Rousseff Visits Lula as Brazil Supporters Stage Solidarity Vigil

BRAZIL-LULA-CORRUPTION

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, left, with former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, outside his residence in Sao Bernardo do Campo, near Sao Paulo, Brazil, on March 5.

Photographer: Nelson Almeida/AFP via Getty Images
  • `Carwash' involves kickbacks at state-run oil company
  • Former leader denies wrongdoing in far-reaching bribery scheme

Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff and hundreds of supporters flocked to the home of Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on the outskirts of Sao Paulo in a sign of support for the former leader, who was detained for questioning by police on Friday in relation to a corruption scandal that has gripped the country.

Activists from the ruling Workers’ Party, known as PT, and its followers staged a daylight vigil in front of the building where Lula lives, chanting “Lula is my friend, if you mess with him, you mess with me.”

Dilma Rousseff and supporters gather outside Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s house
Dilma Rousseff and supporters gather outside Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s house
Photographer: Nelson Almeida/AFP/Getty Images

Rousseff flew from the nation’s capital, Brasilia, to spend a little over one hour with Lula before heading to the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul. The president, who faces attempts in court and in Congress to eject her from office, was greeted with slogans of “there will be no coup” as she entered the high-rise apartment building.

Lula, who served as Brazil’s president for eight years, denies any wrongdoing, and Rousseff has criticized his brief detention on Friday as excessive.

The show of solidarity comes after PT leaders called on Brazilians to take to the streets in defense of Lula and the Rousseff administration. Demonstrators on Friday clashed outside the Sao Paulo airport where Lula was questioned by police for over three hours. Investigators are probing whether Lula received benefits from companies involved in the so-called Carwash scheme, a system of kickbacks at state-run oil company Petrobras.

Sergio Moro, the federal judge who authorized Lula’s detention on Friday, issued a statement on Saturday in which he said the actions don’t mean the former president is assumed to be guilty. Moro also said steps had been taken to preserve Lula’s public image during the police operation.

The investigation into Lula, the latest involving high-level Workers’ Party officials, renewed opposition calls for Rousseff’s impeachment. Eurasia Group, a political consulting firm, said on Friday that the probability that she won’t finish out her term, which is due to end in 2018, is more than 50 percent.

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