Donald Trump is a most perplexing figure for libertarians. Though we may be less than enthused by plenty of the things he says, and some of the things he does, we largely remain convinced that, warts and all, he was a far better alternative to Hillary Clinton. But, then he turns around and makes pronouncements that are decidedly unlibertarian:
Trump heralded the labor movement for its contributions to the American economy: praising it for “advocating for the interests of the American worker and wage-earner” and boasting that “we have kept our promise to always keep the White House door open to members and leaders of our country’s labor organizations.”
Not the typical fare you hear from Republican presidents, but Trump is hardly the typical president.
As Americans celebrate Labor Day today, marking the end of the summer season, the AFL-CIO is engaged in a bizarre move to bolster the candidacy of Lula, who is currently serving a 12 year prison sentence on corruption charges, involving a USD $1 million bribe he accepted from construction firm OAS. Note that this is just one of numerous pending legal matters facing Lula.
The AFL-CIO is America’s largest labor organization. With over 12 million members, it is a gargantuan confederation of individual unions, and apparently they now have their sights set on a bizarre mission of meddling in Brazilian politics.
Recently, they dispatched a team to Brazil, including top AFL-CIO leadership such as Executive Vice President Tefere Gebre (UFCW) and International Committee Co-chair Stuart Appelbaum, to stand in solidarity with the disgraced Workers Party and its presidential candidate Lula da Silva.
For the AFL-CIO, the charges against the Workers Party and Lula are all a vast right-wing conspiracy, orchestrated by their political opponents to keep greedy businessmen and corporations in power in Brazil. It matters little, apparently, that the Workers Party terrorized the Brazilian people for a generation, spawning unprecedented corruption and criminality at every level of government. It matters little that both chambers of the Brazilian Congress overwhelmingly voted to remove Lula’s handpicked successor, Dilma Rousseff, from office. And it matters little that in the last elections in 2016, the Brazilian people handed the Workers Party a devastating defeat at the ballot box.
Once the driving political force in the country, the Workers Party or Partido dos Trabalhadores
The AFL-CIO’s statement is utterly delusional in its interpretation of recent political events. In their alternative reality Lula “was unjustly accused and convicted on corruption charges earlier this year and has been inhibited from campaigning freely as a candidate in the upcoming Brazilian presidential elections.”
Imagine that? Since when does someone who is convicted of corruption and sentenced to 12 years in prison, have the right to run for the presidency, from a jail cell no less? Since when does an American labor union have the right to tell a foreign country to subvert its own rule of law?
This is a clear and cut case of outrageous political bias: the message we are getting from the esteemed AFL-CIO and the Progressive Caucus of the Democratic Party, is that corruption and bribery are fine, as long as you share their far-left political ideology.
Why is the AFL-CIO going to bat for Lula? Probably from their perspective, they see this a low-risk move on the domestic front, but a good opportunity to score points with a major ideological ally in this nation of 200 million. The far-left, after all, looks out for its own, and in Latin America, they were once buoyed by the Sao Paulo Forum, Hugo Chavez’s oil largesse, and the rise of the so-called “Pink Tide.”
The risk is minimal: involvement, or lack thereof, in South American electoral politics is hardly a major issue in Congressional campaigns. Most rank and file members of the AFL-CIO know or care little about Lula and the Brazilian presidential election. Few people will pick up the phone to call their members of Congress over their role in electoral politics in Latin America.
But, the precedent this sets is extremely serious. The AFL-CIO’s assessment of the situation is ludicrously off-base: “For the past two years, Lula has been the target of mainstream media attacks and persecuted by politically motivated parts of the judiciary. He has been denied the presumption of innocence and his right to a fair trial and appeals. On April 7, Lula was imprisoned (with a 12-year sentence) in spite of a lack of evidence of corruption and that Brazil’s constitution guarantees personal liberty and the presumption of innocence until the appeals process has ended.”
An objective observer of the Lula situation will quickly beg to differ with the AFL-CIO on Lula’s trial and appeals. Have they been counting? Lula has been given every chance to appeal that the Brazilian legal system offers. At every level, up to the Supreme Court, he has been found guilty.
He has found guilty, mainly by judges that he and his political allies appointed.
The Workers Party ruled Brazil with an iron fist from 2003 to Dilma’s unceremonious sacking in 2016.
The Brazilian people punished them mercilessly at the ballot box in 2016. Once the most powerful party in Brazil, PT as its known in Portuguese, has been decimated: it currently holds just 61 of 513 seats in the Chamber of Deputies, 9 of 81 seats in the Senate, and only 5 of 27 governorships.
Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
The AFL-CIO is right one thing: Lula, despite the corruption conviction, remains popular, and has led in the polls. However, polls have placed his support in the mid 30s, and Brazil is desperately lacking when it comes to popular politicians.
One of the few who was untouched by corruption and scandal is Jair Bolsonaro, a right-wing Rio de Janeiro congressman. The AFL-CIO paints him as the greatest threat to the Workers Party returning to power, but in reality, centrist former Sao Paulo governor Geraldo Alckmin will likely emerge as the chief rival to the Workers Party candidate, who is most likely to be former Sao Paulo mayor Fernando Haddad.
Regardless, despite the AFL-CIO’s best efforts, (and completely delusional interpretation of his criminal conviction), Lula will not be in the race, and is unlikely to serve as president again. He will complete his twelve year jail term for corruption, and he is guilty.
It is truly despicable that the AFL-CIO would back an individual so mired in corruption. Rank and file AFL-CIO members who care about democracy, transparency, and the rule of law, should be outraged about what their far-left leadership is doing. After all, they are paying the union dues to fund these South America leisure trips, disguised as political activism.