RIO DE JANEIRO – Former Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said Friday that the corruption conviction of her mentor and predecessor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is aimed at keeping him out of next year’s presidential election.
In an interview with a news agency in Rio de Janeiro, Rousseff said no candidate allied with President Michel Temer has the votes to beat Silva, universally known as Lula.
“The 2018 elections are an enigma. They do not have a candidate to compete against Lula,” Rousseff said. “You can’t know what the result will be, but they know people noticed they had meaningful gains when he was in office. They want to stop Lula from being eligible.”
Rousseff was impeached last year for manipulating the fiscal budget and was succeeded by Temer. Silva was found guilty of corruption earlier this week and sentenced to nearly 10 years in prison, although he remains free while an appeal is heard.
“This sentence does not remove [former] President Lula from the competition,” said Rousseff in an hour-long interview. “It is an attempt to build a path to take him out. What is at stake today is the 2018 elections.”
If Silva’s conviction is upheld by a group of magistrates, he will be ineligible to run next year. In a Datafolha institute poll published in June, the former president led with 30 percent support in the current most likely scenario, twice the support of his nearest rival. The Brazilian general elections are scheduled for October next year.
Rousseff said only immediate direct elections could ease Brazil’s political crisis after Temer was accused of corruption by the country’s top prosecutor. Brazil’s lower house of Congress will decide in August if he should be suspended and stand trial.
If Temer is suspended, Chamber of Deputies Speaker Rodrigo Maia will take over as the trial goes forward. If the president is permanently removed, Congress would elect a replacement and Maia is seen as the favorite. Rousseff believes that would only draw out Brazil’s political crisis.
“Replacing this administration with another little coup monger that is also involved in corruption allegations, and who will also lead us to the same process, doesn’t solve the country’s stalemate,” said the former president, who deems her impeachment last year a “coup.” ”A direct election would bring legitimacy.”