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Brazil’s Lula nominated for president despite detention

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A general view of the national convention of the Workers Party (PT), in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on August 04, 2018 (photo by AFP)

Brazil’s Workers Party (PT) has officially nominated its founder, former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, for the upcoming presidential election, in a largely symbolic move since he remains in prison on a 12-year sentence on corruption charges.

On Saturday, some 2,000 members of the leftist party gathered for a convention in Sao Paulo and declared him their candidate to rerun for office in the October presidential election.

Lula was the 35th president of Brazil from 2003 to 2011, with an approval rating of above 80 percent, and has been serving a 12-year prison sentence since April after being found guilty of corruption. The 72-year-old veteran politician dismisses his conviction as part of a plot to prevent him from returning to power.

Lula leads most opinion polls in the Latin American country but may not be allowed to stand. Under Brazilian electoral law, politicians are not authorized to run for office within eight years of being found guilty of a crime.

In the convention of party members, many of whom wore Lula masks, a letter from the former president was read out.

“Today, our democracy is threatened. They want to make the presidential election a rigged card game, excluding the name that is ahead in popular preference in all polls,” Lula wrote. “They want to scrap the people’s right to choose the president. They want to create a democracy without the people. We have an enormous responsibility ahead.”

The leftist party has until Monday to name Lula’s running mate.

PT leaders, including Party President Senator Gleisi Hoffmann, denied they have an alternative candidate to stand in Lula’s place should he be barred from running, as is widely expected.

Brazilian Senator and President of the Workers’ Party (PT) Gleisi Hoffmann (C) holds a mask depicting former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, during the national convention of the PT, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on August 04, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

Lula was convicted of taking $1.2 million in bribes from Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht in return for granting the company public contracts. He also faces another six trials for other corruption allegations but has denied any wrongdoing.

Lula has been battling to overturn his sentence in the hopes of making another presidential bid in the election. According to a recent poll, he could win more than twice the support of his nearest challengers if he runs in the vote.

Two other candidates were also nominated on Saturday, namely Marina Silva by the center-left Brazilian Sustainability Network Party (REDE), and Geraldo Alckmin by the center-right Social Democracy Party. They are placed second and third respectively — behind far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro — in early polling that excludes Lula.

Brazil’s electoral court will decide by next month whether Lula can run in the election.

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