Brazil’s former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has vowed to make life “hell” for the forces he says put him in prison.
Mr da Silva, who walked out of jail two weeks ago, told a crowd of cheering supporters he would fight Brazil’s far-right government.
“They don’t know what it is to face a 74-year-old passionate man,” said Mr da Silva, who governed Brazil from 2003 to 2010, and became one of the world’s most popular politicians before being ensnared in corruption scandals.
Mr da Silva was the star of the conference of his Workers’ Party, which started on Friday in Sao Paulo. Many still think he could be the party’s standard-bearer once again in 2022 – when he’ll be a 77-year-old cancer survivor who is currently barred from seeking office due to a corruption conviction.
Mr da Silva left jail earlier this month after 19 months when the country’s Supreme Court ruled that a person can be imprisoned only after all the appeals have been exhausted.
Brazil’s ex-president is still appealing two convictions for allegedly receiving favours from government contractors involving properties he used or was considering buying. If he loses his appeals in either conviction, he could be locked up again.
Mr da Silva has denied any wrongdoing and accuses prosecutors and Sergio Moro, then a judge and now justice minister in the government of President Jair Bolsonaro, of manipulating the case against him.
Mr da Silva said: “Today I feel much stronger than the day I surrendered to the federal police.
“I am more willing to fight for this country than in any other moment. You will see me travelling around this country, not only making their lives hell, but also defending the Brazilian people who don’t deserve to experience what they are experiencing.”
Most analysts see Mr da Silva as a potential kingmaker and strategist for the party he was instrumental in transforming – one who can appeal to a wide range of voters.
Mr da Silva is hoping the Supreme Court will deliver a ruling that could cancel the cases against him – and that would legally open the path to another presidential run.
The former union leader took a party some politicians once regarded as a radical fringe and brought it to power in 2003, winning adulation from millions for presiding over more than a decade of prosperity and reduced poverty with policies that were far more business-friendly than many foes had feared.
That record was increasingly stained by corruption scandals, and the 80% approval ratings he enjoyed on leaving office in 2010 have slipped to about 40% today. But these are still better than those of Mr Bolsonaro.
The Workers’ Party remains the biggest party in the lower house, with 54 seats. But even under Mr da Silva, it required alliances with smaller parties to govern.