Rio de Janeiro — Brazil’s Former President, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, was briefly detained for questioning on early Friday, as part of a federal investigation of the corruption scandal related to the oil company Petroleo Brasileiro (PETR4.SA).
The operation was carried out in Sao Paulo, place of residence of Mr. da Silva. At six in the morning, the former president was taken into custody at a federal police station. However, he was not arrested or charged, but he underwent three hours of questioning before being released.
Later in the day, he referred to the operation as a “media show”, saying that investigators were “disrespecting democracy”, according to the New York Times. On the other hand, the Federal Police said that Mr. da Silva, who is commonly known as Lula, may have received illicit benefits from bribes at Petrobras, such as payments and luxury properties.
According to a police statement, electoral campaigns of Lula were partly financed by Petrobras, and he could have obtained economic benefits for the corruption crimes in which the oil company is involved.
“Ex-president Lula, besides being party leader, was the one ultimately responsible for the decision on who would be the directors at Petrobras and was one of the main beneficiaries of these crimes,” added local police officers on Friday.
Later on Friday, current president Dilma Rousseff said in a statement that it was “unnecessary” to take Mr. da Silva to questioning, after his voluntary testimony. However, she stressed that federal investigations about corruption must by continue, to determine who is involved and punish them.
Protesters gathered on Friday around Lula’s house in Sao Paulo, wearing red shirts and shouting chants and insults. As a response, local police cleared out the streets by force, as shown on TV images. Moreover, supporters accompanied him outside federal police offices, where he was being questioned.
Dilma Rousseff’s presidential term is currently walking over a tightrope, as political crisis increases on Brazil’s streets
A possible link between former president Lula da Silva and the corruption scandal at Petrobras could be understood by opposition political parties as a signal of the instability of Rousseff’s government. On March 13, opponents of the first female president of Brazil will carry a large protest in order to overturn her presidential term.
According to Brazilian Social Democracy Party, which is the main opposition party of the country, Ms. Rousseff has obtained benefits from Petrobras. The leader of the party, Cassio Cunha Lima, said to reporters on Friday that Brazil needs a constitutional way to get out of the “deep crisis”, such as an impeachment or new elections.