Former President Luiz Ignacio Lula da Silva condemned Sunday attempts to prevent him from running in the upcoming 2018 presidential elections through a smear campaign involving allegations of corruption.
“I don't know if I will be alive to be a candidate in 2018, but what I do know is that they are trying to avoid it,” said the founder of the Workers' Party, or PT, before a crowd of thousands of people gathered in the northern town of Monteiro.
Lula highlighted that the PT has still not selected a potential candidate, but he sent a message to his opponents: “Pray to God that I will not be the candidate,” Because it would “make the people happy again.”
The former Brazilian president criticized the current administration over reforms to the pension system, saying the solution is to create employment and raise employees' wages.
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He recalled that successive PT administrations created 22 million jobs, while the minimum wage was increased every year, as he attacked President Michel Temer for weakening labor rights.
"If they want to fight with me, they'll have to do it in the streets," he said.
Earlier this month, a petition signed by over 400 Brazilian intellectuals called on former president Lula da Silva to consider launching his candidacy for the presidential election next year.
“He was a worker, a poor son of the Northeast, who assumed the Presidency of the Republic a few years ago and gave a substantive and authentic meaning to Brazilian democracy," it read.
Slamming Temer’s administration, the petition spoke out against the current state of affairs in Brazil. Since he took office in August 2016, the Brazilian government has cut social spending, increased foreign investment, and implemented environmental deregulation.
Temer’s administration has also seen an increase in police violence against Black and Indigenous communities and urban poverty.
“There is no democracy in hunger, in the absence of effective political participation, without quality education and health, without decent housing, in the end, without social inclusion,” the petition adds.