SAO PAULO – Protesters both in favor of and against the prison sentence handed to Brazil’s former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva took to the streets of Sao Paulo on Wednesday, as military police were deployed to avoid possible confrontations.
A protest in downtown Paulista Avenue calling for the resignation of Brazilian President Michel Temer – under fire over corruption scandals – ended up being overtaken by Lula supporters.
After Lula, 71, was handed a nine-and-a-half year prison sentence on Wednesday by federal judge Sergio Moro on corruption and money laundering charges, two more demonstrations started on Paulista Avenue, the financial heart of the country.
Lula’s sympathizers, convened by trade union centers and social movements, gathered outside the Sao Paulo Museum of Art to show their support for the former president and former labor union leader.
Less than a block away in front of the Federation of Industries of the State of Sao Paulo, the country’s most influential employers’ organization, anti-Lula protesters gathered to celebrate his conviction, calling for his immediate arrest as they waved Brazilian flags and posters praising Judge Moro.
The Sao Paulo military police, who did not report on the number of protesters, positioned blockades to prevent clashes between the opposing demonstrations as they continued over four hours.
Lula, who governed Brazil from 2003-2011, was found guilty in connection with the massive corruption scandal centered on state oil company Petrobras.
The charges rested on the claim that Lula was given a beachfront duplex apartment near Sao Paulo by OAS, one of the engineering companies implicated in bribing Petrobras executives to secure inflated contracts and diverting some of the extra money to politicians who provided cover for the graft.
The former president denies that he ever owned the apartment, or benefited from property renovations that the prosecution claimed was at his request.