Brazil homeless activists occupy residence at heart of Lula case

    16 de abril de 2018

    Guaruja, Brazil, Apr 16 (efe-epa).- Members of Brazil's Homeless Workers Movement (MTST) carried out here Monday a brief occupation of the seaside residence at the heart of a corruption case that has seen former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva sentenced to 12 years in prison.

    "If it belongs to Lula, it's ours. If not, why did they arrest him?," read a poster displayed by the 30 or so occupiers on a balcony of the triplex in Guaruja, a resort town near Sao Paulo.

    Lula, who governed Brazil from 2003-2011 and remains the nation's most popular politician, has traditionally enjoyed support from the MTST and other grassroots organizations.

    The militants broke down the door to enter the residence, where they spent nearly three hours before leaving voluntarily under an accord with police.

    The MTST leader, Guilherme Boulos, mobilized hundreds of his members to join the crowd of Lula supporters who gathered two weeks ago outside a union headquarters in suburban Sao Paulo to dissuade authorities from trying to arrest the former president.

    After spending 48 hours inside the offices of the union he led in the 1980s, Lula surrendered and was taken to a police lock-up in the southern city of Curitiba to begin serving his sentence.

    In July 2017, Lula was found guilty of accepting bribes in exchange for helping Brazilian construction company OAS obtain lucrative contracts from state oil giant Petrobras and sentenced him to nine years and six months in prison.

    On Jan. 24, an appeals court voted unanimously to uphold that earlier verdict and increase Lula's prison sentence to 12 years and one month.

    The three-judge panel ruled there was sufficient proof that Lula accepted the triplex in Guaruja from OAS in exchange for helping that firm secure contracts with Petrobras.

    The case against Lula, who denies any wrongdoing, is based largely on plea-bargained testimony from people already convicted as part of the sprawling Petrobras investigation.

    Prosecutors failed to produce any evidence Lula was ever the legal owner of the residence or even that he ever set foot inside.

    Lula, 72, denounces the charges as politically motivated and his Workers Party (PT) vows to stick with him as its candidate in this year's presidential election.

    Attorneys for the former head of state continue to pursue appeals of last year's conviction.

    Though now behind bars, Lula continues to lead all other presidential hopefuls in the polls.