Former Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said Saturday that efforts to block him from seeking re-election were only making him stronger, in a video address at the African Union summit.
Lula lashed out at authorities who blocked him from travelling to the summit in Ethiopia where he was due to attend a meeting organised by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, a day after his graft conviction was upheld.
The corruption ruling strikes a blow to 72-year-old Lula’s hopes of running in this year’s presidential election, in which he is regarded as a frontrunner. However analysts say he still has a shot at running and can file further appeals in higher courts.
“They dont want me to be a candidate because the more they accuse me, the more they persecute me, the more I grow in public opinion polls,” Lula told the meeting in Addis Ababa via a conference call.
“They know if I am a candidate — against the media in my country, against the Brazilian elites — they know that my chances of winning the election in the first round are absolute.”
Lula, a former union boss who rose to make Brazil the poster child of emerging economies and lifted millions out of poverty, told the meeting that his country had shown it was possible to stop people from going hungry.
“Each country’s budget has to be designed placing the poor at its very core to be able to guarantee to them — as something sacred, something biblical — that to have breakfast, lunch and dinner is the most basic right that every human being on Earth must have,” he said.
He vowed that if re-elected his relationship with Africa would be a priority.
Lula’s once-glowing legacy was tarnished by the fall of his hand-picked successor Dilma Rousseff who was impeached in 2016, and a corruption scandal that engulfed their Workers’ Party.
Lula accuses Brazilian elites and the media of being behind a plot to “destroy” him and his legacy.
Three judges agreed Wednesday that Lula was guilty of corruption by being bribed with a posh seaside condo, even though Lula insists he never got the keys to the place.
The judges extended Lula’s original prison sentence of nine and a half years, handed down in July, to 12 years and one month.