Jail looms large for Brazil's Lula over graft

Apr 07, 2018, 00:33
Jail looms large for Brazil's Lula over graft

Former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has been given until Friday afternoon to present himself to federal police in the southern city of Curitiba and begin serving a sentence of 12 years and one month for a corruption conviction. The magistrate had granted Lula, "for dignity of position he held", opportunity to surrender himself to justice.

Lula's left-wing Workers Party announced that the former president would address a rally in his home town of Sao Bernardo do Campo, a suburb of Sao Paulo, today.

Earlier on Thursday, Brazil's Supreme Court rejected Lula's plea to remain free until he exhausts all his appeals, in a case he calls a political witch hunt. "For a long time, the prospect of letting Lula play a role in the political scene was unacceptable for a part of the Brazilian political actors, including the judiciary", he said.

Ciro Gomes, another left-wing politician from the Democratic Labor Party, who served as the minister for national integration under Lula's administration, could also seek PT support, with his campaign issues focusing on defending national sovereignty and Brazil's independence on the world stage. Temer took power in 2016 after da Silva's successor and protege, Dilma Rousseff, was impeached and ousted from office.

Lula was convicted on charges of accepting a seaside apartment as a bribe from a major construction company seeking government contracts.

Lula, who grew up poor and with little formal education before becoming a trade union leader and politician, says he will go down fighting.

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Cassio Goncalves, a labor safety specialist at the union headquarters, said Lula's Workers Party had not considered alternatives in the presidential race. Extreme-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro, who is polling in second place, has largely focused on anti-left rhetoric and may need to find a new line of attack.

In a sign of possible friction on the horizon, within minutes after Moro's arrest warrant, a fight broke out in front of the Lula Institute in Sao Paulo between hecklers and supporters of Da Silva. Surveys had put him as the comfortable favourite. It was expected to deny da Silva's candidacy under Brazil's "clean slate" law, which disqualifies people who have had criminal convictions upheld.

Lula has until mid-August to register his candidacy and only after that will the Superior Electoral Tribunal rule on whether his candidacy is valid.

One of Brazil's most popular political figures, da Silva, simply known as Lula, was convicted of money laundering and of passive corruption last July, and was sentenced to nine years behind bars.

Da Silva's lawyers argue their client has a constitutional right to stay out of jail until all appeals are exhausted.

Workers' Party leaders promised demonstrations, including vigils that would be organised nationwide beginning on Friday.