Brazil’s ex-president to start prison sentence after defying order

Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said Saturday he plans to begin his 12-year prison sentence for corruption after defying a court order to turn himself in to federal authorities.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, speaking at the 64th United Nations General Assembly on September 23, 2009, defied a court order to turn himself in to federal authorities to begin serving a 12-year prison sentence on a corruption conviction. UPI/John Angelillo | License Photo
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, speaking at the 64th United Nations General Assembly on September 23, 2009, defied a court order to turn himself in to federal authorities to begin serving a 12-year prison sentence on a corruption conviction. UPI/John Angelillo | License Photo

He told supporters Saturday outside the headquarters of the country’s metalworkers union building he plans to surrender.

And he wrote on Twitter: “It’s no use trying to stop me. I will not stop because I am not a human being, I am an idea and I am with you.”

On stage outside the building he appeared with Dilma Rousseff.

Lula da Silva earlier attended a mass in memory of his deceased wife, Marisa Letícia Lula da Silva, who was born 68 years ago Saturday.

“He is staying positive, he is talking and listening,” said Eduardo Suplicy, a founder of da Silva’s Workers’ Party who visited with him during the afternoon. “There has been such an outpouring of solidarity from the people. He has received all these men and women crying, but he always managed to say something positive.”

Lula da Silva, 72, was required to surrender to police by 5 p.m. local time Friday in the southern city of Curitiba.

Before the deadline, Brazil’s Supreme Federal Tribunal, the nation’s highest appellate court, rejected a habeas corpus request to delay the prison time by a 6-5 vote. On Thursday, federal judge Sergio Moro ordered his arrest.

Lula da Silva, who was president from 2003 to 2011, planned to run in the elections in October and was considered the frontrunner. The founding member of Brazil’s only socialist political party, Partido dos Trabalhadores, the Workers’ Party, left office with a 90 percent approval rating.

Last July, he was convicted of corruption involving state-run oil company Petrobras as part of an investigaton dubbed “Operation Car Wash” after he left office in 2011.

Prosecutors said he received $1.1 million worth of bribes from OAS construction company through the beachfront apartment. In return, Lula da Silva helped the builder acquire contracts from the oil company, prosecutors charged.

His defense has said he is a victim of political persecution.

By Allen Cone