SAO PAULO – Former Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was greeted by dozens of supporters when he arrived on Saturday at a cemetery for the funeral of his 7-year-old grandson, who died of a meningitis infection.
The ex-head of state, who was authorized to temporarily leave prison for the first time since being incarcerated last April following a corruption conviction, received applause and expressions of solidarity from around 200 people who had been waiting for him at the gates of the cemetery on the outskirts of this metropolis.
Some held up signs reading “Lula Livre” (Free Lula), a common slogan since the former union leader was convicted in 2017 of having accepted bribes from a construction company in the form of renovations to a seaside condo that the former president never owned or occupied.
The conviction was upheld on appeal last year and Lula has been behind bars since April 2018, which led to his being barred from last October’s presidential election amid polls showing that he would have won by a wide margin.
That case against Lula, who denies any wrongdoing, was based largely on plea-bargained testimony from people already convicted of corruption offenses.
Lula, who left his cell at the Federal Police building in the southern city of Curitiba at around 7 am Saturday, arrived at 11 am at the Jardin de la Colina cemetery in Sao Bernardo do Campo, an industrial suburb of Sao Paulo.
His journey under tight security included one plane flight and two helicopter trips.
Lula, who arrived at the funeral wearing a dark suit and no tie, was not allowed to stop and speak with his supporters but did hold up his arms in a gesture of appreciation.
Lula, who governed from 2003 to 2010 and left office with sky-high approval ratings, met two key Workers Party (PT) allies at the cemetery: his political protege and successor Dilma Rousseff and ex-Sao Paulo Mayor Fernando Haddad, who lost to rightist Jair Bolsonaro in last October’s presidential run-off.
Arthur Araujo Lula da Silva, one of six grandchildren of the former president, died Friday at a hospital in Sao Paulo and his body was cremated at mid-day Saturday.
The funeral was held at the same cemetery where Lula’s late wife, Marisa Leticia Rocco, was laid to rest after her death in February 2017.
The youngster’s death comes a little more than a month after that of Lula’s older brother, Genival Inacio da Silva, known as Vava, at the age of 79 after a long battle with a rare form of cancer.
Lula, 73, asked to be allowed to attend Vava’s funeral but was turned down after the Federal Police argued that transporting him to the funeral site in Sao Bernardo do Campo and ensuring his security there would cause logistical problems.
Following Vava’s funeral, Lula was offered a furlough to meet with his family at a military base in Sao Paulo state.
Last month, Lula was convicted in a second corruption case and sentenced to 12 years and 11 months behind bars. That sentence is in addition to the 12-year, one-month prison term he began serving 11 months ago.
The ex-president, who denies any wrongdoing and has said that no one in Brazil is more honest than he is, also faces six other corruption trials.