SAO BERNARDO DO CAMPO, Brazil – Leftist supporters and social movements held a vigil before dawn Monday to protest the probable arrest of ex-President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, under investigation for corruption at the state-run oil company Petrobras.
More than 100 people started gathering Sunday night in front of Lula’s apartment in Sao Bernardo do Campo, a municipality of the Sao Paulo metropolitan region and birthplace of union movements that gave rise to Lula’s Workers Party, or PT, in the early 1980s.
The protest was called on social media following a rumor in the media about the possible arrest this Monday of the enormously popular Lula, who will sit three times on the bench of the accused.
Two trials of the ex-president, who governed between 2003-2010, will be for separate counts of corruption, in both cases on suspicion of receiving payment and favors from different construction companies; the third trial will be for attempting to silence a witness who accused him of involvement in a network that plundered Petrobras for at least a decade.
His supporters carried posters showing Lula’s photo and messages of support saying “no prison,” and tied white balloons to a tree symbolizing peace and the rights that, they said, the ex-president has now lost.
The PT councilman in Sao Paulo, Jose Americo, told EFE that one aim of the vigil was to “restrain” the possibly “excessively spectacular” action of the activists if Lula is arrested.
Americo said police and judicial action against corruption in the nation’s political campaigns harmed the PT, but that will not weaken support for the party, though he confessed he “distrusted” the judiciary.