Former Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who has been ordered to serve a prison sentence, said Saturday he will turn himself in to authorities, one day after starting a standoff with police, who were ordered to arrest him.
In his first speech since the arrest order was issued Thursday, Da Silva told supporters he was innocent and was targeted to prevent him from running for president again in October. He did not say when or where he would surrender but leaders of his Workers Party suggested he would do so later Saturday.
Da Silva was to begin serving a 12-year prison sentence Friday on a bribery conviction but he instead went to a steelworkers union building in a suburb of Sao Paulo, where years earlier he had launched his career as a labor leader.
As the former leftist president entered the building, he was surrounded by thousands of supporters and members of his Workers Party, who were wearing red shirts and waving red flags. The crowd prevented police from arresting him after a judge’s deadline. The police said they would not try to apprehend him overnight as negotiations to end the standoff continued.
Da Silva’s lawyers filed an injunction late Friday with the Supreme Court to suspend the sentence after losing an argument in the country’s second highest court that they had not exhausted procedural appeals.
The sentence will probably end the political career of Brazil’s first working class president. Brazilian law prohibits a candidate from running for office for eight years after a criminal conviction. There have been rare exceptions, however, and a final decision would be made by the highest electoral court if he officially files to be a candidate.
Da Silva’s mass appeal propelled him to two terms as president between 2003 and 2011, a period of strong economic growth and diminishing inequality. When he left office, his approval rating was 83-percent.