By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – Former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva spent Thursday night at the Metalworkers Union building in São Bernardo do Campo (São Paulo) along with close allies and hundreds of supporters, as the two-term leader and PT (Workers Party) officials argue whether he should surrender and head to Curitiba to serve his jail term or resist and wait for federal police to forcibly take him in.
Hours after Brazil’s Supreme Court ruled against an habeas corpus which would block Lula from going to jail an arrest warrant was issued in the former president’s name. Judge Sergio Moro gave Lula until 5PM on Friday to appear voluntarily at the federal police headquarters in Curitiba (Santa Catarina state).
“Lula is innocent. He is the victim of one of the most serious actions against a person. Our Constitution is clear. You cannot arrest without all the appeals having been exhausted. The president [Lula] had the right to appeal,” former President Dilma Rousseff said on Thursday night to supporters rallying outside the union building.
“You who are here are able to resist. We are not a bunch of people who understand the language of stones and bullets. This is not the Brazil we want. We will continue to resist with courage,” she concluded.
According to news coming out of the building there are two distinct and equally powerful groups in the discussion.
One wants Lula to surrender to the head of the federal police in Curitiba as ordered by Judge Moro on Thursday and start to serve his twelve year one month sentence for passive corruption and money laundering.
The other, according to news reports and social media, wants to radicalize the issue and calls for Lula to remain among his supporters and let the police take him to Curitiba. This group, including federal lawmakers, wants to the former president to resist an arrest they call ‘illegal’.
“This arrest is illegal, it is unconstitutional,” said Chamber Representative Lindbergh Farias to a crowd of cheering supporters on Thursday night. “Tomorrow morning there will be a multitude of supporter here and we will say to Lula: ‘we will not accept your arrest’.”
“If they (police) want they will have to have the courage to break through the human chain here to get to Lula,” concluded Farias.
On Friday morning, social movements had already started protests. Members of the Landless Peasant Movement (MST) began blocking highways in the states of Mato Grosso, Bahia, Pernambuco and Espírito Santo. According to MST, Alexandre Conceição, the idea is to block up to fifty highways in twenty-four states in protest of Lula’s arrest warrant.
The Oil Workers Union (FUP) suspended meetings scheduled for Friday with Petrobras officials and called members to join the demonstrations and mobilizations convened by the trade unions.
“Lula’s arrest is political and must be repudiated by all Brazilians and Brazilians who defend the Democratic State of Law. Resistance is on the streets and in the workplace,” stated the entity on their webpage.
On Thursday night, Lula’s defense team had already filed a new habeas corpus request, this time with the Superior Court. The request, however, should not annul Thursday’s arrest warrant.