Brazil is at an existential crossroads, the magnitude of which we can only begin to imagine. This is a country where the pandemic has caused one of the worst humanitarian disasters in the world. With only about 2.8 percent of the world population, Brazil accounts for 13.9 percent of deaths from Covid-19. This is a country that experienced two grave attacks on democracy and the rule of law in a short period of time: the 2016 legal- political coup against President Dilma Rousseff, and the grotesque judicial- political machinations that led to the sentencing without evidence, in 2018, of former President Lula da Silva, the most popular president in Brazilian history.
This is a country ruled by a president, Jair Bolsonaro, who won the election after his rival had been illegally neutralized and with the massive help of an avalanche of fake news to boot. This is a country ruled by a president who is not only blatantly incompetent to hold office, but is also a pro-fascist (a staunch supporter of the military dictatorship that ruled the country from 1964 to 1985 and of the torturing of its democratic opponents, he has now gone so far as to put human rights defenders under surveillance for alleged anti-fascist activities); he is also an active accomplice in Brazil’s ongoing genocide against the indigenous populations and the Brazilian people in general.
The only world ruler who persists in denying the gravity of the pandemic, he has refused to declare national mourning for the death of thousands upon thousands of Brazilians. This ruler persists in pushing chloroquine, a product with no scientifically proven medical efficacy that is manifactured by a Bolsonarista businessman from whom the government has recently acquired a stock big enough to supply the country for 18 years at a price six times higher than what it paid for the same drug only last year. This is a country whose mainstream media have shown a total disregard for the rules of democratic coexistence over the years. It is a country that has allowed the US to deftly and effectively infiltrate the judicial system so as to align Brazil’s foreign policy with US interests on the continent and to destroy the country’s economic fabric in areas where it has to compete with US companies (construction, aeronautics and fossil fuels). And finally, this is a country where, notwithstanding all this, and amidst the outwardly normal functioning of democratic institutions, the president’s popularity rating, which had dropped considerably during the first months of the pandemic, is going up again, positioning him for reelection in 2022.
In view of all this, the only possible escape route for Brazil is to make sure that, in 2022 at the latest, the hellish nightmare of Bolsonarismo is democratically brought to its end. Although much irreversible damage will have been done by then, the escape route will consist in Brazilians feeling, both politically and psychologically, that they have woken from a nightmare, that they are alive despite the loss of so many loved ones, and that a new day has dawned and a new beginning is possible. What are the preconditions for it to come about?
First, the president and his clan have to be seriously investigated. And if they are, the conclusion, based on all the facts that have come to light, will be that there is sufficient evidence for them to be charged, tried and sent to prison. In fact, a number of criminal charges have already been filed against President Jair Bolsonaro at the international level, namely with the International Criminal Court in the Hague, for the way in which he led the country during the pandemic crisis, including charges for crimes against humanity and, in the case of the indigenous peoples, for genocide, the most serious of these types of crime.
Second, those primarily responsible for the serious degradation of democracy in recent years – i.e., the judges and the prosecutors of the Curitiba-based Public Prosecutor’s Office who conducted the “investigations” – have committed so many and such flagrant violations that they must not only be removed from the judicial function they so egregiously dishonored, but also brought to justice themselves, in accordance with all the procedural safeguards they have denied the victims of their macabre machinations. Above all, Sergio Moro, the US candidate for the 2022 presidential election, must be permanently removed from political life. How was it possible for a mediocre federal judge of first instance to have national jurisdiction and to arrogate to himself the power to go against the most basic hierarchies of the judicial system? There’s no need to feel sorry for him, because the United States will find a way to compensate him for the services rendered, namely with an international position.
Third, in view of the diabolical judicial-political trap that was set for him, the most grotesque details of which have just begun to emerge, former President Lula da Silva must be given back his political rights as soon as possible.
Fourth, the political forces of the left have to get it into their heads that they are faced with an exceptional political situation requiring exceptional actions, and that engaging in arguments on whether the PSB (Brazilian Socialist Party) or the PDT (Democratic Labor Party) are truly left-wing or refusing any kind of articulation with a wide range of democratic forces with an eye to the coming electoral battles are acts of political suicide for which the country will not fail to make them accountable in the coming years.
Fifth, the social movements and civil society organizations have to come out of the disturbing torpor instilled by the relatively comfortable lives they led during Lula da Silva’s government. At present, the country of the World Social Forum is an embarrassment to every democrat and activist in the world who, in the early 2000s, viewed Brazil as the herald of a new era of forceful and peaceful social mobilizations driven by the primal notion that “another world is possible”.
These are the main preconditions. The first three are in the hands of Brazil’s judiciary. There are indications that the higher courts have come to the conclusion that the future of democracy depends largely on them. They have made numerous mistakes in the recent past and they have been remiss, if not complicit, with regard to the glaring violations of the procedural safeguards that are the very raison d’être of the judicial system in a democracy. However, there are signs that they will be the first institution to wake up from the Bolsonarista nightmare, and at the moment there is no reason to doubt that they will live up to their historical obligation. By now they must have realized that if illegality remains rampant and unpunished, they will be the next victims. They cannot allow themselves to be intimidated by extremist sectarian groupuscles nor by Bolsonaro’s hate office.
The continent offers some good examples of how the courts have found ways of assuming their responsibility at certain historical moments. After all, who could have imagined that the most powerful politician in Colombia, Álvaro Uribe, a senator and former president of the country, guilty of crimes for which he was never punished and of destroying the peace deals with the guerrillas, would be placed under house arrest to stop him from obstructing justice finally about to be made as a result of a unanimous decision of the Colombian Supreme Court?