CURITIBA, Brazil – Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was released from prison on Friday, less than a day after the Supreme Court ruled that a person can only be arrested after all appeals have been exhausted.
Hundreds of red-shirt supporters gathered outside the federal police building in the city of Curitiba applauded the popular 74-year-old politician whose release could bring together a demoralized opposition.
Da Silva, who is appealing her conviction for corruption and money laundering in connection with the purchase of a beachfront apartment in the state of Sao Paulo, hugged her daughter, raised her fist to the sky and then took the stage where I was surrounded by his girlfriend and other people.
"You have no idea how significant it is that I am here with you," Da Silva told jubilant supporters, thanking individual union leaders and members of the left-wing Workers Party. "They didn't arrest a man. They tried to stop an idea. An idea doesn't go away."
Da Silva, who is universally known as Lula, has been in prison since April 2018. It is still unclear what political role he will now seek to be free. He is barred from office while his resources run his course, but the former leader of the Workers Party, better known in Brazil for his PT, remains a popular figure on the left. Still, he could find himself back in prison if his appeals weren't his way.
Political analysts believe Da Silva could muster an opposition weakened by corruption scandals, the impeachment of Da Silva's successor, Da Silva's arrest and, more recently, a defeat in the 2018 general election.
In addition to promising to eradicate corruption and curb violence, far-right President Jair Bolsonaro has campaigned strongly against anti-Workers Party sentiment. He won the election with 55% of the vote and took office on January 1.
Da Silva, who ruled from 2003 to 2010, was favored to win the 2018 presidential election, but his conviction eventually banned him from running.
The former president said that when free, he would travel around the country meeting opposition. Political analysts say he may not immediately clash with Bolsonaro, seeking to influence the upcoming presidential election in 2022.
"What makes Lula more dangerous for Bolsonaro is that Lula understands the long game," said James Bosworth, founder of Hxagon, a political risk analysis firm, emphasizing that the politician had played four times before being first elected. in 2003.
"Lula is an old school union and political organizers who will take their time to put the PT and other allies in positions to take advantage of Bolsonaro's weaknesses in the coming years," he said.
The former union leader is widely called the "political animal." He presided over a period of rapid economic growth fueled by a commodity boom that expanded the country's middle class. His huge Bolsa Familia social assistance program helped lift millions out of poverty and he left office with an approval rating of over 80%. Your passionate oratory can easily provoke laughter or tears from those among your supporters.
For Claudio Couto, a professor of political science at the Getulio Vargas Foundation University in São Paulo, Da Silva's release will have profound consequences for both sides of Brazil's political spectrum.
On the one hand, it will serve Bolsonaro's anti-PT and anti-squid rhetoric, Couto said. "On the other hand, it ends PT & Lula Livre's rhetoric and forces the party to take on another agenda."
Left-wing supporters have welcomed the release of their standard bearer, but they want more and now they advocate clearing their name.
While he is out of jail, the former leader remains involved in several court cases.
In addition to the beachfront apartment, he was also convicted by a lower court judge in a case centered on a farm in Atibaia, on the outskirts of Sao Paulo. If he loses his appeals in either conviction, he could be arrested again.
Da Silva has denied any wrongdoing and accuses car-wash prosecutors and then-judge Sergio Moro, now minister of justice, of political persecution.
In a separate Supreme Court debate, the judges will decide whether Moro was biased when he made his decisions. Meanwhile, Da Silva's conviction prevents him from running for office.
Protests in major Brazilian cities are scheduled this weekend to show support for Moro and his crusade to curb endemic crime and corruption.