Brazil has a cheeky president, everyone sees it; that even his worshipers do not disagree. What is not evident at first glance is the selectivity of daring. When he feels the cold of danger on the back of his head, Jair Bolsonaro retreats to simulate a truce. If he evaluates the risk as low cost with the possibility of high gain, he dares and advances to confrontation.
It has now done so by hiding in the Constitution to overturn a decision by ten of the eleven justices of the Federal Supreme Court for the conviction of deputy Daniel Silveira to eight years and nine months in prison for inciting violence against the STF and some of its members.
And why did he act like that, including mockingly refusing a suggestion by former president Michel Temer, whom he had heard to retreat there on September 7, 2021? Bolsonaro is only interested in the game of his own destiny. The Republic that turns around. On that occasion, the president learned that the Supreme Court was willing to endorse an impeachment request, making it difficult for the Speaker of the House to ignore it.
The STF’s endorsement would give the application a different weight in relation to those more than 100 to which Arthur Lira reserved, and still reserves, complete indifference. Seven months later and less than half a year to go before the elections, the situation is different. In addition to not having objective conditions for the impeachment process, most of the Congress is dominated by the handing over of the management of the Union Budget to the Centrão parliamentarians, now expanded and majority.
Bolsonaro made this very clear when he explained to his interlocutors inside the Palace that one of the factors in granting Silveira a pardon was the certainty that the Legislature would not have “the strength to react”. There would be strength if there was a will, but in the absence of this, the convenient fragility, evidenced by the way of omission, prevails. There are several examples, but, as the case in question is that of Daniel Silveira, let’s remember: for nine months a request for opening a process for breach of parliamentary decorum has been dormant.
“The high anxiety that plagues the Republic has reasons that the powers should not ignore”
Without the slightest doubt, the President of the Republic is primarily responsible for the environment of institutional confrontation that is characterized by the imbalance between the three powers, whether by actions or omissions backed by excess. But the high anxiety that plagues the country has reasons that, in addition to the Executive, the Legislative and the Judiciary could not ignore for the very reason of their attributions.
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There is a dispute where the Constitution mandates that the equivalence of the powers of each one prevail under the rite of harmony. The need for firm responses on the one hand (the Judiciary) and the convenience of caution on the other (the Legislative) do not justify embarking on the president’s wave without a proper tactical sense about the effects of this or that attitude. The criterion is for forwards and backwards.
The Supreme Court cries out for respect and complains about being disrespected. You’re right, but it doesn’t always help to give respect. Unlike the Legislative and the Executive, it is (or would be) inherent to the Judiciary’s activity to be the least talkative outside the limits of the case, even because of its power to have the last word.
Despite the merits of the struggle that it is fighting alone in the defense of the rule of law, the STF has allowed itself to be attracted by what Minister Luís Roberto Barroso recently called the “fire of political passions” to point out an institutional deviation that the Court has often committed, fueling the confrontation. This exposes the authoritarian character of the government, but where does it go?
Nowhere. Or, on the other hand, it sits at the center of the conflict terrain, when its role is to promote understanding according to the imperative of the law. The dismantling of Operation Car Wash, the review of convictions previously confirmed by three instances, absolutely partial ministers annulling decisions for alleged lack of impartiality, none of this helps the STF to attract the trust of society. Worse, it feeds distrust.
Reacting, yes, it is necessary, but it is essential to have coldness and awareness about the role of each one. Under penalty of falling into a dynamic of mutual extrapolations, whose product is the institution of a scenario of general incivility with harmful results for the good progress of democratic work.
The columnists’ texts do not necessarily reflect the opinion of VEJA
Published in VEJA of May 4, 2022, issue no. 2787
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