'They will never be able to stop the spring from coming'
Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is currently serving a 12-year imprisonment sentence on a corruption conviction related to a luxury apartment. Shortly before he was transported to prison, Lula delivered a speech to thousands of supporters in Sao Bernardo do Campo, Sao Paulo, on 7 April at the headquarters of the metalworkers' union he once headed. We reproduce below the text of his speech, translated from the Portuguese.
IN 1979, this union staged one of the most extraordinary strikes and we got a deal with the auto industry that was maybe the best we could get. I had a factory committee with 300 workers. The deal was good and I decided to take the deal to a vote in a union meeting. I decided to ask the committee to get to the factory early to talk to the workers.
I used to hold meetings in the morning because people have a few drinks in the afternoon, and when we have a few drinks, we get bolder. Well, that didn't stop that from happening, because people would bring their cognac bottles in their bags and when I got there I would have a 'shot' because it's good for your throat - which didn't happen today.
Anyway, we decided to take the deal to a vote and 100,000 people at the Vila Euclides Stadium did not accept it. It was the best we could get. We wouldn't have vacation days taken away, we would not lose our 13th salary and we'd have a 15% pay raise, but the workers were so radicalised they wanted 83% or nothing - and we didn't get it.
We spent one year being called doormats by the workers. We didn't manage to approve a proposal I considered to be good, and then people started to disrespect the union board. I would visit factories and no one would stop. The press would write: 'Lula speaks to workers' deaf ears.'
It took us one year to regain our prestige among our peers and I thought, somewhat vengefully: 'These workers think they can stage a strike for 100 days, 400 days, that they can go all the way, so I'll put them to the test in 1980.'
Then we staged the largest strike in our history: 41 days striking. Seventeen days into the strike, I was arrested and, after a few days, workers started to break the strike. [Romeu] Tuma [then chief of police], doctor Almir, Teotonio Vilela would visit me in jail and tell me: 'Hey, Lula, you gotta end this strike; you've got to advise them to end the strike.' I would say: 'I'm not ending the strike. The workers will decide for themselves.'
What actually happened was that no one could take 41 days because the comrades had to buy milk, they had to pay their power bills, their gas bills, their wives were asking for money to buy bread, so they started to feel the pressure and could not take it any longer. But it's funny because, by losing, we won so much more, even though we didn't have financial gains. This means money won't solve a strike's problem. It's not about 5% or 10%; rather it's about what a strike brings in terms of political theory and political know-how.
Now, we find ourselves in a similar situation. I am being persecuted and I have been saying very clearly: 'I'm the only human being in the world who is being persecuted over an apartment I do not own.' He [Judge Sergio Moro] knows that [the newspaper] O Globo lied when they said it was mine. When the Federal Police and their Operation Car Wash conducted the investigation, they lied and said it was mine. When the prosecution charged me, they lied and said it was mine. I thought Moro was going to solve this and he lied and said it was mine, and convicted and sentenced me to nine years in prison.
That is why I'm an outraged citizen, because I've done so much in my 72 years of life, but I don't forgive them for making society believe I'm a thief. They've let those bandits make pixulecos [a doll that represents Lula wearing a prison uniform] throughout the country. They've let them call us petralhas [play on words using 'PT', the Portuguese abbreviation for Lula's Workers' Party, and 'bandits']. They've let them create a war atmosphere that negates politics in this country. Every day I say: none of them, not one of them, has the courage, or sleeps with the clear conscience of honesty and innocence like I do. None of them.
I'm not above the law. If I didn't believe in the court system, I would not have created a political party; I would have suggested a revolution in this country. But I believe in the court system, in fair courts, in courts that rule on a case based on the records, based on the information brought by the prosecution and the defence, on substantial evidence pointing to who is guilty.
What I cannot accept is a justice attorney who makes a PowerPoint presentation and goes on national television to say that the PT is a criminal organisation that was born to rob our country and that Lula, being the most important person in the party, is the boss. Because Lula is the boss, according to the attorney: 'I don't need evidence, I am convinced of it.' I want him to keep his convictions to his acolytes, his accomplices, not me. I have the firm belief a thief would not be demanding proof. He would have his tail between his legs and his mouth shut, hoping the media would not mention his name.
There are more than 70 hours of Jornal Nacional [Globo Network's most-watched TV newscast] crushing me. There are more than 70 magazine covers attacking me. I have thousands and thousands of newspapers attacking me. I have Record attacking me. I have Bandeirantes attacking me, I have so many radio networks attacking me. What they don't realise is that with every blow they deliver, I grow closer to the Brazilian people.
I'm not afraid of them. I've actually said I'd like to face Moro in a debate over the accusations he has made against me. I would like him to show me real evidence. I've challenged the appeals judges in the case to have debates at whatever university they want, for the course they want, and prove whatever crime I've committed in this country.
A long time ago, I dreamt it was possible to rule this country by including millions and millions of poor people in the economy, including millions of people in universities, creating millions and millions of jobs in this country. I dreamt it was possible for a metal worker with no college degree to care for education more than the graduates that ruled this country and its education system.
I dreamt it was possible for us to reduce child mortality by making sure children could have milk, beans and rice every day. I dreamt it was possible to have students from the outskirts at this country's best universities, so that our judges and attorneys were not only members of the elite but we could soon see judges and attorneys who were born in the Heliopolis favela [slum], born in Itaquera, born on the outskirts. We are going to have a lot of people from the Landless Workers' Movement [MST], from the MTST [Homeless Workers' Movement], from CUT [Brazil's largest labour union federation] graduating from university.
This is the crime I've committed. I've committed this crime and they don't want me doing it again. Because of this crime, I have about 10 cases against me. If the charges are for these crimes, for including the poor in universities, black people in universities, enabling 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.
My fellow comrades, in 1986 I was the most voted congressman in the country's history. At the time, people suspected only those who held office would have any power inside the PT. So, comrades, when I realised people suspected only members of the Congress had worth inside the PT ... you know what I did? I resigned because I wanted to prove to the PT that I was still going to be one of its most important names without holding office, because if someone wants to beat me inside the PT, there's only one way to do it: you have to work harder than I do and like the people more than I do, because otherwise you won't beat me.
Now we have very sensitive work to do. I may be experiencing the most outrageous thing a human being can experience. What my family is having to endure is not easy. What my children are having to endure is not easy. What Marisa [Lula's wife] had to endure. I'd like to say that announcing Marisa's death before it happened was a mean, cruel thing the media and the Public Prosecution did to her. That I am sure of. I think these people don't have children, don't have a soul, they have no idea what a mother or a father feels when they see their child being beaten down, when they see their child being attacked.
So, comrades, I've decided to hold my head up high, but don't you think I am Car Wash. Car Wash has to catch the bad guys who really stole money and lock them up. We all want that. We've been saying throughout our lives: 'Justice only locks up the poor, not the rich.' We've all said that, and I want them to keep sending the rich to prison.
What's the problem? It's that you can't have a trial subjected to the media because deep, deep down, you destroy people in society, you destroy their image, and then the judges will rule and say: 'I can't go against public opinion, they are asking me to hunt them down.' If you want to vote based on public opinion, then take off your robe and run for Congress. Why, being a judge is a job for life. You have to vote based on the court records. I actually think Supreme Court justices should not announce their vote. In the United States, when the vote is over, you don't know how each one cast their vote, precisely to prevent them from being subject to pressure.
Imagine someone is accused of murder but they're not the killer. What does the victim's family want? Their death, their conviction. So a judge, unlike us, has to keep a cool head and be more responsible when accusing or convicting someone. The Public Prosecution is a very powerful institution. That is why these boys who start working at it when they are very young go to law school and can dedicate three years of their lives to get the job, because their parents can afford it. These boys should learn more about life, learn a little bit about politics, to do the job they do in Brazilian society.
There's something called accountability and don't think I am against it when I say that. I was president and appointed four federal prosecutors, and I spoke at all ceremonies when they took office and said: 'The more powerful the institution, the more accountable its members have to be.' You cannot have the media convict someone before their trial. You remember when I gave a deposition in Curitiba, I told Moro: 'You can't find me not guilty because Globo is pushing you to find me guilty, and that's what you will do.'
I think the appeals court, Moro, Car Wash and Globo, they all have a common dream. Their dream is, first: the coup was not complete after Dilma [Rousseff, Lula's successor as president, was ousted from office]. The coup will only be complete when they manage to stop Lula from running for president in 2018. It's not about me not being elected president. They don't want me to run because there's a possibility that I will win. They don't want Lula back because they think the poor can't have rights. They can't eat prime meat. The poor can't travel by plane. The poor can't go to college. According to them, the poor were born to have low-quality food and things.
So, my fellow comrades, their other common dream is to take a picture of Lula in prison. Oh, I can see Veja being so hot for my picture on their cover. I can see Globo being so hot for my picture in prison. They will have multiple orgasms.
They ordered my arrest and let me tell you something: I will obey their warrant. I will, because I want to hand the responsibility over to them. They think everything that happens in this country happens because of me. I've been convicted and sentenced to three years in prison because a judge from Manaus found that I don't need a gun, because I have a sharp tongue so he needs to silence me, because otherwise I would continue to say things like. 'It's crunch time.' The peasants killed a farmer and they thought it was the go-ahead sign.
They have tried to arrest me for obstruction of justice, but that didn't work. Now they want to catch me with preventive detention, which is even more serious, because it does not allow me to file a habeas corpus petition. Vaccari has been in prison for three years now. Marcelo Odebrecht spent over $110 million and didn't get a habeas corpus to be released. I will not spend a penny, but I am going there with one belief: they will find out, for the first time, what I have been saying every day. They don't know that this country's problem is not called Lula. This country's problem is all of you, it's people's awareness, it's the Workers' Party, PCdoB [Brazil's Communist Party], the MST, the MTST. They know it's a lot of people.
What our preacher said earlier and I've been saying that in every speech: there is no point in trying to stop me from walking this land, because I have millions and millions of Boulos [Guilherme Boulos, social movement leader and presidential candidate], millions and millions of Manuelas [Manuela D'Avila, Communist Party congresswoman and presidential candidate], of Dilma Rousseffs that walk this land for me.
There is no point in trying to end my ideas, they are already lingering in the air and you can't arrest them.
There is no point in trying to stop me from dreaming, because once I cease dreaming I'll keep dreaming through your minds and your dreams.
There is no point in thinking that everything will stop when I have a heart attack. That's nonsense, because my heart shall beat through your hearts, and they are millions of hearts.
There is no point in thinking they will make me stop. I will not stop because I'm not a human being, I'm an idea, an idea that is mixed with all of your ideas. I'm sure our comrades from the Landless and Homeless Workers' Movements, the comrades from the CUT and union movements know that. This is the evidence. I will obey the warrant and all of you are going to have to go through a transformation: your names will no longer be Joey, Johnny or Eddy. All of you, from now on, will become Lula and will walk through this country doing what you must do every day. Every day!
They have to know that the death of a fighter cannot stop the revolution.
They have to know. They have to know that we will definitely push for media regulation so the people won't be victimised by lies every single day.
They have to know that you guys, who knows, maybe are even more intelligent than me, burning the tyres that you keep on burning, staging demonstrations, occupying lands in urban and rural areas. I have faith that tomorrow, for example, you will receive good news that the land you occupied in Sao Bernardo do Campo, which seemed so difficult, will finally be yours.
Comrades, I had the chance. A few days ago I was on the border with Uruguay, close to Livramento and Rivera, and people were saying: 'Lula, my friend, pretend you are going to buy some booze and escape to Uruguay, stay there with Pepe Mujica, leave and never look back. File for political asylum, you can go to Bolivia's, Uruguay's, Russia's embassies, and from there you keep on speaking.' I'm too old for this. In my age I need to confront them, face to face, and I will face them by obeying the warrant.
I want to know how many days they will spend believing that they have arrested me. As many days as they leave me there, more Lulas will be born in this country and there will be more and more people willing to fight in this country, because in a democracy there is no limit, there's no wrong time to fight.
I've told my comrades: if it were up to me, I wouldn't go, but I'll go because otherwise tomorrow they'll say that I am a fugitive, that I am hiding. No! I'm not hiding! I'll go to them and I'll prove my innocence so that they know I have no fear, that I'm not going to run, and I'm going to prove my innocence. They must know that.
Let them do as they wish. Whatever they want. I'm going to quote what a little 10-year-old girl once said to me in Catanduva, a quote that has no author. She said: 'The powers that be might kill one, two or three roses, but they will never be able to stop the spring from coming.' And our struggle is a quest for the spring.
They must know we want more housing, more schools, less mortality. We don't want to see the same brutality they did to Marielle [Franco, a leftist Rio de Janeiro city councillor assassinated in March].
We don't want to see the same barbaric treatment black youth get in this country.
We don't want to see more child mortality caused by malnutrition in this country. We don't want to see a teenager who doesn't have any hope of going to university, because this country is such a nitwit that it was the last country in the world to have a university. The last! All of the poorer countries had one, but they didn't want to see our youth get educated. They said it was too expensive and it makes me wonder: what was the cost of not doing this 50 years ago?
I want you all to know that I'm deeply proud, deeply, deeply proud, of being the only president that didn't have a college degree, but that I'm also the president that built more universities in the history of this country to show those people they must not mistake intelligence with the number of years you spend in school. This isn't intelligence, this is knowledge.
Intelligence is when you choose a side, when you don't fear arguing with your comrades about what really matters, and what really matters right now is to make sure this country has civility back. They will not sell Petrobras [state oil company]! Let's push a new Constitution! Let's revoke the oil law they're making! We won't let them sell BNDES [Brazil's public development bank], we won't let them sell Caixa [Brazil's Federal Bank], we won't let them destroy Banco do Brasil [Brazil's public bank]. We will strengthen family agriculture, which is responsible for 70% of all the food we eat in this country.
And with this belief, comrades, holding my head up high, like I am here speaking to you, I want to get there and tell the chief police officer: I am here at your disposal.
History, in a few days, will prove those who committed a crime were the chief officer who accused me, the judge who tried me, and the prosecution who treated me as a light matter.
For this reason, comrades, my heart doesn't have enough room for everyone, but I want you to know that, if there is something I grew to like in this world, that's my relationship with the people.
When I hold your hand, when I hug one of you - and now I kiss men and women alike, everyone's the same - when I kiss one of you, it's not with a hidden agenda. I am kissing you because when I was president, I used to say: 'I am going back to where I came from.'
I know who my friends are for eternity and who is here only on occasion. The white-collar ones, who would come to me all the time, are now gone and the comrades who are here with me are those who were my friends before I became president. That friend who used to eat rabada at Zelao, who used to eat chicken and polenta at Demarchi, who used to eat caldo de mocoto at Zelao, they are still our friends. They have the courage to occupy a land plot to build their houses, they are the ones with the courage to stage a strike against the social security, they are the ones occupying lands to start a productive farm, they are the ones who actually need the state.
Comrades, let me tell you something: you shall see that I will get out of this greater, stronger, more real and innocent, because I want to prove they are the ones who committed a crime, a political crime by persecuting a man who has a 50-year history in politics, and I am very grateful for that.
I cannot repay the gratitude, the appreciation and the respect you have been giving me throughout all these years. I want to tell you, Guilherme, Manuela, both of you, I am proud to belong to a generation that is almost over, but to see two young people fight for their right to become president of this country. So, I salute you, and rest assured: this neck will not look down. My mom gave me a short neck so it does not look down, and it won't because I will leave with my head held high and my chest out, because I will prove my innocence.
Thank you, comrades, thank you so much for all you have done for me. Thank you very much, my friends!
Reproduced from the teleSUR website (www.telesurtv.net/english), the above is an edited version of a translation of Lula's speech first published in Brasil de Fato (www.brasildefato.com.br). Translators: Aline Sc tola and Pedro Ribeiro Nogueira.
*Third World Resurgence No. 328, December 2017, pp 38-42