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destroy democracy to save it

A group of right-wing protesters stormed government buildings in Brasilia on Jan. 8, sparking a massive police response and arrests of 1,500. The next day, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula Dazi Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva rallied all his government ministers and representatives of all 27 state governments in a symbolic rally to show solidarity and walk to the Supreme Court headquarters.

Even governors loyal to defeated former President Jair Bolsonaro showed up or sent representatives. Protesters stormed the presidential palace, the seat of the National Assembly and the Supreme Court building in Bolsonaro’s name, declaring last year’s election – the closest since military rule ended in 1985 – a sham.

But the united front against Lula’s so-called coup attempt hides a darker reality: Brazil’s democracy is being strangled by the very people who claim to save it.

The solidarity that Lula wanted to show could also be seen as him, his government and the executives of each state now bowing to real power in Brazil: the Supreme Court in general is unelected, and one in particular A judge named Alexander de Moras.

Judge, Jury and Executioner

In Lula’s view, Morais has become Brazil’s de facto dictator. Following Sunday’s unrest, Morais threatened to arrest elected officials, police and military leaders for not acting quickly to restore order. He made good on his threats, suspending the governor of the federal region, which includes Brasilia, for 90 days and ordering the arrest of several other officials, including the local police chief.

The move has raised doubts. “We cannot disrespect democracy in order to protect it,” O Globo lawyer and legal columnist Irapuã Santana told New York Times.

Lula’s election to a third term as president was widely seen as a tectonic shift from right back to left in Brazilian politics. There are no other authorizations. No party has a majority in Congress, although Bolsonaro’s right-wing allies have gained enough seats to become the largest faction.

Moraes, backed by other Supreme Court justices, has interpreted his role as president of the Supreme Electoral Court and guardian of the integrity of democratic elections as a mandate to assume dramatic power. He was taking decisive action on issues of national importance while the other two departments were still in the organization. Moraes has become the sole judge of truth and falsity in Brazilian political discourse.

It was unclear whether Lula supported Moraes’ power grab, but the veteran politician has done nothing to stop it.

rather comprehensive judicial order

Lula, January 13 Thanks Workers helped repair damage to the presidential palace, and Moraes issued an exhaustive order requiring six international social media companies – Facebook, Rumble, Telegram, Tiktok, Twitter and YouTube – to delete the accounts of several people Within two hours, otherwise you will face a fine. The all-powerful judge then asked the companies to keep his order confidential.

One of those ousted by social media was Vice President Nicolás Ferreira – the lower house of Brazil’s National Assembly known as the Chamber of Deputies. The incoming deputy is a 26-year-old Bolsonaro ally who won the most votes in October’s congressional elections. Ferreira lashed out at the order on his Twitter, which remains online a day later. “They deleted all my accounts for no reason,” he said. explain. “In the name of ‘democracy’ they are suppressing all opposition. Dissent is forbidden in Brazil.”

This isn’t the first time Moraes has taken action to remove elected officials from social media or ban journalists from reporting what he considers “fake news.” But the response to the moves has been largely ideologically divided. To the left and the state media, he is a hero. For Bolsonaro’s allies, he is public enemy number one.

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At issue is that Moraes is acting to protect democracy in the face of the threat of a military coup that many of Bolsonaro’s supporters are seeking. But the military, which ruled from 1964 to 1985, wanted nothing to do with the government after throwing the country’s economy and its own reputation into disarray. Remember, the military voluntarily relinquished power and slipped back to barracks after losing face.

When Lula returned to office, he was initially very cautious with the army. Since then, he has changed course. On January 21, Lula fired the army commander of his own choice: General Julio Cesar de Arruda. Apparently, the general allegedly protected rioters in Brasilia from prosecution and said Bolsonaro had “contaminated” the armed forces. The new commander – General Tomas Miguel Ribeiro Paiva – was seen in some circles as Morais’ first choice.

influential news magazine Veja Some in Lula’s Workers’ Party see Moras as a potential problem for the government, the report said. Many current and former military leaders saw the judge’s actions as a “signal of outrage” at the state of affairs and a clear desire to take control of the country. At the same time, Moraes’ reach is so widespread that many independent observers are starting to worry. “Has Brazil’s Supreme Court gone too far in defense of democracy?” Q New York Times In an article on September 26.

“Is there, or was there, a modern democracy in which a judge exercises the powers that Alexandre de Moraes had in Brazil?” Reporter Glenn Greenwald ask on twitter. Greenwald’s husband, David Miranda, also a National Assembly representative from a leftist party, made the judge’s order public on a podcast.

How did Brazil get here?

Moraes was elevated to the Supreme Court in February 2017, a month after his predecessor, Teori Zavascki, was killed in a plane crash. Zavascki was the court at the massive car wash operation The (Car Wash) scandal has ensnared hundreds of Brazilian politicians, including Lula and his political protégé and successor, Dilma Rousseff. Corruption, including vote-buying, has been the engine that prevents a deadlock in Brazil’s democracy, a system in which dozens of parties of various ideological orientations are represented in the National Assembly but none have a majority.

In 2016, Rousseff was impeached and removed from office for reasons unrelated to the scandal. The move is widely believed to have been engineered by her vice president, Michel Temer, who is also under investigation but has since succeeded Rousseff as president. Moras became Temer’s justice minister after serving as defense lawyer for Eduardo Cunha, the former speaker of the lower house of Congress who was convicted of corruption in 2017. Both Cunha and Temer are from the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party.

The impeachment of Rousseff was condemned by many on the left as a “coup”, and the outrage only intensified when Lula was sentenced to nine years and six months in prison for corruption and money laundering.Sergio Moro, the federal judge who sponsored the bill car wash operation Investigated and supervised prosecution, passed judgment. That has led many on the left to believe that Morrow’s overly aggressive prosecution of popular politicians has overstepped his authority as an unelected judge.

Sao Paulo, Brazil

Lula’s conviction barred him from running in the 2018 election, which he was widely expected to win. Instead, Bolsonaro, who had previously been leader of a fringe right-wing party in Rio de Janeiro, took office amid a wave of public anger over the scandal. Moro becomes Bolsonaro’s justice minister.

The Supreme Court overturned Lula’s conviction and restored his political rights after leaks showed Moro colluded with prosecutors in the Lula case. The March 2021 decision clears the way for Lula to challenge Bolsonaro, who has been weakened by his inability to tackle corruption as promised. Bolsonaro has also been accused of being as corrupt as other politicians he criticizes. He is also widely considered to have grossly misunderstood Brazil’s response to COVID-19, as he underestimated the risks of the virus, leading to thousands of deaths.

After his defeat, Bolsonaro was unable to gain support from the political class over claims that the election was rigged. After all, many of his allies won the same elections, and his party has become the largest faction in the National Assembly since the 1990s. Cunningly, Bolsonaro flew to Florida the day before the Jan. 1 transfer of power to avoid demands from within the Workers’ Party to arrest him and investigate him for corruption, as well as claims that the election was rigged.

While Bolsonaro has remained silent on the Jan. 8 incident, Moraes has opened a criminal investigation into whether the former president was responsible. Officials even think Brazil may ask the U.S. to extradite him. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court ordered the arrest of Anderson Torres, who replaced Moro, now a senator, as attorney general. Torres became head of public safety in Brasilia after Bolsonaro left office and has been accused of allowing the protests to take place.

It’s unclear how this will end. When Telegram rejected a judge’s order to block Ferreira’s account, Moraes fined the social media agency 1.2 million reais (about $237,000). Meanwhile, in the National Assembly, Moraes faces at least 60 impeachment demands, mostly from Bolsonaro allies. However, Brazilians are now so divided that the country is almost ungovernable. Worryingly, there is no support for opposing actions that could undermine the democratic order. That gave Moraes free rein, and he continued to believe his actions were justified. Given the spirit of the times, Morais did more than issue decrees and pronounce sentences. In a recent speech, Moraes lambasted the Jan. 8 rioters: “These people are uncivilized. Look at what they’ve done.” , our Constitution and the Federal Police, the Supreme Court will punish all those responsible.” Disinformation and political violence do not appear to be the only two threats to Brazilian democracy, and judicial authoritarianism may be the new threat .

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Fair Observer.

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