SÃO BERNARDO DO CAMPO, Brazil: Brazil’s left-wing leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva returned to his trade union stronghold on Saturday (Sunday in Manila), delivering a fiery speech to throngs of celebrating supporters a day after walking free from jail.
Reveling in the adoration of his followers at the metalworkers’ union he once led, Lula attacked his arch-nemesis President Jair Bolsonaro, who hours earlier had called him a “scoundrel,” and those who jailed him last year for corruption.
“He (Bolsonaro) was elected to govern for the Brazilian people and not to govern for the militias in Rio de Janeiro,” said Lula, his face flushed as he ranted for nearly an hour in the heat.
Lula was mobbed when he arrived at the union in Sao Bernardo do Campo, near Brazil’s biggest city of Sao Paulo, as people jostled to hug and shake hands with the former shoeshine boy who rose to become one of Brazil’s most popular presidents.
The compound was decorated with a huge banner of Lula’s image and surrounded by a sea of supporters wearing red T-shirts and waving “Free Lula” flags.
“I am grateful that they released him from an unjust imprisonment, from a fraud,” Roque Enrique, 24, told Agence France-Presse as she stood for hours waiting for Lula to arrive.
Tamara Blanco, 38, said Lula was the “best president Brazil has had… I always believed he would get out (of jail).”
Lula’s release came after a politically sensitive Supreme Court ruling on Thursday that could free thousands of convicts.
A 6-5 decision overturned a rule requiring convicted criminals to go to jail after losing their first appeal.
Those convicts would remain free until they had exhausted their rights to appeal — a process critics say could take years in cases involving people able to afford expensive lawyers.
Bolsonaro, who said on last year’s election campaign trail that he hoped Lula would “rot in prison,” told his Twitter followers Saturday that Lula was “momentarily free, but guilty.”
The Supreme Court’s decision and Lula’s release provoked thousands of pro-government protesters to take to the streets in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo on Saturday in opposition of the court’s ruling. AFP