Brazil's Bolsonaro swipes at newly released Lula

by Reuters
Saturday, 9 November 2019 17:33 GMT

(Updates with social media post by Lula)

BRASILIA, Nov 9 (Reuters) - Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Twitter took a first swipe at his rival Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on Saturday after the leftist former leader was released from prison, highlighting deep political divisions likely to flare in the comings days.

Bolsonaro's tweet came after Lula - who was president from 2003 to 2010 - vowed in a video on social media to "help liberate Brazil from the madness that is happening in our country."

Bolsonaro suggested Lula was a "scoundrel" and urged his followers to rally behind the government's right-wing agenda, saying they should not let "the new phase of Brazil's recovery" be derailed.

"Lovers of freedom and good, we are the majority. Without a north star and a directive, even the best troops become a band shooting at all sides, including friends," Bolsonaro wrote.

"Do not give ammunition to the scoundrel, who is momentarily free but full of guilt," he added, not referring to Lula by name.

A judge ordered that Lula be freed on Friday, a day after Brazil's Supreme Court issued a broader ruling ending the mandatory imprisonment of convicted criminals after they lose their first appeal. Lula had been imprisoned on a corruption conviction carrying a nearly nine-year sentence.

Lula spent the night in the southern city of Curitiba, where he had been jailed, but returned to the Sao Paulo area on Saturday.

Exiting the prison to a cheering crowd of supporters clad in red for Lula's Workers Party, he called for a rally on Saturday at the metalworkers union on the outskirts of Sao Paulo where he got his political start, and pledged to follow that up with a national tour.

On social media, Lula said that although he is 74 years old, he has the energy of a young man.

Lula, who left the presidency with sky-high approval ratings, is ineligible to stand for office until 2025 under Brazil's "Clean Record" law because of a conviction for taking bribes. But his release is expected to energize the left ahead of next year's municipal elections.

Lula was imprisoned in 2018 after being found guilty of receiving bribes from construction companies in return for public contracts. He has maintained his innocence and said the case against him was politically motivated.

Addressing supporters outside the jail on Friday, Lula vowed to prove his innocence and accused "rotten" police, prosecutors and judges of "working to criminalize the left." (Reporting by Jake Spring; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Daniel Wallis)

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.