVE: We obtained one of the largest & most important archives of leaked material in years: containing the secret chats, audios, videos & documents of the prosecutors & Judge - now Bolsonaro's Justice Minister, Sergio Moro - who imprisoned Lula. It shows vast wrongdoing.

Politically motivated

Lula, who led Brazil through an historic boom from 2003 to 2010, has denied all corruption charges against him, arguing they were politically motivated to prevent him from competing in the elections.

He is serving a reduced jail term of eight years and 10 months after being convicted of accepting a seaside apartment as a bribe for helping the OAS construction company get lucrative deals with state oil firm Petrobras.

While behind bars, Lula's Workers' Party registered him as its presidential candidate in August 2018 - two months before the election. However, an electoral court barred him two weeks later.

A second conviction was handed down in February, for which he was sentenced to almost 13 years.

Fernando Haddad, PT's election candidate who lost to Bolsonaro, said on Twitter "we could be facing the biggest institutional scandal in the history of the republic".

"The truth will prevail" was posted on Lula's Twitter account above a link to The Intercept stories. 

Days before filing the indictment that put Lula in jail, group chats involving prosecutors in the case showed that chief prosecutor Deltan Dallagnol "expressed his increasing doubts over two key elements of the prosecution's case: whether the triplex was in fact Lula's and whether it had anything to do with Petrobras".

The leaked material also shows "Car Wash prosecutors spoke openly of their desire to prevent the PT from winning the election and took steps to carry out that agenda", The Intercept reported.

"Moro secretly and unethically collaborated with the Car Wash prosecutors to help design the case against Lula ... only for him to then pretend to be its neutral adjudicator."

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Brazil's PT Condemns New US Measures against Cuba

The Workers'' Party (PT) of Brazil on Friday condemned the new measures taken by the United States against Cuba, and described them as another show of arrogant interventionism and disregard for international law.

This time Washington 'bans group travels, for which US citizens were authorized to visit the island with educational purposes, as part of exchanges between the two peoples,' the PT said in a press release signed by its president, Gleisi Hoffmann, and International Relations Secretary Monica Valente.

The message added that 'trips to the island on transportation or recreational boats, as well as private planes, are also banned'.

According to the political organization, 'the obvious objective of the measures is to try to suffocate the Cuban economy by limiting or preventing US citizens' visits to Cuba, as tourism is the country's major source of hard currencies'.

Those measures, 'as well as all others taken by the United States against Cuba, are illegal in light of the collective security system of the United Nations,' the press release added.

The PT recalled that in November 2018, the UN General Assembly approved, with 189 votes in favor, the resolution demanding an end to the economic blockade imposed on Cuba by the United States since 1960.

It denounced that the 'unilateral blockade that the United States has imposed on Cuba for purely ideological reasons has lasted 59 years, with no practical results for Washington's geopolitical interests, but with inadmissible negative consequences for the Cuban people's quality of life.'

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Brazil: New Rallies to Defend Education and Social Security

The Brazilians are defending their rights as the Education Minister strives to disqualify social discontent.

Brazil is holding a new, nationwide strike Thursday as thousands of workers, teachers and students take to the streets to protests against President Jair Bolsonaro's policies related to social security privatization and budget cuts to universities and scientific research institutes.

RELATED: Brazil’s Economy Shrank, First Time Since 2016

Convened by the National Union of Students (UNE) and backed by unions and social movements, the May 30 demonstration (30M) is expected to surpass the millions of people who took part in country's massive May 15 work stoppage.

"What happened May 15 was historic and people need to repeat such a feat ... We need to go to the streets and call everyone to defend education," Marianna Dias, the UNE president said and commented that "education is the most powerful weapon against Bolsonaro's administration because education makes people free."

She also explained that universities have been spaces of democracy, freedom and resistance even in the worst moments of Brazil's long dictatorship, which is part of the reason the current head of state is so fearful of education.

Dias added that Brazilian Education Minister Abraham Weintraub refused to listen to students who disagreed with the government's decision to cut scholarship and research funding, trying to have them forcibly removed them from a public hearing on these issues held at Congress on Wednesday.

On Wednesday, in a new attempt to diminish the degree of student discontent, Weintraub blamed teachers for influencing students to protest.

"Teachers are compelling" students to take to the streets, an offensive statement which reignited flames of indignation among Brazilians who were outraged when Bolsonaro called students “useful idiots, dolts, who are being used as a mass-of-maneuver” during the May 15 demonstrations.

Not all parts of Brazil's government are with the president. The Rio Grande do Norte Federal Public Ministry agreed Minister Weintraub is insulting Brazilian students and teachers, prompting the state's Attorney Gen Emanuel de Melo Ferreira to initiate Wednesday a civil action for moral damages against Weintraub who, if found guilty, could pay US$1.2 million in indemnizations.

Thousands of university and secondary students managed to march towards the Ministers Square in the capital of Brasilia Thursday morning.

Recalling former leftist President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva who supported education, the UNE president said that "he allowed democracy, critical reasoning and knowledge to be spread to our people. He allowed poor people to feel the pleasure of sitting on a college bench."

 

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Suicide in Black Youth and Teenagers in Brazil more than in Whites

Brasilia, May 23 (Prensa Latina) Black youth and adolescents in Brazil are more likely to commit suicide nowadays than whites, according to a study by the Ministry of Health, reported by the news portal G1.

The rate in the 10-29 age group in 2016 was 45 percent higher among blacks and browns than whites. That number is even higher among men in the same age group (50 percent), according to data from the report entitled 'Suicide deaths among black adolescents and youths.

Suicide mortality rates among white teens and young people remained stable from 2012 to 2016, while the black population increased by 12 percent.

For every 10 suicides among people in that age group, six were among blacks.

In women, in 2012, every 100 suicides in white female adolescents and youth, 123 happened among blacks.

According to the report, black men in the 10-19 age group are the most vulnerable group.

The suicide risk for them was 67 percent higher than among white male adolescents.

Dr. Rita Helena Borret told G1 that these suicide risk rates among young blacks are related to structural racism, which causes more suffering and illness for these young people and adolescents than for whites of the same age.

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Bolsonaro Fund Cuts Force Scientists to Migrate Brazil for Work

Brazil's academics will join the May 15 naitonwide workers' to protest social spending cuts and pension reforms.

Brazilan scientists and students are being forced to leave the country in search of funding to finish their current research and studies fearing major cuts to the public higher education system announced last week by far-right President Jair Bolsonaro.

RELATED: 'Brazil Needs More Education, Not More Guns', Lula Warns

"Scientists are no longer leaving the country by choice but because it is the only chance to continue doing their job. Brazil does not regard education and science as priorities," said Helena Nader, member of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences, adding that what makes the situation even worse is "the new government's declarations of contempt for science."

The Brazilian academic community protested twice last week after the Bolsonaro administration announced it will "block" 30 percent of the national budget to federal universities and research institutes that was already allocated for this year. This would amount to an immediate cut to 3,400 scholarships, according to local media Revista Forum.

Over the past five years, the Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel (Capes) lost 24.4 percent of its resources, a trend deepened by former President Michael Temer (2016-2018) who took over the post in a parliamentary coup d'état of President Dilma Rousseff.

DIA 15 DE MAIO DE 2019 NÃO ESQUEÇA, GREVE NACIONAL EM DEFESA DA EDUCAÇÃO NO BRASIL.

"Do not forget, May 15, nationwide strike in defense of education in Brazil." The meme reads: "Marielle, Free Lula, Education, Step aside Bolsonaro."​​​​​

Roussef herself responded to the budget 'blockade' by saying that Bolsonaro's attacks on the education system must be stopped with social mobilization.

"All Brazilian citizens should support this struggle, which represents the defense of our future with democracy, diversity and prosperity," she said.​​​​​​​

Dilma said that her Workers' Party commitment to education was strategically to, "overcome misery and poverty," to create a knowledge economy that develops technology and innovations and strengthen culture.

In early May, Bolsonaro also announced a 30 percent budget cut to resources assigned to universities and reseach centers, a decision that directly affects the local production of science, technology and innovation.​​​​​​​

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Lula da Silva says Brazil needs more education, not more guns

Brasilia, May 13 (RHC)-- In an interview aired by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva warned that his country's problems will not be solved by governmental decisions that facilitate the use of weapons instead of promoting education.

The Workers' Party leader said that Brazil's current president, Jair Bolsonaro, "barbarously defends an armed, police state.  In his head, a weapon solves everyone's problem.  He has just authorized that farmers can use guns and shoot anyone they want."  Lula added the Bolsonaro "is sick and believes that Brazil's problems will be solved with weapons.  Brazil's problems will be solved with books, with schools," stressed the left-leaning politician.

The criticism came just days after former Brazilian Army captain Bolsonaro signed a decree authorizing truck drivers, legislators, journalists, private security agents, lawyers and others to carry weapons in public places.  This executive order will allow some 19.1 million citizens to request firearm licenses, according to Souda Paz Institute, an NGO dedicated to promoting a peace culture in Brazil.

On Wednesday, the current far-right administration also announced it would "block" 30 percent of the national budget already allocated to universities and research institutes from receiving their funds.  This budget cut immediately moved thousands of Brazilian professors, students and scientists to protest and plan for a nationwide strike against social security reforms set for May 15.??????

Regarding the repression of young people and students, Lula pointed out in the exclusive interview that "for the wellbeing of Brazil, I hope [Bolsonaro] learns.  Instead of talking nonsense, Bolsonaro should say the following: 'I will finish my term term being better than Lula, I will create more universities, I will invest more in science and technology, I will enroll more children in school.'"

During the interview, the 73-year-old politician and political prisoner answered several questions about the corruption allegations used to send him to jail for eight years, down from his original 12-year sentenced ruled on in 2018.

"The only thing that interests me is to prove my innocence and I will fight for it until my last days," Lula said and commented that, besides being politically motivated, his trial was wrought with legal irregularities.  No actual evidence against the ex-president was ever presented in court, just testimonies against him.??????

Since April 7, 2018, Lula has been imprisoned at a Curitiba's federal prison convicted of allegedly receiving a luxurious beach apartment from Odebrecht, a Brazilian construction company in exchange for contracts with Petrobras, a state-owned oil company.

Lula recalled that many opposition politicians wrongly thought he was going to leave Brazil before being arrested.  "I decided to stay in my country.  If they want me in Curitiba, I will be there," he said and thanked "those wonderful people who are out there," referring to the thousands of Brazilians supporters who have been in permanent mobilization and solidarity since his imprisonment in April 2018.

Brazil's Federal Supreme Court recently ruled to allow Lula to be interviewed.  This was his first broadcast interview originally set to be aired on RedeTV, but the Brazilian media outlet changed course last week, allegedly pressured by the Bolsonaro administration.

Edited by Ed Newman
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'Lula is Political Prisoner': American Association of Jurists

A specialized NGO having UN consultative status affirms that imprisonment of Lula Da Silva seeks to remove him from the Brazilian political process.

The American Association of Jurists (AAJ), an NGO with consultative status at the United Nations Economic and Social Council (Ecosoc), has published a statement recognizing former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva as a political prisoner.

RELATED: 'Lula will have no Chance of Freedom,' Threatens Bolsonaro

Lula's sentence "was issued as a consequence of an accusation produced by violating the due process of law, that prejudiced (his) right to a defense, and without evidence," the AJJ said Thursday and pointed out that Brazilian far-right politicians, "benefited in the elections while Lula da Silva was isolated (in prison) as a presidential candidate and had the broadest popularity in the electoral polls."

The AAJ, which already denounced Lula's 12 year sentence at the 2018 UN Human Rights Council general session, saying that Brazil's Superior Electoral Tribunal invalidated his candidacy for the presidency, forbade him to speak from prison and prevented the Workers' Party (PT) from using his image in the electoral campaign. These measures were taken despite the fact that the country's constitution guaranteed Lula the presumption of innocence.

"Such conditions demonstrate a detention that was made by violating fundamental guarantees, endorsing clearly political motivations, lacking connection with a properly and well defined offense, and having a duration and accessory penalties which are aimed at both moving Lula da Silva away from the national political process and laying foundations to discriminate against people endorsing different ideological tendencies through irregular procedures," the AAJ explained.

According to the Council of Europe's jurisprudence, this makes Lula a political prison.

His current situation could also be described as a case of "prison of conscience," affirms the AAJ.

Evidence of the mishandling of Lula's case became evident March 4, 2016 when Curitiba's Judge Sergio Moro authorized searching the former president's apartment because he was considered "a likely ​​​​​​​suspect" of money landry and corruption.

This raid began a "lawfare on Lula", using the judicial system, supported by Brazil's mainstream media, to eventually indict him S​​​​​​​ept. 20 for allegedly receiving bribes from Odebrecht construction company in the form of remodeling of a three-floor beach apartment. 

In May 2017, Lula was allowed to provide his first testimony in the so-called 'Triplex Case', which showed he did not own any such apartment. Nevertheless, in July 12, Moro condemned Lula to nine years and six months in prison.

Six months later, Jan. 24, 2018, Curitiba's Federal Court sentenced Lula to 12 years in prison with no time to appeal just when all the polls indicated that he was the favorite to win the ​​presidential elections.

In January 2019 after far-right politician Jair Bolsonaro won the Brazilian presidency, he appointed Sergio Moro as his Minister of Justice.​​​​​​​

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