SAO PAULO – Brazilian ex-head of state Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva agreed on Thursday to represent the opposition Workers’ Party (PT) in this year’s presidential election, although a corruption conviction makes it unclear whether he will be able to run.
“I accept the nomination as pre-candidate of the Workers’ Party,” the ex-president said in an acceptance speech during a high-level PT meeting in Sao Paulo.
But he also urged other party members to take the baton from him if the Supreme Electoral Tribunal rules him ineligible prior to the October balloting.
“We have other candidates, and (the PT’s enemies) are going to try to create obstacles. I hope our candidacy doesn’t depend on Lula. It only makes sense if you’re able to (assume the candidacy) even if something undesirable happens,” the 72-year-old politician, who governed from 2003 to 2010 and leads all voter-preference surveys, added in his speech.
He reiterated that the PT, which says it plans to formally register Lula’s candidacy by the mid-August deadline, had been the “victim of a premeditated plot” and that the appeals court had convicted an innocent man.
On Wednesday, that court in the southern city of Porto Alegre upheld Lula’s July 2017 bribe-taking and money-laundering conviction and also increased his prison sentence from nine and a half years to 12 years and one month.
A three-judge panel unanimously found there was sufficient proof that Lula accepted a beachfront triplex on Guaruja beach, near Sao Paulo, from engineering company OAS in exchange for helping that firm secure contracts with state oil company Petrobras.
That case stems from the sprawling Lava Jato (Car Wash) probe, whose initial focus was a bribes-for-inflated-contracts scheme centered on Petrobras.
Lula also faces six other indictments, most of them for alleged corruption.
The ex-president, who says all the charges are politically motivated, can still appeal his conviction further – including to the Supreme Court – and will not be immediately imprisoned despite Wednesday’s verdict.