Home

Open Letter to the International Community about the political situation in Brazil

A new type of “judicial-mediatic coup”, more complex and sophisticated than the military coup, is under way in Brazil. Brazilian intellectuals seek support from the international community. Español Português

Professors and
26 March 2016
Demonstration in Brasília outside of the National Congress Building against Brazilian government corruption on 15 March 2015.

Demonstration in Brasília outside of the National Congress Building against Brazilian government corruption on 15 March 2015. Wikicommons/ José Cruz/Agência Brasil. Some rights reserved.We, professors and researchers from Brazilian universities, hereby address the International Academic Community to report serious breaches in the rule of law currently taking place in Brazil.

After a long history of coups and a violent military dictatorship, our country has enjoyed its longest period of democratic stability since the 1988 Constitution established a number of individual and civil rights.

Despite progress in recent years with respect to social policy, Brazil remains a deeply unequal country with a political system marked by high levels of patronage and corruption. The influence of big business in the electoral process through private campaign financing has led to consecutive corruption scandals involving politicians from all sides.

In recent years, a national outcry against corruption has increasingly dominated public opinion. Public accountability and law enforcement agencies have responded by intensifying anti-corruption efforts, targeting major companies and political elites.

Unfortunately, this laudable process has been used to destabilize a democratically elected government, resulting in an exacerbation of the current economic and political crisis in our country.  The same judiciary that should protect the political and legal integrity of our country has become an epicenter of this process.

The main anti-corruption investigation, the “Operação Lava Jato” (Operation Car Wash), is headed by a lower level federal judge, Sérgio Moro, who has systematically utilized procedures that Brazilian legislation clearly defines as exceptional, such as pre-trial detention and coercive transportation of witnesses for depositions. Arbitrary detentions have been openly justified as a method to pressure the accused into accepting plea bargains in which they denounce alleged accomplices. Information about the cases has been regularly and selectively leaked to the media. Indeed, evidence suggests that the press has received prior information about important police operations so as to mobilize public opinion against the accused. Even the nation’s President was targeted by an illegal wiretap. The above-named judge subsequently handed over excerpts of both legal and illegal wiretaps to the press for public disclosure, even when they involved private discussions with no relevance to the investigation. The purpose was clearly to embarrass specific politicians. 

Complaints against leaders of political parties in the opposition have been disregarded and silenced by the mainstream press. At the same time, although the “Operação Lava Jato” has yet to accuse President Dilma Roussef, the corruption investigations have been used to support impeachment proceedings in the House of Representatives, led by Speaker Eduardo Cunha, an opposition congressmen. Cunha, however, is accused of corruption and is being investigated by the Ethics Committee of the same House

When the actions of public authorities begin to challenge basic legal rights such as the presumption of innocence, equal protection, and due process, we must exercise caution. When noble ends seem to justify procedural breaches, the danger is enormous.

Sérgio Moro does not have the necessary exemption and impartiality to head the current investigations. The fight against corruption must be conducted within strict legal boundaries that respect the fundamental rights of defendants.

Segments of the judiciary involved in this process have worked in close in alliance with the mainstream media, that has been historically aligned with Brazil’s political oligarchy. In particular, the country’s largest television station, the Globo Television Network, openly supported the military dictatorship (1964-1985). 

We fear that the breakdown of the rule of law under way is a threat to Brazilian democracy that may lead to grave and even violent social polarization.  For these reasons, we ask our colleagues abroad for solidarity and support in the defense of legality and of Brazil’s democratic institutions.

The website Brazilian Observatory promotes all the updating of this Open Letter and will continue to accept support from researchers and university professors from Brazil and from the whole international academic community until April 10. The number of subscribers today exceeds 3.500 and can be found in this same website. The International Sociological Association Research Committee on Social Classes and Social Movements (ISA RC47) fully supports this Open Letter.

To become a signatory, send an email to [email protected], with your name and affiliation. 

Peter Geoghegan: dark money and dirty politics

Democracy is in crisis and unaccountable flows of money are helping to destroy it. Peter Geoghegan’s new book, ‘Democracy for Sale: Dark Money and Dirty Politics’, charts how secretive money, lobbying and data has warped our democracy.

How has dark money bought our politics? What can be done to change the system?

Join us for a journey through a shadowy world of dark money and disinformation stretching from Westminster to Washington, and far beyond.

Sign up to take part in a free live discussion on Thursday 13 August at 5pm UK time/6pm CET

In conversation:

Peter Geoghegan Dark Money Investigations editor at openDemocracy and the author of ‘Democracy for Sale: Dark Money and Dirty Politics’.

Mary Fitzgerald Editor-in-chief, openDemocracy.

Had enough of ‘alternative facts’? openDemocracy is different Join the conversation: get our weekly email

Comments

We encourage anyone to comment, please consult the oD commenting guidelines if you have any questions.
Audio available Bookmark Check Language Close Comments Download Facebook Link Email Newsletter Newsletter Play Print Share Twitter Youtube Search Instagram WhatsApp yourData