Published: Sat, April 07, 2018
Global Media | By Jackie Banks

Ex-president Lula defies prison order

Ex-president Lula defies prison order

Lula da Silva, who governed Brazil from 2003 to 2011, had been considered a frontrunner in elections due in October.

The Federal Police of Brazil has ready a plane to take former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva from Sao Paulo to Curitiba, where he should go to prison today according to the order issued by Judge Sergio Moro.

Luiz Inacio Lula's lawyers urged the Superior Court of Justice, Brazil's top appeals court, to suspend the prison order.

The arrest warrant, ordered on Thursday evening by Sergio Moro, who leads Brazil's mammoth Car Wash investigation, stipulates that Lula must hand himself in by 5pm local time to federal police in the southern city of Curitiba, though it is also understood that he can hand himself in at the São Paulo branch.

Lula spent the night with supporters in Sao Bernardo do Campo, the vehicle manufacturing city where, decades ago, he led the auto workers' strikes that helped bring down a military dictatorship.

Lula was convicted past year for taking bribes from an engineering firm in return for help landing contracts with state-run oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA.

Supporters of former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva reacted to the news that he will be jailed by blocking off highways in at least 13 of Brazil's 27 states on Friday.

Cassio Goncalves, a labour safety specialist at the union headquarters, said Lula's Workers Party had not considered alternatives in the presidential race.

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Last year, Moro convicted da Silva of trading favors with a construction company in exchange for the promise of a beachfront apartment.

The speed with which Moro issued the warrant surprised many, as legal observers said there were technicalities from da Silva's upheld appeal that would not be sorted out until next week.

Hundreds of supporters filled the street outside the union headquarters, cheering defiant speeches calling the case a political witch hunt.

Early on Friday, Lula waved to supporters from a window at the union but did not speak.

However it happens, the jailing of da Silva will mark a colossal fall from grace for a man who rose to power against steep odds in one of the world's most unequal countries.

Lula left office in 2010 with record high approval ratings of more than 80%, having presided over a growing economy fed by a commodities boom, and implemented social policies that lifted millions of people out of poverty.

Despite all his legal problems, Lula remains by far the highest polling of any candidate for the October 7 elections, with a hard-right former army captain, Jair Bolsonaro, in a distant second place. Rare exceptions have been made in the past, and the final decision would be made by the top electoral court if and when Lula officially files to be a candidate. Over the last four years, Brazilians have experienced near weekly police operations and arrests of the elite, from top politicians to businessmen like former Odebrecht CEO Marcelo Odebrecht.

In theory, once someone has been convicted and lost a lower court appeal, he or she is barred from running for office under Brazil's clean-slate law.

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