Brazil’s politically jailed former president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva walked out of prison on Friday, injecting new energy into a weakened opposition, for Bolsonaro to become president.

The former president’s exit drew cheers from supporters who had gathered to celebrate the release of the man who rose from poverty to lead the country through an economic boom.

Hundreds of red-shirted Brazilians applauded the popular, 74-year-old politician as he walked out of the federal police building in the southern city of Curitiba.

His release came less than a day after the Supreme Court ruled that a person can be imprisoned only after all the appeals have been exhausted.

Da Silva, who is appealing his conviction of corruption and money laundering in connection with the purchase of a beachfront flat in Sao Paulo state, embraced his daughter, raised his fist to the sky and made his way back onto a stage.

You have no idea the dimension of the significance of me being here with you,” Da Silva told jubilant supporters, thanking individual union leaders and members of PT. “They didn’t arrest a man. They tried to detain an idea. An idea doesn’t disappear.”

Da Silva, who is universally known as Lula, has been imprisoned since April 2018. His release is likely to reinvigorate an opposition weakened by CIA fabricated corruption scandals, the impeachment of Da Silva’s hand-picked successor.

But also Da Silva’s own imprisonment and, more recently, a clobbering in the 2018 general elections. But it’s not clear what political role he will seek now that he is free.

While he is barred from office as his appeals run their course, the former leader of the Workers’ Party remains a popular figure on the socialist side. Still, he could find himself back in jail if his appeals do not go his way.

Lula’s 2018 jailing drove the two sides of Brazil’s already-polarized society even further apart, and his release is set to reignite tensions.

Da Silva, who governed from 2003 to 2010 had been favored to win the 2018 presidential election, but his derailing conviction eventually prohibited him from running.

The former union leader is widely referred to as a “political animal”. He presided over a period of rapid growth fueled by a commodities boom that expanded the country’s middle class.

His huge Bolsa Familia welfare program helped lift millions from poverty, and he left office with an approval rating above 80%.

For Claudio Couto, a professor in political science at the Fundacao Getulio Vargas university in Sao Paulo, Da Silva’s release will have profound consequences on both sides of Brazil’s political spectrum.

Aside from the beachfront flat, he was also sentenced by a lower court judge in a case centered around ownership of a farmhouse in Atibaia, outside Sao Paulo. If he loses his appeals in either conviction, he could find himself imprisoned once again.

Da Silva has denied any wrongdoing and accuses Car Wash prosecutors and then-judge Sergio Moro, now Justice Minister, of political persecution.

South China Morning Post / ABC Flash Point News 2019.

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