11 Apr 2018 – 20:38

Brazil's Lula has TV in prison, but prefers to read: reports

Supporters of former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva cooking in a camp near the Federal Police headquarters, where Lula is imprisoned, in Curitiba, Brazil. April 9, 2018. Reuters/Rodolfo Buhrer


Rio de Janeiro:  Brazil’s ex-president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva could be watching television and sunbathing but so far prefers staying in his prison cell with a book, local media reports said Tuesday.

The leftist former two-term president also has eight assistants, including four bodyguards and drivers.

Frustratingly, they’re all on the outside, of course, and current President Michel Temer is considering stripping the privilege, a spokesman said.

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But in many ways Lula, who was locked up Saturday to start a 12-year prison sentence for corruption, is very lucky.

The cell, inside federal police headquarters in the southern city of Curitiba, is lightyears from the hellish conditions endured by many Brazilian prisoners.

Not for him cells so crowded that inmates take turns to sleep, or facilities run by gang leaders, or jailhouse power struggles in which prisoners are stabbed, clubbed to death and even beheaded.

This is a modern, well-designed building, as Lula knows: it was inaugurated under his presidency on February 2, 2007. His name’s on the plaque downstairs.

As for the cell, measuring about 160 square feet (15 square meters), it isn’t even a proper lock-up.

It’s a room, nicknamed “the headquarters,” usually reserved for lawyers or others working in the building who need a place to sleep.

And because it’s not a police building, not a standard prison, Lula doesn’t have to have his head shaved or wear a uniform.

There’s a private shower and toilet, hot water and a cupboard. As a special favor to Lula, he was allowed a television.

On Sunday, his first full day of incarceration, he used it to watch his beloved Corinthians football team beat Palmeiras to win the Sao Paulo championship.

Jailhouse blues

But Lula, arguably the most influential Brazilian politician for decades, isn’t too suited to this quiet, if comfortable existence.

“The closest friends and aides of Lula are worried that he could sink into a depression in jail,” Folha de S.Paulo columnist Monica Bergamo wrote Tuesday in a piece claiming to reveal much of Lula’s new private life.

According to Bergamo, Lula’s biggest problem is the isolation.

He’s a leader used to talking all day and — as anyone attending his often tear-filled, high-energy speeches knows — a good part of the night.

Bergamo’s column reports that Lula’s lawyers unpacked the ex-president’s suitcase on Saturday and went shopping to pick up the sheets, towels, pillows and soap that the police facility doesn’t provide.

They even debated whether he could bring his own supply of chocolate, but in the rush forgot to pack an anti-snoring device that Lula uses, she wrote.

Reading time

One of Lula’s lawyers, Cristiano Zanin Martins, said Monday that Lula so far hasn’t used the allotted two hours a day of what officials call “sunbathing,” or getting fresh air.

Now that the big Corinthians game is over, neither apparently is he spending much time watching Brazilian TV.

After all, he probably won’t want to see too much of the dominant Globo News channel, which he bitterly accuses of joining a plot to end his career. And as for the famous Brazilian soap operas — none can match the drama of his own downfall.

Martins said instead Lula is “is mostly spending his time reading.”

And high on his reading list is a Brazilian book called “Elite do Atraso,” tracing what its cover calls “the pact between the powerful to perpetuate a cruel society founded on slavery.”