SãO PAULO — Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff joined hundreds of people gathered Saturday outside the residence of the man who handpicked her to succeed him, former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, one day after police questioned him in an investigation into a sprawling corruption case involving state-run oil company Petrobras.
“She is going to meet with Lula as a gesture of solidarity and support,” a media officer at the presidential palace said, referring to him by his nickname. The officer spoke on the condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to speak on the matter.
Images aired by the Globo TV network showed Rousseff arriving at Lula’s home. Minutes later, images were broadcast of Lula and his wife, Marisa, waving to the crowd from a balcony.
Outside Lula’s building in São Bernardo do Campo, an industrial suburb of São Paulo, supporters chanted, “If you mess with him, you mess with me.” They hung a banner that read “Lula, the most honest and honorable man of this country.”
Unlike Friday, when Lula supporters and critics clashed in front of the building, Saturday’s gathering was peaceful in the absence of Lula opponents.
Some opponents did paint on a wall of his nonprofit foundation Instituto Lula: “Lula, thief. Enough of corruption . . . your hour has arrived.”
Police have searched the foundation headquarters, as well as properties connected to his sons and other family members. One of Lula’s sons was brought in for questioning.
Officials said they were looking into 30 million Brazilian reals ($7.98 million) in payments for speeches and donations to the Instituto Lula by construction firms that were crucial players in the Petrobras corruption scheme.
Prosecutors in the “Car Wash” corruption case say more than $2 billion was paid in bribes to obtain Petrobras contracts. Some of Brazil’s wealthiest people, including the heads of top construction companies, have been caught up in the probe, as have dozens of politicians.
Police raided Lula’s home Friday morning and took him to a federal police station at the city’s Congonhas Airport, where they questioned him for about four hours.
At a rally later in the day in São Paulo, an emotional Lula insisted he is innocent and blasted those accusing him.
“If they are a cent more honest than I, then I will leave politics,” he pledged, his eyes welling with tears.