Thousands attempt to block Brazil's ex-president Lula starting jail term

Former Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva leaves the steel workers union in Sao Bernardo do Campo Brazil Apr 7 2018. Reuters

Former Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva leaves the steel workers union in Sao Bernardo do Campo Brazil Apr 7 2018. Reuters

CURITIBA, Brazil – Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva arrived Saturday night at the headquarters of the Federal Police in Curitiba as he began a 12-year prison sentence for corruption.

Lula was flown by police to the southern city of Curitiba - where he was tried and convicted late previous year - and then taken to the federal police headquarters last Saturday to serve his sentence.

Lula da Silva had been holed up since Friday in the steelworker's union headquarters surrounded by many hundreds of supporters.

In chaotic scenes, scores of leftist activists swarmed around his vehicle and blocked the gate at the metalworkers' union building in Sao Bernardo do Campo, near Sao Paulo, forcing the 72-year-old two-term president to retreat.

"Surround, surround (the building) and don't let them arrest him", chanted supporters.

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. It was unclear how he might turn himself into police, who have been wary to enter the metal workers union so as to avoid clashes.

Lula, who was convicted last July and had his sentence increased to 12 years and one month from 10 years on appeal earlier this year, was flown to Curitiba from Sao Paulo after turning himself in to authorities in compliance with the jail sentence issued on Thursday.

Lula da Silva, who governed Brazil from 2003 to 2011, was considered a front-runner in this October's elections.

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Choosing the metal workers union to take refuge, and not the Workers' Party headquarters, was also significant, said Santoro.

During the presentation of the film produced by her own company, Catani said that without Lula's support for the film industry, "O Filme De Minha Vida", included in the International Film Festival of Panama (IFF), would not have been made.

'I don't forgive them for giving society the idea that I am a thief, ' he continued.

While Lula spoke, some people cried while others chanted "Free Lula!" When he finished speaking, a sea of supporters carried him on their shoulders back into the building.

"I will comply with the order", he told the cheering crowd. Party leaders have suggested it would be later Saturday.

Last year, Moro convicted Lula of trading favours with a construction company in exchange for the promise of a beachfront apartment.

In January, an appeals court unanimously upheld the corruption and money laundering charges against him, and he was handed the prison sentence. The former president denies any wrongdoing in that case or in several other corruption cases that have yet to be tried.

Millions of Brazilians managed to overcome poverty during the two consecutive terms that Lula was in power.

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Born in the hardscrabble northeast, Lula rose through the ranks of the union in the country's industrial south. Until 9 p.m (local time) the onetime leader remained inside the headquarters of a steelworkers union in the city of São Bernardo do Campo, São Paulo, where he lives. "The more days I spend in jail, the more "Lulas" will emerge in this country".

Lula da Silva left office with a 90% approval rating but was questioned by police about the corruption allegations in March 2016.

Former US president Barack Obama once called Lula the "most popular politician on Earth".

He insists on his innocence and says he was framed to stop him running in October presidential elections in which polls show him as frontrunner.

"I hope he never gets out, but I fear he will", said Silvia Gend, a 72-year-old housewife in Sao Bernardo do Campo.

Supporters of former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva are not allowing his auto to leave a metal workers union where the former leader has been holed up. Technically, being jailed does not keep him off the ballot. Rare exceptions have been made in the past, and the final decision would be made by the top electoral court if and when Lula officially files to be a candidate. It is expected to deny da Silva's candidacy under Brazil's "clean slate" law, which disqualifies people who have had criminal convictions upheld. Da Silva could appeal such a decision, though doing so from jail would be more complicated.

Mr. Da Silva is the latest of many high-profile people to be ensnared in possibly the largest corruption scandal in Latin American history.

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