Brazil's Ex-president Says He'll Turn Himself In To Authorities

Brazil's Ex-president Says He'll Turn Himself In To Authorities

Supporters of ex-Brazilian President Luis Inácio Lula da Silva have stopped him surrendering to police after he agreed to end a stand-off over his prison sentence.

On Thursday, a federal judge ordered Lula da Silva's arrest after the Supreme Court ruled he must start serving the 12-year sentence.

Federal Judge Sergio Moro, who has handled the bulk of cases in Brazil's biggest-ever graft investigation and issued Lula's prison order, wrote that he should not be handcuffed and would have a special cell in Curitiba, where he stood trial.

He was convicted of receiving a renovated beachfront apartment worth some 3.7m reais ($1.1m, £790,000), as a bribe from engineering firm OAS.

Lula was ordered to surrender to police by Friday but missed the deadline while his lawyers pursued appeals in the courts.

When he first tried to leave to turn himself in, however, dozens of supporters blocked a gate where a auto carrying da Silva was trying to exit.

Clashes could break out if da Silva is forced out of the union building Friday night. He also faces a handful of other corruption charges.

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Da Silva, who Brazilians simply call "Lula", did no such thing.

Former US President Barack Obama once said he was the "most popular politician on Earth".

"I want Lula in prison, I want a better future and with him in the leadership we won't have that", said Maura Moraes de Oliveira, 51, who works as a maid in Curitiba.

The metallurgical union is where the former president universally known as "Lula" got his start as a union organiser long ago.

But Cassio Goncalves, a labour safety specialist at the union headquarters, said he and fellow members of the Workers Party had not considered alternatives in the presidential race. "The more days I spend in jail, the more "Lulas" will emerge in this country".

Born in the hardscrabble northeast, da Silva rose through the ranks of the union in the country's industrial south. In 1980, during the military dictatorship, he was arrested in Sao Bernardo do Campo for organizing strikes. There are a number of other corruption cases that he has yet to be tried for.

"This has always been Lula: a crook and a radical who doesn't respect the law", he said.

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After running for president several times, in 2002 da Silva finally won.

Tens of millions of people were lifted out of poverty thanks to the initiatives taken by his government and he left office after two consecutive terms (the maximum allowed in Brazil) with record popularity ratings.

Workers' Party leaders insist that da Silva, 72, will still be the party's candidate in October.

Technically, beginning to serve his sentence would not keep da Silva 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 Mr 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. However, da Silva could appeal such a decision, though doing so from jail would be more complicated.

Like so much in a nation that has become deeply polarized, that da Silva would soon be behind bars was being interpreted differently by supporters and detractors.

Operation "Car Wash" was named after the service station where agents initially investigated a minor money laundering scheme in 2014, before realizing that they had stumbled on a gargantuan web of embezzlement and bribery at state oil company Petrobras, reaching right through the political classes.

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