Published: Mon, April 09, 2018
Hi-Tech | By Kristin Zimmerman

Former Brazilian President Lula surrenders to face prison time

Former Brazilian President Lula surrenders to face prison time

Brazil's former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva turned himself in to the country's police, Sputnik reported citing local media.

Hours after the deadline, however, da Silva remained inside the union building in the Sao Paulo suburb of Sao Bernardo do Campo, about 260 miles (417 kilometers) northeast of Curitiba.

Earlier, da Silva had addressed his supporters for nearly an hour, telling them he was "ready" to obey the law and to accept his prison term.

Writing on Twitter, Sao Paulo Governor Geraldo Alckmin, who is seeking to unite a wide range of right-leaning centrists in the upcoming election, said: "It is regrettable to see the order to arrest a former president but I am convinced this symbolises an important change in Brazil: the end of impunity".

Surrounded by bodyguards, Lula had to push through a seething throng of supporters to get into a police vehicle outside the metalworkers' union building in Sao Bernardo do Campo, where he had been holed up for two days and nights.

In a fiery speech to a crowd of red-shirted supporters outside a steelworkers union headquarters, Brazil's first working-class president had this week insisted on his innocence and called his bribery conviction a political crime, but relented after a almost 24-hour standoff with authorities.

Foreshadowing possible clashes in the weeks to come, police shot rubber bullets and sprayed tear gas late Saturday at supporters waiting for da Silva as he landed in a police helicopter in the southern city of Curitiba, where he will serve his 12-year sentence for money laundering and corruption.

Da Silva is the first former Brazilian president to be remanded into custody since democracy was restored in the mid-1980s and the first former president to have been convicted of corruption. The accusations against him emerged after he left office in 2011.

Da Silva, who Brazilians simply call "Lula", did no such thing.

"If Lula stole, at least he gave some of it to the people", said Jose Antonio da Silva, 52, a steelworker at Mercedes and member of the union.

Having carved out a sustained and ample lead in the polls, da Silva promised his followers that the Workers' Party could once again wrest control of Brazil's destiny, and prioritise policies to narrow the country's steep inequality.

Some observers fear that putting Lula in jail will turn him into a martyr and keep him in the public eye.

But in August, the country's top electoral court makes final decisions about candidacies.

Da Silva has vowed to continue his campaign from his jail cell, though Brazilian law will likely prevent him from running. Da Silva could appeal against such a decision even though doing so from jail would be more complicated.

But he has become the highest-profile figure ensnared in a sprawling corruption scandal that has tarnished Brazil's political class.

Investigators uncovered a major scheme in which construction companies essentially formed a cartel that doled out inflated contracts from state oil company Petrobras, paying billions in kickbacks to politicians and businessmen.

"I am the only human being to be put on trial for an apartment which does not belong to me", he said.

"I believe in justice and know I am not above the law", Lula da Silva, 72, said from a stage outside the steelworkers' union headquarters earlier Saturday.

Lula accused the judiciary and Brazil's most powerful media conglomerate of assisting a right-wing coup with the ultimate aim of preventing him from competing in the race.

Today, anyone convicted and losing a first appeal - which is Lula's case - has to conduct any further appeals in prison.

After the speech, Lula was lifted onto the shoulders of supporters who chanted, "I am Lula".

Lula was found guilty in "Operation Car Wash" scam that also involves a score of top politicos of Brazil.

Ever since Wednesday, Lula and his supporters have tried everything to delay the start of his prison sentence, battling everywhere from the Supreme Court to the streets.

The feverish political drama - blending Lula's charismatic political style, the epic struggle against graft, and the fate of the October elections - gripped Latin America's biggest nation.

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