In teary vigil for late wife, Brazil’s former president Lula lashes out at his detractors

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 05 February, 2017, 1:09pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 05 February, 2017, 8:44pm

Former Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva held a wake for his late wife, ending it with harshly worded criticism for the couple’s detractors in an ongoing corruption scandal.

Leftist party staff and hundreds of citizens, many wearing the red shirt of the Workers’ Party and carrying posters that read “President Lula,” went to Sao Bernardo do Campo in metropolitan Sao Paulo to offer their condolences to Latin America’s most popular leftist leader.

“Marisa died sad,” Lula said Saturday at the headquarters of the Metalworkers’ Union where they met four decades ago, before later breaking into tears.

She was affected by “the nasty remarks, the idiocy and the wickedness that they inflicted on her,” he said of her critics, standing in front of her coffin which was draped with a Brazilian and red Workers’ Party flag.

Marisa Leticia Rocco, who was first lady from 2003 to 2011 and a veteran labor activist like her husband, was pronounced brain dead at 66 at the Sirio-Libanes hospital in Sao Paulo on Thursday.

She had been treated in intensive care since January 24 with a brain haemorrhage due to a ruptured brain aneurism.

Lula ended his rule with sky-high ratings and took credit for Brazil’s economic boom. But his legacy has been tarnished by a subsequent recession and a string of corruption charges last year in which his wife was also indicted.

“I’m 71 years old and I think I’m going to live much longer because I want the criminals who insulted Marisa to have the humility to apologise,” Lula said to applause.

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Lula’s leftist party colleagues were quick to defend the political couple as they paid their respects, with several suggesting that the year of scandal had weakened the former first lady’s health.

“It is not an exaggeration to say that they killed Dona Marisa,” leftist senator Lindbergh Farias told journalists.

“She was the victim of enormous persecution and couldn’t take it.”

Lula received condolences and hugs from hundreds of Brazilian citizens throughout the morning.

On Thursday evening conservative President Michel Temer - who replaced Lula’s ally and successor in the presidency, Dilma Rousseff - offered his condolences at the medical centre.

The former first lady’s remains were cremated in a private family ceremony following the wake.