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Free Lula NOW, says SAFTU

SAO BERNARDO DO CAMPO, BRAZIL - APRIL 07: Former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva gestures to supporters at the headquarters of the Metalworkers' Union where a Catholic mass was held in memory of his late wife Marisa Leticia on April 7, 2018 in the Sao Bernardo do Campo section of Sao Paulo, Brazil. An arrest warrant was issued on Thursday for da Silva to serve a 12-year jail term for corruption. The 72 year old former president told the crowd "I will comply with their warrant." (Photo by Victor Moriyama/Getty Images)

The South African Federation of Trade Unions joins the worldwide campaign for the immediate release of jailed former president of Brazil, Lula da Silva, who was convicted and jailed on trumped-up charges of corruption and money laundering.

The federation supports the view of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa – who marched to the Brazilian embassy in Pretoria – that Lula, who was also the leader of the Brazilian metalworkers’ trade union, is the victim of a political witch-hunt designed to undermine his legacy.

SAFTU further welcomes the visit to Comrade Lula in prison by ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow, and Vagner Freitas, President of Brazil’s United Workers Central (CUT),

“Lula is a political prisoner and people know it,” said Burrow. “He told us clearly he will run for President from his prison cell because he doesn’t want Brazilian people to live in poverty or without education, health, other public services and social protection. He wants to ensure that people have good jobs and decent wages. He will fight all attempts to silence him and although he is denied active political participation, his running mate Fernando Haddad will speak in his name… The international trade union movement stands in full solidarity with Lula and the people of Brazil”.

His 2003-2010 Workers’ Party government raised the minimum wage every year. He expanded welfare payments with a program called Bolsa Família, which kept 14 million families from going hungry. According to the U.N., 6.3% of Brazilians were living on just a dollar a day in 2000; by 2009 it had been reduced by half to around 3%.

His “Zero Hunger” programme enabled more than 12 million families to get three meals a day. Despite being the only president in Brazilian history who did not have a university degree, Lula built more universities than any other leader before him.

Yet at the same time he presided over economic growth, and reduced the country’s massive social and economic inequality. This led to a radical improvement in the lives of the working class and the poor. Unemployment fell from 12% to below 6% and, according to the World Bank, the poverty rate fell from 22% to 7% between 2003 and 2009.

He thus smashed the argument of right-wing economists and political leaders, including in South Africa, that developing countries cannot afford such reforms.

SAFTU will continue to defend and support Comrade Lula and the socialist ideals he fought for. The current neo-liberal administration of Michel Termer will stop at nothing to undermine the good work which President Lula did for the working class and the poor people of Brazil.

We send a message of solidarity and shall fight to ensure that Lula’s legacy is protected and that his vision of a socialist society is realised in Brazil, South Africa and the world.