Former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva delivered a passionate speech on Saturday in front of a large group of supporters before turning himself in to the federal police.
"I'm no longer a human being – I’m an idea. The death of a soldier doesn’t stop the revolution," he stated during an emotionally moving 55-minute speech.
The former leader spoke on Saturday for the first time since Judge Sergio Moro issued a warrant for his arrest on Thursday. Brazil’s most popular leader was convicted of accepting US$ 1.1 million in bribes from construction company OAS to pay for the remodeling of a beachside apartment in Guarujá, São Paulo state.
Yet, throughout his trial, out of the 73 witnesses to take the stand, not a single witness for the prosecution provided concrete evidence linking the apartment to the former President. There have only been confirmations that Lula visited the apartment on one single occasion.
“They will never be able to arrest our dreams,” Lula stated emphatically during his speech at the headquarters of one of Brazil’s largest steelworkers unions where he launched his career in the Brazilian labour movement.
In response to the arrest warrant, large segments of Brazilian society have protested and expressed outrage over the verdict and decision to arrest former Brazilian President Lula da Silva.
During his remarks, the former president, who was responsible for lifting millions of people out of poverty due to redistributive social welfare programs, denounced the attacks being waged against democracy, which began with the impeachment of former democratically elected president Dilma Rousseff.
“I am proud to have been the only President of this Republic without a university degree but the one who created the most universities in this country's history,” Lula added.
Under the Lula administration (2003-2011), the former head-of-state implemented various government initiatives aimed to combat poverty through the introduction of social assistance programs such as Bolsa Familia, Minha Casa, Minha Vida (My House, My Life), Mais Medicos (More Doctors), and many other successful social welfare policies.
Former President Lula’s previous efforts to reduce poverty and stimulate employment have not gone unappreciated in the poorest parts of the country, where he continues to enjoy support.
"I dreamed that it was possible to have a government that would include the poor, that would promote education. I dreamed that it was possible to place poor teenagers in the best universities in Brazil,” he went on to add.
The former metalworker and trade union activist left office with a sky-high approval rate of 83 percent. Lula’s political, social and economic legacy, garnered broad support from social movements, labor unions along with the country’s rural agricultural groups.
Edition: Nate Singham