Leading Labour Voices Say Free Lula

By Matt Willgress, Brazil Solidarity Initiative

Former Brazilian president Lula was once termed the most popular politician on earth by Barack Obama. Now, he is a political prisoner in jail in Brazil, which has a far-right President who has said he hopes he rots there.

Last year, on April 7, he was jailed for “indeterminate acts” of corruption while millions across Brazil were gearing up for the most important presidential election in a generation.

At the time of his sentencing, jailing, and when he was denied the right to stand in the election and removed from the ballot, he was leading in every poll for the Presidential election. And just weeks before he was removed from the political process, the UN human rights committee officially requested that Lula be allowed to stand, have access to media and have access to members of the Workers Party while he was imprisoned.

In the end Brazilians were denied the option to choose whether or not they wanted to return Lula to power, and in the end the far-right Jair Bolsonaro was elected.

Astonishingly, Lula’s prosecuting and sentencing judge, Sergio Moro, has since been appointed as Jair Bolsonaro’s Minister for Justice, despite continually asserting that he was not interested in politics.

But the fight for freedom of Lula continues, and goes alongside the resistance of millions of Brazilians to Bolsonaro’s far-right agenda.

International solidarity couldn’t be more vital for these fights, and that’s why it was so heartening to recently see prominent Parliamentarians, Trade Unionists, academics and others call for Lula’s Freedom in a recent letter to the Guardian, with a strong Labour Party presence on the signatories list showing just how internationalist our party is becoming under Jeremy Corbyn.

The reason for this significant show of support was well explained by Rachel Garnham, Labour NEC member, who said on behalf of Labour Friends of Progressive Latin America, “Labour and trade union activists are united in standing shoulder to shoulder with our brothers and sisters in Brazil who are resisting the far-right Bolsonaro. Bolsonaro has said he wishes for Lula to rot in jail. Lula is a political prisoner, and we must continue to speak up for his freedom.”

Lula is an icon of the left internationally, as recognised by Young Labour making him their honorary president last year and brought millions out of poverty in Brazil, dramatically changing the country for the better.

As Tony Burke, Assistant General Secretary of Unite the Union and of the Brazil Solidarity Initiative added when the letter was published, “Lula is a political prisoner, jailed to remove him from the presidential ballot when he was leading every poll. His political persecution opened the door for Bolsonaro and the far-right in Brazil.

Lula’s historic achievements as president are a symbol for progressive people and trade unionists across the globe. That is why it’s vital that we join the millions in Brazil and around the world calling for his freedom.”

Let’s keep up the campaigning – #LulaLivre!



APPENDIX: Free Lula letter and key Labour signatories.

“We condemn the continued persecution of former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who was jailed a year ago. Lula was favourite to win Brazil’s 2018 presidential election until he was jailed and barred from standing, in a move condemned by the UN human rights committee.

The election was subsequently won by the far-right Jair Bolsonaro, who has said he hopes Lula “rots in prison”. Astonishingly, Judge Moro, who oversaw Lula’s trial, has now been appointed as Bolsonaro’s minister of justice. Lula is a political prisoner. We call for his freedom and stand in solidarity with those struggling for democracy in Brazil.”

  • Diane Abbott MP, Labour


  • Richard Burgon MP, Labour


  • Daniel Carden MP, Labour


  • Rt Hon Baroness Jean Corston, Labour


  • Emma Dent Coad MP, Labour


  • David Drew MP, Labour


  • Neil Findlay MSP, Labour


  • Baroness Llin Golding, Labour


  • Karen Lee MP, Labour


  • Clive Lewis MP, Labour


  • Rachel Maskell MP, Labour


  • Grahame Morris MP, Labour


  • Kate Osamor MP, Labour


  • Laura Pidcock MP, Labour


  • Danielle Rowley MP, Labour


  • Lloyd Russell-Moyle MP, Labour


  • Laura Smith MP, Labour


  • Frances O’Grady, General Secretary, TUC


  • Mick Cash, General Secretary, RMT


  • Manuel Cortes, General Secretary, TSSA


  • Ronnie Draper, General Secretary, BFAWU


  • Chris Kitchen, General Secretary, NUM


  • Paddy Lillis, General Secretary, USDAW


  • Len McCluskey, General Secretary, Unite


  • Dave Prentis, General Secretary, UNISON


  • Tim Roache, General Secretary, GMB


  • Mick Whelan, General Secretary, ASLEF


  • Huda Elmi, NEC member, Labour & Momentum NCG


  • Rachel Garnham, Labour NEC


  • Lara McNeill, Youth rep, Labour NEC


  • Nav Mishra, Labour NEC


  • Claudia Webbe, Labour NEC


  • Pete Willsman, Labour NEC


  • Colin Burgon, President, Labour Friends of Progressive Latin America


  • Christine Blower and Tony Burke, Vice-Chairs, Brazil Solidarity Initiative