On early Thursday morning, the verdict of the Supreme Court of Brazil dealt a severe, if not fatal blow to the aspirations of Luiz Inácio Lula de Silva for the presidential office. The close vote paved the way for Lula’s at least temporary arrest for corruption, which would effectively put an end to his campaign and his chances for running in the October 2018 presidential elections. An arrest warrant is expected to be issued in the coming days.

Polarisation Over Controversial Candidate

The population is highly divided over Lula’s trial. According to some polls, over 50 per cent of the population wants to see him punished for the allegations of corruption. However, Lula is leading the race for the presidential office by a wide margin. Particularly the followers of his Workers’ Party (PT) see in him the only chance to escape the strict austerity measures set in motion by current President Michel Temer.

Tensions Running High

Several demonstrations of both supporters and detractors have occurred in the run-up to the court’s session. Unease has spread further with messages issued by the leader of the armed forces, General Eduardo Villas Boas, on social media on Tuesday that called on the Supreme Court to fight impunity. Many of Lula’s supporters have denounced the messages as interference in civilian matters and interpreted them as a covert threat of a military coup d’état should the court rule in Lula’s favour. The situation is on edge, and the verdict is threatening to heighten tensions further. While opponents of Lula celebrated the announcement, the PT and several civil organisations are discussing their further steps, ranging from calls to occupy buildings across the country to large-scale protests in major cities to forming a human barrier to prevent Lula’s apprehension. Accordingly, the risk of civil unrest and violent escalations is growing in Brazil, with potential consequences for travellers and business activities.

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Photo credit: Agencia Brasil | License: Creative Commons