Curitiba (Brazil) (AFP) – Brazil’s leftist leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva might have a feeling of deja vu as he’s led into the cell awaiting him in the city of Curitiba — in happier times as president his name was inscribed on the building’s entrance.
The prison cell prepared for Lula may not have air conditioning, but it’s a far cry from the hellish lock-ups facing many Brazilian inmates.
For years, Lula strode the lofty halls of Brazil’s achingly cool, Oscar Niemeyer-designed presidential palace and other institutions.
So being confined to cell at the start of a 12-year prison sentence for corruption will come as a shock if he complies with an arrest warrant demanding his surrender later Friday.
But as Brazilian jail cells go, the room prepared for 72-year-old Lula in the southern city of Curitiba is pure luxury.
With a single bed and en-suite shower and toilet, the facility is actually normally reserved as a place where lawyers working at the federal police building can catch a night’s sleep.
In his arrest warrant, anti-corruption Judge Sergio Moro said the cell, nicknamed “the headquarters,” was specially prepared because of Lula’s status as a two-term former president.
Jorge Chastalo Filho, in charge of custody for the federal police in Curitiba, described the room as “simple, without a lot of details,” but “a rather humanized, quiet room.”
He said it has “an agreeable atmosphere.”
Not bad in a country infamous for prisons so overcrowded that inmates take turns to sleep, and where gang conflicts regularly lead to bloodshed, even beheadings.
One thing Lula’s cell lacks is air conditioning, but that’s not necessarily a problem in Curitiba, especially as it heads into the southern hemisphere winter.
– ‘Sunbathing’ –
According to Estadao newspaper, the converted cell measures about 10 by 16 feet (five meters by three meters) and has two windows. The shower has hot water.
Chastalo said Lula would be allowed one weekly visit by immediate family and two hours a day of what he called “sunbathing,” or fresh air.
Igor Romario de Paula, a member of the federal police in Curitiba, said that as soon Lula arrived, he would first complete paperwork and then be taken to his cell.
With Lula apparently considering rejecting the offer of voluntary surrender — forcing police to come and take him by force — Moro may yet strip him of these privileges, according to local media.
It’s also unclear where Lula’s longer-term incarceration would take place.
“We don’t know” how long Lula would remain in the “headquarters,” de Paula said. “You don’t usually serve your sentence here, because this is temporary, but you can stay here while we consider a new place.”
Wherever Lula ended up in Curitiba, he wouldn’t feel totally lost in the federal police building: the plaque in the entrance, dating from the February 2, 2007 inauguration, includes his name and title of “president of the republic” — written in gold.