Bolsonaro has been in the presidential palace for less than one year, but he has already found himself in the middle of numerous scandals, many related to his questionable links with paramilitary groups, that now also tie him to the murder of Rio de Janeiro Councilwoman, Marielle Franco, in 2018.
At the beginning of his mandate in January this year, Bolsonaro named his Justice Minister as Sergio Moro, the controversial judge who led ‘Operation Car Wash’ (Lava Jato in Portuguese) in which ex-president Lula da Silva became implicated. Moro condemned Lula to a lengthy prison sentence prematurely, which prevented him from running for the last presidential elections, and which ensured Bolsonaro would come out on top.
This appointment of Moro as Justice Minister was confirmation for many that the case against Lula was far from impartial, and that it was highly politicised from the very beginning. Bolsonaro and Moro played a central role in the incarceration of the ex-president, which violated due process throughout the investigation and the trial.
Now, Lula’s release from prison on the 8th of November after spending 19 months in jail was ordered by the Supreme Court of Brazil that established an individual can only be sent to jail once their recourse to appeal has been exhausted, which was not the case with Lula who has two appeals pending.
However, his release has eclipsed recent revelations regarding a witness who has confirmed links between Bolsonaro and those accused of murdering black, LGBT, left-wing Councilwoman Marielle Franco in March 2018.
What should we know about the recent investigations that link Bolsonaro to the murder of Marielle? and what implications may this have for democracy in Brazil?
What the investigations about Bolsonaro and Marielle say
In March of 2019, one year after the murder of Councilwoman Marielle Franco and her driver Anderson Gomes in the north of Rio de Janeiro, two ex-military policemen were charged for being the intellectual and material authors of the crime. Ever since their implication in the murder, links between these policemen and the Bolsonaro family were gradually coming to light.
Queiroz visited the building on the same day of the crime just hours before, and said he was going to visit the apartment of the then Senator, Jair Bolsonaro
A new investigation by the Brazilian newspaper ‘O Globo’ has revealed that worrying links between Bolsonaro, Elcio de Queiroz, and Ronnie Lessa, the two policemen accused in the case, could exist.
According to the investigation, based on the testimony of the security guard of the building Viviendas da Barra, where president Bolsonaro has two properties and also where Ronnie Lessa lives, Queiroz visited the building on the same day of the crime just hours before, and said he was going to visit the apartment of the then Senator, Jair Bolsonaro.
The security guard also declared that, when he found out that Queiroz would visit the apartment of Jair Bolsonaro, he called to make sure that the visitor had authorisation to enter, which was confirmed by a voice the guard identified as ‘Seu Jair’ (Jair Bolsonaro).
Although Bolsonaro was in Brasília at the time of the encounter, journalist Luis Nassif later confirmed that communication between the security guard and residents is made by landline or by mobile phone, therefore Bolsonaro could have authorised the entry of Queiroz despite not being present.
Bolsonaro’s reaction to the investigation was to deny enphatically any connection to the murder and accuse the newspaper O Globo of launching a political crusade against him, declaring over Facebook Live that they forced the security guard to lie in order to end his political career. However, his following declarations, in which he confessed to having stolen the recordings from his building from that day so that they wouldn’t be manipulated, make him a very clear suspect.
Bolsonaro may not have sent the order to kill Marielle Franco, but he certainly has connections with those who did. However, the Public Ministry of Rio, in charge of the investigation, is highly politicised in favour of Bolsonaro, which will most certainly get in the way of a legitimate and profound investigation taking place regarding the recent revelations.
Bolsonaro and his paramilitary connections
It’s no secret that the Bolsonaro family have some dark connections with criminal paramilitary groups that extend back for decades, and therefore it’s perhaps not overly surprising that he has been linked to the murder of Marielle Franco. One particular connection between Bolsonaro and paramilitaries is worth acknowledging, that of Fabricio Queiroz.
These conections raise suspicions of the existence of a criminal structure in which the current president would have been involved in for decades, and that is protecting him now that he has been linked to a high profile murder case
Fabricio Queiroz, supposed high commander of a Rio based paramilitary group, has been a close family friend of the Bolsonaros for over 30 years and there are various images that can confirm this connection. Queiroz was a political advisor to Flávio Bolsonaro, Bolsonaro’s son and current Senator, when he was a State Deputy in Rio. It has also been reported that the CCAF, the body which regulates financial activities in Brazil, found recent transfers of large sums of money between the accounts of Queiroz and Michelle Bolsonaro, the first lady of Brazil.
These conections raise suspicions of the existence of a criminal structure in which the current president would have been involved in for decades, and that is protecting him now that he is in a position of power and has been linked to a high profile murder case.
We have seen how democracy in Brazil has been eroded over recent years by politicians who have connections with criminal enterprises and who have successfully destroyed rule of law in the country. If it is in fact the case that Bolsonaro is really implicated in the murder of Marielle Franco, this could represent a fatal blow for Brazilian democracy.
We cannot let Lula’s release distract us from this extremely worrying case.