CURITIBA, Brazil – Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said on Wednesday that he was preparing to return and run for president during a brief speech to his supporters after testifying in court on corruption charges.
Lula testified on Wednesday in a five-hour hearing before Judge Sergio Moro in the federal courts of Curitiba, over his alleged ownership of an apartment in a spa resort in Guaruja.
The property was believed to have been bought by the construction company OAS, one of the companies implicated in the Petrobras corruption scandal, for the former president in exchange for favorable government deals.
After the hearing, the former president went to a central city square where thousands of well-wishers were waiting to express their support and solidarity to the leader of the Workers Party (PT).
“I am more eager than ever (to be a candidate),” Lula said in a brief speech, during which he was joined by former President Dilma Rousseff, his successor who was impeached by Congress last year.
“If the elite of this country does not know how to fix this country, then a metallurgist with basic education will,” he added.
Lula maintained his innocence, just as he did during the hearing, and called for “respect.”
“I respect the law, and the Constitution, and Justice,” and “I ask that they respect me” he said, adding and “I want to be judged according to the evidence.”
Lula, who led Brazil from 2003-2010, then claimed that nobody in the history of the country had been “so persecuted and massacred” as he had been, adding that were he to one day make a mistake, that he be judged not only by the judiciary, but by the Brazilian people.
Rousseff was confident that Lula would defeat the “retrogression” caused by Michel Temer’s government which replaced her after her impeachment. Rousseff was dismissed for allegedly breaking budgetary laws in August 2016.
A large security force was deployed to maintain security around the federal court in Curitiba, with rival protesters both for and against Lula expected to gather in the area.
The leader of the Workers’ Party (PT) appears to be the front-runner in the polls and best-placed candidate for the 2018 presidential elections, despite his involvement in the ongoing corruption case.
The former president could be tried in six other cases, as requested by the Supreme Court based on the allegations made by 77 former Odebrecht officials who formed a judicial cooperation agreement in relation to the OAS corruption case.