Brazil‘s former President Luiz Inacio ‘Lula’ da Silva addressed thousands of supporters Saturday morning at a steelworkers union headquarters in Sao Paulo, the same union where he started his career as a labor leader.
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"This was my school, here I learned sociology, economics, physics, chemistry, and I learned to do politics because I was the president of the union, every time I had a doubt I went to the factories to ask people," Lula told a cheering crowd as they called on him not to surrender to the police.
"I was born in this union, when I arrived it was something very small, I was the director of a training school with 1,800 students."
Lula’s speech came less than a day after he defied a court order to turn himself over to the police by Friday 5:00 p.m. local time to commence his 12-year jail sentence for corruption, triggering a stand-off between the presidential hopeful and Brazilian authorities.
Lula further assured that he will comply with the arrest warrant, however, stressed that his imprisonment will not be the end of the revolution because "there are thousands of Lulas. History is going to prove that they were wrong, you are going to see that I come out of this stronger and that I am innocent."
The former leftist president began his address by thanking his supporters and allies in the Workers Party and other social movements that have supported him. He thanked his successor Dilma Rousseff, who was impeached in a parliamentary coup in 2016, for her support and loyalty to his legacy and that of their Workers’ Party.
Federal authorities have reportedly said they will not execute any arrest warrant until Saturday at the earliest. Late Friday night, it emerged that Lula planned to attend a mass at 9am Saturday – at the same metallurgical union in Sao Paulo in which he is currently ensconced – to commemorate the passing of his late wife Marisa Leticia. His speech Saturday morning was delivered following the mass.
Earlier on Friday, lawyers representing the man who dominated Brazilian politics between 2003 and 2011 submitted a fresh habeas corpus writ after his previous bid to avoid incarceration while his appeals play out was shot down by a 6-5 vote in the Supreme Court shortly after midnight Wednesday.
That writ was later rejected by Brazil’s top appeals court: the decision was announced in a court document less than an hour before Lula’s deadline to turn himself in to authorities.
Lula’s lawyers are also believed to be presenting a precautionary measure before the United Nations Human Rights Committee in order to stop the detention until the judicial process is exhausted.
Late Friday night, they also petitioned the Supreme Court to quash the prison order, saying it prevented Lula from using a few technical appeals that remained. A result is not expected until Wednesday.
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Federal police in Sao Paulo declined to say if they would attempt to forcibly take the former president into custody, a move that could trigger intense clashes with his supporters. A union spokesman said Lula was mulling his options.
Judge Sergio Moro issued a warrant for Lula’s arrest on Thursday, giving the popular Workers’ Party leader 24 hours to surrender himself.
When the deadline arrived, however, Lula was hunkered down with supporters at a metallurgical union in the Sao Paulo suburb of Sao Bernardo do Campo, Associated Press reports.
One of his defense attorneys, Jose Roberto Batochio, told Folha de S. Paulo newspaper Friday that "Lula" will not "go to the slaughterhouse downtrodden" and instead will turn himself into authorities "out of his free will."
Hundreds of supporters filled the street outside the union headquarters, cheering defiant speeches calling the case a political witch hunt. A banner hung from the building showed Lula’s smiling face on an electronic voting machine.
"We are here to show that the workers will resist this attack against democracy," said Jorge Nazareno, a union leader who said he had met briefly with Lula on Friday morning.