What will it take to bring down Lula?

It may look like a duck and swim like a duck, but it’s actually a swan-shaped pedal boat parked on the lake of the disputed country estate allegedly owned by former Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Or rather, two swan-shaped pedal boats, both of which are wearing covers bearing the names of Lula’s grandsons.

And yet, Lula still claims that he does not own this property. Never mind that when his presidential term was over, he sent 200 boxes of his and his family’s belongings there. Or that he and his family have visited the property 111 times since 2012. Or the fact that the property received its own telephone tower as a gift from telecom operator Oi. Or that it was renovated by the construction company Odebrecht, which has been linked to widespread corruption in the Car Wash probe. Or that part of the renovations were allegedly paid by Jose Carlos Bumlai, who is currently in jail as a result of the same corruption probe.

And let’s not forget about the luxury beachfront apartment that has also been a target of investigators: the triplex that was allegedly renovated to the family’s specifications (including the installation of a private elevator and second swimming pool) by the construction company OAS, another target of Car Wash. Prior to Car Wash, Lula did not deny being the owner of either property. 

Could it be a coincidence that similar allegations of real-estate-related improprieties were made against Lula and his family in the 1990s, when he was the founder and leader of the Worker’s Party?

And what about the arrest last week of political strategist João Santana, who allegedly received upwards of $7.5 million dollars skimmed from Petrobras contracts in offshore accounts? The same political strategist who worked on Lula’s presidential campaign, in addition to campaigns for current president Dilma Rousseff as well as Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and Nicolás Maduro and Peru’s Ollanta Humala, who is himself accused of accepting bribes from Odebrecht?

Or the announcement that, under pressure for not sufficiently protecting senior party officials from these investigations, the current Justice Minister José Eduardo Cardozo will be replaced?

Of course, all of this does not add up to proof in a court of law, but how ridiculous do things have to get before people stop suspending their disbelief? In the court of public opinion, the evidence presented thus far has made it nearly impossible to believe that Lula is not guilty of wrongdoing. The fact that he said “I doubt there is anyone more honest than I am in the country” only helps to make him look guiltier.

If it looks like corruption and smells like corruption, that is exactly what it must be. Every day that Lula evades answering for his conduct is an affront to the Brazilian people, who have stood by powerlessly for years watching billions of reais simply disappear. Lula has clearly personally profited from the corruption and he is the leader of the party behind the graft of the Petrolão and the Mensalão, ultimately making these schemes his responsibility as well. With the confirmation that he has officially been investigated since late last year and the specter that others embroiled in the scandal will testify against him, here’s hoping that the era of impunity is over. For Brazilians facing a serious economic downturn, rising unemployment and a health care crisis, it will come as little consolation.