Crowds in S ão Paulo block Lula from handing himself in

Posted April 09, 2018

Brazil's former President Luiz Inacio "Lula" da Silva has handed himself over to police to begin a 12-year prison sentence for corruption, according to local media.

He left the building of the steelworkers' trade union in Sao Bernardo do Campo, where he spent the past two days, and got into a federal police auto, Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper reported Saturday.

Earlier, da Silva had addressed his supporters for nearly an hour, telling them he was "ready" to obey the law and to accept his prison term.

"The intention is not to force compliance at any cost, but rather follow the order the best way possible, with tranquility and without a media show", president of the federal police Luis Antonio Boudens said in a statement late on Friday.

He had been staying in a union headquarters in Sao Paulo after Brazil's top court on Thursday rejected his request to remain free while he appeals his conviction.

Separate groups of Lula Da Silva's supporters and opponents gathered outside the Curitiba Federal Police department.

Sen. Roberto Requiao told reporters that da Silva planned to attend a commemoration Saturday morning for his late wife, to be held at the union.

There has been a deafening silence around the arrest of Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who is facing 12 years behind bars for taking bribes and money laundering, especially given that his political demise likely removes the main front runner in October's presidential elections.

His arrest marks a victory for Operation Car Wash, which has traced a corruption scheme to the highest echelons of government and unravelled Brazil's political class.

"If Lula stole, at least he gave some of it to the people", said Jose Antonio da Silva, 52, a steelworker at Mercedes and member of the union. He governed from 2003 to 2010, leaving office an worldwide celebrity and with approval ratings in the high 80s.

Having carved out a sustained and ample lead in the polls, da Silva promised his followers that the Workers' Party could once again wrest control of Brazil's destiny, and prioritise policies to narrow the country's steep inequality.

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The electoral court is widely expected to bar Lula from contesting the upcoming elections.

Technically, the fact that he will be jailed does not keep him off the ballot. Da Silva could appeal, though doing so from jail would be more complicated.

However, Lula's imminent arrest is being celebrated by many Brazilians.

The renovation was bankrolled by a company seeking contracts with the state oil giant Petrobras.

During his speech, Lulatold cheering supporters that Brazil's top anti-corruption judge "lied" about him being given the luxury apartment by a big construction firm as a kickback.

"I am the only human being to be put on trial for a flat that does not belong to me", he said.

His jailing underscores the scope of the corruption probe known as Operation Car Wash that is bringing down political and business leaders across Latin America, and in which Lula is by far the biggest figure yet to fall.

Mauricio Santoro, a political science professor at the State University of Rio de Janeiro, said that by not complying with the order on Friday da Silva "wanted to demonstrate strength and popularity, showing that he is a political leader capable of gathering a crowd in his support".

"The prison order against Lula will scramble the electoral process even more by putting him in the spotlight", said Fitch Ratings director for Brazil, Rafael Guedes.

After the speech, Lula was lifted onto the shoulders of supporters who chanted, "I am Lula".

Ever since Wednesday, Lula and his supporters tried everything to delay the start of his prison sentence, battling everywhere from the Supreme Court to the streets.

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