efe-epaDuque de Caxias, Brazil

Former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said Thursday that "Brazil's solution is not weapons, but education" during an event in Baixada Fluminense, one of Rio de Janeiro's most violent districts, during the final stretch of what appears to be the start of a presidential election campaign.

Before hundreds of Workers Party (PT) supporters in the Fluminense town of Duque de Caxias, Lula, who is ahead in the election surveys despite the fact that he is facing several court cases for corruption, insisted that he wants to run for president next year.

"If I were to return to compete in the elections, I'd win," said the former president, who governed Brazil from 2003-2010 and now is seeking to recover his political leadership role with a campaign that has taken him to several of the country's interior regions in recent months.

Lula lashed the current Brazilian government, which he accused of "coupism" for removing his successor and political protege, Dilma Rousseff, from the presidency, adding that if he becomes president again he would reverse the most controversial measures adopted by President Michel Temer, including assorted privatizations.

"If they are not competent to fix this country, I'm going to fix it," he declared.

Baixada Fluminense is a region marked by corruption and violence where the PT has lost significant votes in recent years, and at the rally there Lula asserted his innocence in the face of the accusations of embezzlement and reiterated that to date neither the police nor prosecutors have been able to prove he did anything wrong.

On Friday, Lula will wrap up his tour in Rio de Janeiro, the third leg of a campaign that began in August in the impoverished northeast and which has also taken him to the state of Minas Gerais.

A survey released this week by the firm Datafolha gave Lula 34 percent of the votes in the first electoral round and an overwhelming victory against whoever might face him in the runoff.

However, his prospective candidacy rests in the hands of a court, which will rule on the nine-and-a-half-year prison sentence handed down to him for passive corruption and money laundering within the framework of the case linked to the corruption network uncovered within Petrobras, the state-run oil company.

If the sentence is upheld, which could occur in mid-2018, Lula - who is facing six court cases - would not be able to run in the election.