Get this speech ban away from me!

REUTERS/Leonardo Benassatto

Do you want to prevent the Brazilian people from choosing who to vote for?

I have been in jail for over 100 days. Out there, unemployment increases, more parents have no means to support their families, and an absurd fuel pricing policy led to a truck strike that has depleted Brazilian cities. As a consequence, the number of people injured when cooking with alcohol has increased because low income families can’t afford cooking gas. Poverty is growing, and the country’s economic prospects are getting worse every day.

Brazilian children are separated from their families in the United States, while our government humiliates itself in front of the American vice president. Embraer, a high-tech company built over decades, is being sold for such a low price capable of amazing the market.

An illegitimate government has been in a hurry in the last months to liquidate as much patrimony and national sovereignty it can – reserves of the pre-salt, gas pipelines, energy suppliers, petrochemicals – besides opening the Amazon for foreign troops. As hunger comes back, the vaccination of children falls, part of the judiciary fights to keep its housing assistance privileges and, who knows, to gain a salary raise.

Last week, Judge Carolina Lebbos ruled that I can not give interviews or record videos as the Worker’s Party (the largest political party in Brazil) pre-candidate for the upcoming presidential elections. It appears that incarcerating me was not enough; they want to silence me.

You who do not want me to speak, what do you fear I will say? What is happening to the people today? Don’t you want me to discuss solutions for our country? After years of slandering me, do you want me not to have the right to speak up for myself?

Is that the reason why you, the powerful without votes and without ideas, overthrew an elected president, humiliated the country internationally and imprisoned me without proof, based on a sentence of  “indeterminate acts” after four years of investigation against me and my family? Did you do all this because you are afraid that I’ll speak up?

I remember when the president of the Federal Supreme Court said “shut up is already dead” [a Brazilian popular saying meaning “I am not going to shut up just because your are telling me to”]. I remember Globo media conglomerate not worrying about such an obstacle to freedom of the press – on the contrary, they celebrate it.

Jurists, former heads of state from many countries and even political opponents recognize the absurdity of the process that condemned me. I may be physically in a prison cell, but it is those who have condemned me that are bound to the lie they have set. Powerful interests want to turn this ludicrous situation into a political fait accompli, preventing me from running for president, which conflicts with recommendations of the United Nations Human Rights Committee.

I have lost three presidential races – in 1989, 1994 and 1998 – and I have always respected the results by getting ready for the next elections.

I am a candidate because I did not commit any crime. I challenge those who accused me to show evidence of what I did to be in a cell. Why their allegations have “undetermined acts” instead of pointing out what I did wrong? Why do they say “assigned property” instead of presenting a proof of ownership of the Guarujá apartment, which belonged to a company that had given it as a form of guarantee to a bank? Will they disrupt the trajectory of democracy in Brazil with such absurdities?

I say this with the same seriousness with which I told Michel Temer that he should not embark on an adventure to overthrow President Dilma Rousseff, that he would regret it. Those who do not want me to be president should be the most eager that I run for office.

Do they want to defeat me? Do this cleanly at the polls. Discuss proposals for the country and take responsibility, even more at this time, when the Brazilian elites come up with authoritarian proposals endorsed by people who openly defend the murder of human beings.

Everyone knows that, as president, I exercised the dialogue. I did not seek a third term when I had a rejection rate as small as Temer’s current approval rate. I worked to guarantee that social inclusion was the engine of the economy and that all Brazilians, not only on paper, really had their rights to eat, to study and to have housing guaranteed.

Do they want people to forget that Brazil has had better days? Do they want to prevent the Brazilians – from whom all power emanates, according to the Constitution – from choosing whom they want to vote in the October 7th elections?

What are they afraid of? The return of the dialogue, the development, the time in which there was less social conflict in this country? When the inclusion of the poor made Brazilian companies grow?

Brazil must restore its democracy and free itself from the hatred that was created to take PT out of government, to implement an agenda of withdrawal of the rights of workers and retirees, and bring back the unbridled exploitation of the poorest. Brazil needs to find itself again and be happy again.

You can imprison me. You can try to shut me up. But I will not change my faith in the Brazilian people, in the hope of millions and in a better future. I am also sure that this faith in ourselves against the inferiority complex is the solution to the crisis we are experiencing.

Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva

Former President of the Republic (2003-2010)

*Translated from Portuguese by César Locatelli, revised by Amanda Lisboa.