Brazilian assets soared, with the Bovespa surging above 83,000 for the first time ever, and the BRL surging through 3.20 after three judges in a local appeals court upheld a conviction for corruption imposed last July on ex-President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
While Lula can still take his appeal to a higher court, the decision could rule Lula out as a candidate for October’s presidential election. Which was a sigh of relief for investors in Brazil assets as the ex-leader, who governed from 2003 to 2011, had been a favorite to win.
Quoted by the BBC, Lula said ahead of the ruling that he would continue fighting “for the dignity of the Brazilian people” until he died.
On Wednesday, all three judges at the appeals court in the city of Porto Alegre said Lula had broken the law by accepting a seafront apartment from a construction company involved in a major corruption scheme. They also voted that his original sentence should be increased from nine-and-a-half years to 12 years and one month.
The ruling was a severe blow to Lula’s ambitions to become president for a third term in elections scheduled for 7 October. Under Brazilian electoral rules, candidates cannot run for office if they have prior convictions. There is still some hope as Lula’s lawyers argue that rule cannot come into force until the defendant has exhausted all of his appeals.
To still qualify for the elections, Lula could ask the Supreme Court to lift the ban and, if the court were to accede to his request, he could stand for office. However, time is of the essence as Lula will need to have registered his candidacy by 15 August.
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When left-winger Lula rose to power in 2003, he promised an end to shady, corruption-ridden politics. Then in 2005 a huge vote-buying scandal nearly cost him his job. Despite that, he won the support of the poor by pouring billions of dollars into social program, and left office in 2011 with record approval ratings.
Ultimately, it was Brazil’s biggest-ever corruption scandal, Operation Car Wash – the same scandal that also led to the fall of his successor Dilma Rouseff – which triggered Lula’s current legal woes. The investigation, which began in March 2014, sucked in more than 80 politicians and members of the business elite.
Then, in 2017, Lula was found guilty of accepting a beachfront apartment from an engineering firm in return for help in winning contracts for Petrobras, Brazil’s state oil company. That conviction was confirmed by Wednesday’s ruling.
And, as BBC adds, he also faces other charges of money laundering, influence peddling and obstruction of justice. He has repeatedly denied those claims.
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While it remains to be seen what, if anything, Lula will do next, Brazilian assets were delighted by an outcome in which the poor got the shaft again, and led global gains.
The BRL strengthens the most since May 2017 as 23 out of 24 EM currencies tracked by Bloomberg rose, with MSCI’s index of emerging-market stocks climbing for a 9th day while Brazil’s Petrobras soared by over 10%, and the Bovespa and the iShares Brazil ETF both hit all time highs.