The corruption scandal known as operation Car Wash (Lava Jato) has unravelled a huge political crisis not only in Brazil where it all began, but throughout Latin America. The revelations in Brazil however are particularly astonishing due to their implication of two ex-presidents and many other high-position government employees.
In 2018, ex-president Lula was sentenced to 18 years in prison as part of this scandal. Since then, many have accused ex-federal judge in charge of the case and current Justice Minister, Sergio Moro, as using operation Car Wash as a political weapon to prevent the Worker's Party (PT) from returning to power.
Operation Car Wash which began in 2014, has unveiled around 400 corruption accusations, has imprisoned former president of the PT Lula da Silva, and has provoked the impeachment of another former president of the PT Dilma Rouseff. On the contrary, very little was done to investigate and try right-wing ex-president Michel Temer who has also been seriously involved in the scandal. As a consequence, the theory that we could be before a political persecution is based on these discrepancies.
For many, their worst fears that this is a political conspiracy to destroy the PT were confirmed when Bolsonaro announced this year that Sergio Moro would be his new Minister of Justice. The actions of Moro as a judge sent ex-president Lula to jail and prevented him from running in the presidential race despite his almost 80% approval rating. This paved the way for Bolsonaro's victory when no real alternative to Lula presented itself.
What's more, when Sergio Moro was offered the post inside the new government of Bolsonaro, everything pointed to a shady deal between political forces and the Brazilian Judiciary to block the political opposition in exchange for a prize: a post in the most intimate inner circle of the new president.
Now, a huge volume of classified information has been filtered by The Intercept Brazil, a phenomenon that has been named #VazaJato. The documents that have been released act as evidence of a political conspiracy by Moro and the other prosecutors, revealing their conversations plotting to end the PT through the abuse of judicial power.
This is what you need to know to understand whats going on with #VazaJato in Brazil.
What do we know about the information leaked by The Intercept?
Ex-president Dilma Rousseff, who, according to Moro's critics, has also been a victim of this political conspiracy, said the revelations make the "illegal relationship between judge Sergio Moro and the prosecutors of Operation Car Wash, particularly Deltan Dallagnol, entirely clear".
The information published by The Intercept proves that the prosecutors in charge of the case had doubts about the validity of the evidence presented against Lula, but they worked closely with Sergio Moro and Deltan Dallagnol, the chief prosecutor of Car Wash, to construct a case that could indefinitely leave Lula behind bars.
Intimate Telegram conversations of the prosecutors were also revealed, in which they plotted to prevent an interview with Lula in prison taking place with the Folha de São Paolo before the presidential elections, believing that such an interview would increase the probability of the PT winning, an outcome they wished to avoid.
The prosecutors and Sergio Moro have claimed for many years that they have no political motives and are completely impartial in their treatment of Operation Car Wash. However, the information filtered by The Intercept supports theories of critics that the operation always had an ulterior political motive and that Sergio Moro and the prosecutors of Curitiba have used Car Wash to declare war on the PT.
What kind of judicial implications can we expect?
Communications between judges and the plaintiffs are prohibited by the Brazilian Constitution, but the Supreme Court is the same that ratified Lula's 8 year and 10 month sentence last year, igniting fears among those calling for justice.
A report by the Folha de São Paolo demonstrated that throughout 2018, 60% of the decisions made by the Supreme Court were conservative in ideology, whilst only 33% were progressive in nature, demonstrating that they cannot be relied upon to take fully impartial decisions.
Now the Supreme Court will reignite the debate regarding the legitimacy of the charges against Lula, and if Sergio Moro can really be considered unbiased, given his acceptance of the post of Minister of Justice in Bolsonaro's government. However, it is not yet clear if and how they will act upon the recent revelations.
The National Council for the Public Ministry opened an investigation this week to determine if there was a fault in the behaviour of the prosecutors during the case, and the Order of Brazilian Lawyers published a recommendation that Moro and Dallagnol should be temporarily suspended from their posts whist an impartial investigation determines if there was collusion between the two or not.
However everything is dependent on the Supreme Court therefore we cannot have absolute certainty that justice will be achieved for Lula and the other victims of this blatant political persecution, especially as the Court has tended towards more conservative rulings recently. This politicization of the justice system has spread not just across Brazil, but the entire region, and it could be one of the biggest threats to democracy that we are about to face.