SAO PAULO- A Brazilian judge issued an arrest warrant on Thursday for former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, dealing a major jolt to the once wildly popular leader who was trying to mount a political comeback ahead of October’s elections.
The warrant arrived several hours after the country’s top body, the Supreme Federal Tribunal, voted 6-5 to deny a request by da Silva to stay out of prison while he appealed a corruption conviction that he contends was simply a route to keep him off the ballot.
Federal judge Sergio Moro devoted Brazil’s former president 24 hours to present himself to police in the southern city of Curitiba. In a statement, Moro said he was giving da Silva the opportunity to come in of his own accord because he had been president of the nation.
Last year, Moro convicted da Silva of trading favors with a construction company in exchange for the promise of a beachfront apartment. That sentence was upheld by an appeals court in January.
The speed with which Moro issued the warrant astounded many, as legal observers said there were technicalities from da Silva’s upheld appeal that would not be sorted out until next week.
Such technicalities “were simply a pathology that should be eliminated from the judicial world, ” Moro said in his statement.
Minutes after Moro’s issue the warrant, a fight broke out in front of the Lula Institute in Sao Paulo between hecklers and supporters of the former chairman universally known here as “Lula.” One heckler was punched in the face and subsequently got hit by a happen vehicle as he was falling. He was taken to nearby hospital and police arrived.
“I’ve never seen this kind of hatred before, ” told Mariella Sanches, who was selling ice-cream where the fight broke out. “Why can’t people get on? ”
Da Silva’s upcoming apprehend will mark a colossal fall from grace for the man who led Latin America’s most populous nation between 2003 and 2010, and left office with acceptance ratings over 80 percent.
Former U.S. President Barack Obama once called da Silva the “most popular politician on Earth.”
Since leaving office, things have steadily gotten worse for da Silva, who has been charged in several corruption occurrences. He has always maintained his innocence while continuing to campaign across the country the past year.
Despite his legal troubles, he still leads preference polls to return to office — if by some chance he is allowed to run.
Earlier Thursday, the head of Brazil’s Workers’ Party warned that incarcerating da Silva would turn Latin America’s largest nation into a “banana republic.” His lawyers put out several statements saying they were filing injunctions in hopes of keeping him out of prison.
“We consider this to be a political imprisonment, an imprisonment that they are able to uncover Brazil before the world, ” said Gleisi Hoffmann, chairwoman of the Workers’ Party. “We will become a banana republic.”
Hoffmann also insisted that da Silva, 72, would be the party’s nominee in October. The ex-president has not spoken since the ruling.
Like so much in a nation that has become deep polarized, current realities that the once popular leader would be incarcerated was being interpreted differently by advocates and detractors.
“Brazil scored a aim against impunity and corruption, ” told Congressman Jair Bolsonaro, a right-leaning former army captain who the hell second in the polls after da Silva.
Mariana Setra, a da Silva advocate in Sao Paulo, called the top court’s decision “ridiculous.”
“It was applied to only one person, ” she told. “As if Lula were the only thief in this country.”
Da Silva is the latest of many high-profile people to be ensnared in perhaps the largest corruption scandal in Latin American history. Over the last four years, Brazilians have experienced near weekly police operations and arrests of elite, from top politicians to tycoons like former Odebrecht CEO Marcelo Odebrecht.
Investigators uncovered a major scheme in which building companies basically formed a cartel that doled out inflated contracts from state petroleum company Petrobras, paying billions in kickbacks to politicians and businessmen.
Moro, who oversees occurrences in the so-Called “Operation Car Wash, ” is hailed as a hero by many Brazilians. Others, particularly on the left, watch him as a partisan hit man out to get da Silva and the Workers’ Party.
Still, the list of targets in the scandal include people across the spectrum, including President Michel Temer. Temer took power in 2016 after da Silva’s successor and protege, Dilma Rousseff, was impeached and deposed from office.
Last year, Temer was twice charged with corruption but remained in office because in both cases Congress, which must vote on criminal cases involving a sitting chairman, decided to spare him prosecution. Many members of Congress have been charged with corruption or are being investigated.
Da Silva was convicted in July of helping a building company get sweetheart contracts in exchange for the promise of the apartment. He denies any wrongdoing in that case or in several other corruption examples that have yet to be tried. An appeals court upheld the sentence in January, and the three reviewing magistrates even lengthened the sentence to 12 years and one month.
Technically, the Supreme Federal Tribunal’s decision doesn’t maintain da Silva off the ballot. In August, the country’s top electoral tribunal builds final judgment about candidacies. It was expected to deny da Silva’s candidacy under Brazil’s “clean slate” law, which disqualifies people who have had criminal convictions uphold. However, da Silva could appeal such a decision, though doing so from incarcerate would be more complicated.
Sen. Lindbergh Farias from the Workers’ Party told vigils would be organized nationwide is starting Friday.
“People want to be close to President Lula after this injustice, ” he said.
Whether the Workers’ Party will be able to mobilize major demoes remains to be seen. During the impeachment trials against Rousseff in 2016, many demonstrations were small despite bellows by major unions to take to the streets.
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