Brazil court dodges debate on Lula’s release, days after document leak

Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva speaks during a ceremony in this Feb. 2, 2004 photo. (Shutterstock)
Updated 12 June 2019
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Brazil court dodges debate on Lula’s release, days after document leak

  • Leaked Telegram revealed that a judge who handed Lula his first conviction in 2017 improperly collaborated with Car Wash prosecutors to convict and jail the popular ex-president
  • The chats were provided to The Intercept, which said the conviction was to prevent Lula contesting the 2018 presidential election, which he was widely expected to win

RIO DE JANEIRO: Brazil’s Supreme Court on Tuesday unexpectedly avoided debating a request for the early release of leftist icon Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, as social media fury intensified over leaked documents showing a conspiracy to keep him out of the 2018 election race.
The court had placed this issue on its docket, but after four hours the five judges retired without addressing it.
Explosive reports published by The Intercept investigative website on Sunday also ignited calls for its American co-founder Glenn Greenwald to be deported from Brazil and for Justice Minister Sergio Moro — who is at the center of the growing scandal over the Car Wash anticorruption investigation — to resign, underscoring the country’s increasing polarization.
Telegram chats provided to The Intercept show Moro — the judge who handed Lula his first conviction in 2017, effectively ending both his election hopes and decades of center-left rule in Brazil — improperly collaborated with Car Wash prosecutors to convict and jail the popular ex-president.
Their aim, according to The Intercept, was to prevent Lula contesting the 2018 presidential election, which he was widely expected to win.
Far-right President Jair Bolsonaro — who appointed Moro to his cabinet after taking power in January — was the eventual winner.
Some analysts have downplayed the potential fall-out from the revelations in a country where many people are fed up with corrupt leaders and strongly support the Car Wash probe that has claimed scores of political and business scalps since it began in 2014.
While Twitter has been flooded by supporters and opponents of Bolsonaro’s government, there have been no significant street demonstrations over the claims of unethical behavior by Moro and the Car Wash prosecutors.
Calls for Greenwald, who was part of the team that first interviewed Edward Snowden in 2013, to be kicked out of Brazil are growing with #DeportaGreenwald widely shared on Twitter.
“There is a general appreciation of wrongdoing and that ethical boundaries were crossed, but it is unlikely to generate the same levels of indignation as other corruption scandals,” said Robert Muggah, research director at the Igarape Institute, a think tank in Rio de Janeiro.
“All this could change if more damaging evidence emerges, as is likely.”

Brazil's golden era
Bolsonaro, normally quick to denounce critics on Twitter, will refrain from commenting on the case until he meets with Moro Tuesday, his spokesman said on Monday.
Despite the attacks on social media, a defiant Greenwald has promised Sunday’s reports were “just the very beginning.”
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court had been expected to review a petition for Lula’s release from prison where he is serving eight years and 10 months after being convicted of accepting a seaside apartment as a bribe for helping the OAS construction company get lucrative deals with state oil firm Petrobras.
The judges said nothing about when they might discuss the request. They scheduled debate on another Lula appeal — seeking the annulment of his conviction on grounds that Moro is biased, for June 25.
Lula, who led Brazil through a historic boom from 2003 to 2010, earning him the gratitude of millions of Brazilians for redistributing wealth to haul them out of poverty, has denied all the corruption charges against him.
He has long argued they were politically motivated to prevent him from competing in the 2018 election.
“He was quite impacted by the content of the material, but on the other hand it wasn’t new,” said Cristiano Zanin, a member of Lula’s defense team.
In the leaked group chats, Car Wash prosecutors expressed “serious doubts whether there was sufficient evidence to establish Lula’s guilt,” The Intercept said.
The material also shows “prosecutors spoke openly of their desire to prevent the PT (Workers Party) from winning the (2018) election and took steps to carry out that agenda.”
And Moro repeatedly “overstepped the ethical lines that define the role of a judge” by offering prosecutors advice and tips for “new avenues of investigation,” the site said.
Car Wash chief prosecutor Deltan Dallagnol posted a video on Twitter Monday defending his team’s contact with Moro, saying it was normal for prosecutors and lawyers to speak with a judge in the absence of the other party.
“Trying to imagine that the Car Wash probe is a partisan operation is a conspiracy theory with no basis,” he said.


Dharavi slum beats Taj Mahal as India’s top tourist destination

Updated 25 June 2019
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Dharavi slum beats Taj Mahal as India’s top tourist destination

  • The squalid district was featured in Oscar-winning movie ‘Slumdog Millionaire’
  • Tour groups to Dharavi normally consist of around five to six people, with visitors guided through its cramped alleys

NEW DELHI: One of the world’s biggest slums, located in Mumbai, has pipped the famous Taj Mahal to become India’s favorite tourist destination.

Dharavi, where close to 1 million people live in an area of just over 2.1 square kilometers, was named by travel website TripAdvisor.com as the 2019 top visitor experience in India and among the 10 most favorite tourist sites in Asia.

The slum has grown up on swamp land in the center of the coastal city of Mumbai over the past 150 years and has poor infrastructure and a lack of basic sanitation and hygiene facilities.

The squalid district was featured in the 2008 Oscar-winning movie “Slumdog Millionaire,” which tells the story of a Mumbai teenager accused of cheating on the Indian version of TV gameshow “Who Wants to be a Millionaire.”

However, in 2012, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author Katherine Boo portrayed a new side of life in the slum in her book “Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Slum,” which showed it bubbling with hope in a changing world.

The recent Bollywood movie “Gully Boy” also gives the slum a new look with a coming-of-age tale based on the lives of street rappers.

“Slum tourism started in 2003 for the first time but it picked up after the movie ‘Slumdog Millionaire,’” said Dinesh Bhurara, who runs travel agency Mumbai Dream Tours.

“Dharavi is not like a slum, but it is a city within the city. It is well-organized and people from all communities and religions coexist together. They work very hard. When tourists come, they see a new life in the slum which they don’t see in Mumbai and outside. This connects with foreigners,” Bhurara told Arab News.

Bhurara, 24, was born and brought up in Dharavi and started his travel business three years ago after gaining experience with other tour operators.

“People have lots of misconceptions about Dharavi. Movies like ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ stereotyped the slum by showing its poverty, underbelly and by typecasting characters. But it’s not like that. When tourists visit it’s an eye-opener for them,” he added.

Tour groups to Dharavi normally consist of around five to six people, with visitors guided through its cramped alleys, and shown around houses and businesses.

“For tourists this is an educational tour. They learn how business is done here, and how people survive with their sheer efforts and aspirations. They also go to business and industry areas,” said Bhurara.

The peak season to visit Dharavi is between November and May with travel agents recording an average of 200 foreigners touring the slum every day during the season.

Bhurara charges 700 rupees ($10) per person for a four-hour trip to Dharavi and has five partners who run the tours with him. “When we take tourists inside the slum, we not only take them into an area, but we also take them into our lives and show them how life can exist even in this space. Many get inspired and are awestruck by the sheer energy inside the slum.”

He said the tourist influx had encouraged many Dharavi youngsters to learn foreign languages as a way to earn a living and he himself had taken up Spanish.

According to Bhurara the majority of tourists are from Europe and China. “People in Dharavi are now attuned to foreigners visiting them and they really appreciate that. For youngsters it’s an extra opportunity to earn some more. So many college students pick up foreign languages to earn something extra,” he added.

Dharavi is a hub of small industries with exports of leather and recycled goods reportedly worth $1 billion a year. More than 4,000 businesses operate there alongside thousands of single-room factories where migrants workers from eastern and western India are employed.

“Many people, even in Mumbai, are not aware of this part of Dharavi,” Vinay Rawat, a tour operator, told Arab News. “In Mumbai people come to see the most expensive house of the industrialist Mukesh Ambani and they also want to see the cheapest place in Mumbai which is Dharavi.”

Rawat added that wealthy people lived in Dharavi where new high-rise buildings had been constructed. He said people had lived there for four generations but that there were fears that the prime land could fall into the hands of property developers.