The Brazilian de-democratization

Pedro M Bernardes - Vilma, Are You Bucolic

By Rodolfo Palazzo Dias*

Democracy is over in Brazil. The institutions, anachronistically, still exist. But the political scene is configured in such a way as to make any democratic behavior ineffective.[I]

Much has been discussed and is being discussed about the parliamentary coup that took place in Brazil in 2016 and its implications, seeking in this (and in other) specific political phenomena the origin of contemporary problems. Without diminishing the importance of major events and their obvious impacts, I try to observe phenomena of lesser immediate impact, but which accumulated have a result of great magnitude in the reconfiguration of the political scene. Pointing to a direction in a given historical process.

When I speak of de-democratization, I seek to draw attention to the procedural character of the deconstruction of a political regime, the result of an accumulation of phenomena produced by contradictions in the political structures of a given society. De-democratization is the opposite of redemocratization. De-democratization and coup, in this sense, point to the same reality, the first term being used to understand the more extensive process and the second term used to understand specific phenomena. This text, even considering the importance of the second, chooses the first as the unit of analysis.

Robert Dahl and the conditions for the stability of a democratic system

In his book "Polyarchy"[ii], among the various constituent elements of a democratic system and their historical examples, the American author makes extremely relevant observations about the possibility of maintaining a democratic system. First, such a system is not given; it needs to be built. And in the same way it can be destroyed. Second, the maintenance of such a system depends on specific political conditions. The author sustains the hypothesis that, for a democratic system to maintain itself, it is necessary that the political scene be characterized: a) by low costs of political tolerance; and b) by high costs of political repression.

The established rationale is relatively simple: “The lower the forbearance costs, the greater the government security. The greater the suppression costs, the greater the security of the opposition” (DALH, 1997, p. 37). Considering a hypothetical political system, if the leader of the executive has a series of legal impediments to mobilize the State's repressive apparatus (breaking the legislation requires costs), and if in the loss of an electoral process he will only leave his position, this would be a situation favorable to the democratic system. Now, if there were no impediments for the leader of the executive to exercise physical coercion, and if his political defeat would not only mean removal from office, but his imprisonment and his death, this situation would be extremely unfavorable for a democratic system. In the second case, it would be rational for this leadership to break with democratic rules and fight with all its available resources to maintain its position.

When I talk about Brazilian de-democratization, I maintain that since the beginning of the XNUMXst century in Brazil there has been an increase in the costs of political tolerance, a process that is linked to the decrease in the costs of repression. These two movements can be understood with the debate on corruption in the country.

Corruption as a contemporary debate

A classic topic of political theory, corruption has been discussed by philosophers, politicians and the press in the Western world in a variety of ways. At a more theoretical level, passing through Machiavelli and going through “The Federalist”, the theme was presented by the opposition between “public interest” and “private interest”, with situations of corruption (or degeneration) identified by the prevalence of the second over the first.

Under the neoliberal perspective, this debate is quite different. Economist John Williamson, famous for coining the term “Washington Consensus,” argues[iii] liberalization as a way to combat corruption. According to the author, the problem of corruption would be an evil that affects Latin America in a special way, although all countries suffer from this evil. In the author's argument, it is interesting to identify two aspects. One, the axiom of free market advantages. In such a system of thought, there isn't exactly a contradiction between public and private interest; on the contrary, private initiative itself would produce the public good. And two, the proximity that the term corruption gains to the term “fraud”. Corruption would not be the prevalence of private interests over the collective interest, but rather a misconduct recommended in a given normative system[iv].

The political consequence of this difference in conception is the following: the solution to corruption, instead of taking place through the political option of someone representing the collective interests more adequately, takes place through the active intervention of a judicial system that orders the behavior of individuals. In this situation, the judiciary repositions itself in the social structure. Contrary to the assessment of the Federalists, who observed an intrinsically evil human nature[v], and the need for an institutional scheme of checks and balances; According to the current conception, the judiciary is elevated to the status of a moderating power, a power that goes beyond the cold reading of the norm, a moralizing power, since it combats the evil of corruption.

This perspective is also presented, with some nuances, in a recent academic article by Sergio Moro, a judge in the Lava Jato operation and former Minister of Justice in the Bolsonaro government. Under the heading “Preventing Systemic Corruption in Brazil”[vi], Moro talks about the operation he led, and discusses how it revealed a structure of systemic corruption in the country. He did not present a precise definition of the concept of corruption, but it is symptomatic in the article to observe the proximity that this word has to the words “bribery” (snatch) it's a crime". The judge presents a comprehensive view of the problem of corruption as an institutional and cultural weakness of a given society (MORO, 2018, p. 163), and delegates the blame to various state agents (and at times also businessmen, clashing a little with the arguments of Williamson) (MORO, 2018, p. 163). And it also reinforces that the solution to the problem cannot come only from the judiciary (MORO, 2018, p. 162).

However, the judiciary, according to Moro, has been assuming a leading role in combating what he will call “systemic corruption” in recent history in Brazil. It would be she who would be consolidating the rule of law (rule of the law) in the country in a reactive position. “The judicial process is just a reaction against corruption, so the judicial system cannot blindfold the crime.”[vii](MORO, 2018, p. 164). Corruption appears here closely linked to the idea of ​​crime, of conduct deviating from the normative prerogatives to be defended by the judicial system. The reactivity of the judiciary will be an important element in the defense of the procedures adopted in anti-corruption processes, in the characterization of the judiciary as a neutral moderating power, and will be discussed later.

I believe that the perspectives of these two ideologues are sufficient to portray the prevailing conception of corruption in Brazil at the beginning of the XNUMXst century: conduct that deviates from the normative standard. These behaviors, which should be regulated by the normative system, needed to be supported by a judiciary, which in this case would play a role in consolidating the normative system as a standard of conduct for members of society.

This moralizing capacity of the Brazilian judicial system has been questionable for a long time, even before the neoliberal conception of corruption. The term “ending up in pizza” has always been used to reveal the inability of this power to play such a role.

Even if this moderating perspective of the judiciary guided a series of important social agents, there were no material conditions (operational, balance of power with other state structures, social legitimacy) that would allow the judiciary to fulfill it. It is possible to say that in the early 2000s a great effort was made to create such conditions. But as will be seen below, when conditions became real, what emerged was not a moderating power.

Moderating power, reactivity and the borders of the political and the legal

Throughout the 2000s, judicial institutions (not just the judiciary, but also the police and the Public Prosecutor's Office) gained autonomy, human resources (contests) and technical resources (related not only to investment, but also to the lowering of telecommunications). This produced within such institutions an active will to carry out the historically frustrated moralizing objective on the part of the judiciary.

Many operations were triggered during this period. But most of them were frustrated. An example in this sense was the Satiagraha operation, which carried out important arrests (Celso Pitta and Daniel Dantas being the most prominent), but which did not result in only positive consequences for the Judiciary. The dismissal of the chief delegate of the operation in 2014, Delegado Protógenes Queiroz[viii], is an important element in assessing a “failure” of this operation.

But one of the investigations prospered, that of the media titled “Mensalão”. This scandal provoked different reactions. In the legislature, through several CPI's, and a specific one in the judiciary, the so-called “Criminal Action 470”[ix]. Introduced in 2007 and judged in 2012, this piece becomes a historic landmark for using a new model of legal interpretation known as “Dominion of the Fact” (or “domain theory of the organization”). Any criminal trial must establish a causal link between “conduct of the accused” and “outcome” through evidence. Such a doctrine makes the need for evidence more flexible in establishing this nexus by valuing the simple presence of the accused in hierarchical positions in the organization in which the crime would have occurred. How far can this easing be taken?[X] is the subject of intense legal debate. But in practical terms, the emergence of such a doctrine represents a strengthening of the judge's discretion that could, depending on the case, make this need for evidence more or less flexible (given the very new and imprecise nature of the applicability of the doctrine in Brazil).

We are on, in 2012[xi], with a set of equipped and strengthened legal institutions, and with an extremely flexible normative device for the conviction of “corrupt criminals”. Could this have generated a moderating super power in the country? The answer to this question can lead to long, imprecise, and unhelpful ramblings. What matters is that it didn't happen.

Perhaps due to some political pre-dispositions on the part of some judges. But mainly due to the lack of political conditions for the judiciary to rise so much in the face of other social forces (mainly in the face of those to be fought). There were material and organizational elements, as well as a new legal device that would enable anti-corruption action, but it was not enough. It was necessary to garner popular support. The boredom of normative procedure did not ignite social forces towards the great goal of cleaning the country of corruption. Other resources, other practices, other articulations were needed. The Brazilian judiciary has abandoned the reactive character typical of bureaucratic-legal organizations. The fight against corruption is no longer a reaction to a multitude of criminal events. It became an activity, a goal to be achieved, a mission. As an action, not a reaction, it had to be planned. I couldn't "squelch" individuals who could be important later on. Legal neutrality had already proved ineffective. It was not possible to hit everyone, it was necessary to target those strategically defined enemies.

This is not a criminalization of politics, but a politicization of justice. Far from neutral and reactive institutions, which proved to be weak and incapable of realizing the country's great moralizing objective, justice was needed that would make the political calculation and act directly in this field to achieve its great objective in the social structure.

In doing so, what emerged was not a great moderating power. The sectors of legal institutions that embarked on this mission transcended the legal-political status of bureaucratic organizations of justice and constituted associative relationships that rested their feet in the political field itself. And, for this reason, they ceased to be legal bureaucracies and became a party.

The Judiciary Press Party

Many political scientists will be appalled at the use of the concept of political party for these associative relationships that I am defining here. This for two reasons. First, because it is not a formalized organization. Second, because she has not contested elections (at least not until now).

I consider these arguments valid, and therefore, from the beginning, I emphasize that the concept of the party that will be worked on here is quite flexible[xii]. But I consider its application valid for two reasons. First, although it has no formal organization, there are informal organizations among the individuals belonging to them. Second, that the form of social legitimation of such associative relations is much more typical of party organizations than of bureaucratic-legal ones. It is these two dimensions of the “Partido da Imprensa Judiciária” that will be analyzed here.

Regarding the organizational dimension of the association, I started by defining it as informal. This is because it is an articulation between subjects present in a multitude of different institutions, and this articulation transcends the formal connections between such institutions. The legality or illegality of such articulations will still be the subject of future investigation (academic and criminal). Here, I will only point out the existence of some of these connections through indicators.

They are relatively invisible. Not everything could be shown, at the risk of compromising the misleading bureaucratic-legal appearance of the processes. This brings great difficulties to your own investigation.

Considering this difficulty, there are two indicators that I use to unravel the links of these informal connections, even if only on the surface of these associative relationships. First, the recent leaks published by “The Intercept” newspaper of WhatsApp conversations, and second, the result of the path of agents' actions. Regarding the use of the second indicator, it would identify the cause through its effect. Even if it does not detail the interconnections, they are indicators of what “would be necessary for such an event to occur”.

Of this second type of indicator, the wiretapping leaked to the press of the conversation between then President Dilma Rousseff and former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is emblematic. Such a conversation would have taken place on March 16, 2016, at 13:32 pm. On the same day of the conversation, the then judge Sergio Moro broke the confidentiality of such recordings, which resulted in several journalistic articles in the press.[xiii]. Even though no facts related to the judicial processes were observed in these conversations, the audio was released, which, even though it did not contain illegal acts, were fundamental for the impeachment unfolding that year. This fact reveals three important things. First, it breaks with the argument of the reactivity of anti-corruption legal processes. That was an active intervention by the judiciary in the political field. But it breaks not only in the phenomenal sense. It wasn't just a slip, a mistake. That fact reveals pre-existing articulations that, without them, such a fact would not be possible. The fact reveals a well-consolidated articulation between the Federal Police, the federal court of first instance and the press. It is plausible to assume the existence of an extremely skillful pre-existing articulation between these three social elements given the great effectiveness of such action (speed of information circulation and intense political impact)[xiv].

The phenomenon, in addition to showing the lack of judicial reactivity and aspects of the organizational structure of the Legal Press Party, also reveals a third element: an extraordinary resource of this party. In 2016, a political force endowed with the possibility of exercising “legalized espionage” appears. Such an innovative and effective resource alters not only a certain balance of power (Dilma's impeachment). It alters the political scene from then on, given its effectiveness. Such a resource becomes a risk for everyone. It becomes a resource to be used and imitated by others, legally and illegally (both by businessmen, as in the case of JBS, and also by civil society agents against Sergio Moro himself).

The legitimization of espionage as a resource raises the costs of tolerance in the political scene, thus being one of the elements of the de-democratization process.

Regarding the various leaks of “The Intercept”, I highlight Sergio Moro’s instructions to Deltan Dalagnol on the order of the phases of the “Lava Jato” investigation[xv]. One of the great arguments that support the reactivity of the judiciary is that it only judges a process produced by others. It is only triggered by the Public Prosecutor's Office. Such conversations deconstruct this discourse of the reactivity of the judiciary, since it was actively participating in the formulation of the process. In addition, it also reveals another aspect of the organizational structure of the Legal Press Party: it inserts the Public Prosecutor's Office in it.

The last indicator analyzed here, as it could not be left out, is the “Triplex” judgment that resulted in the imprisonment of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in 2018. The main element it reveals is how deeply the Legal Press Party is embedded in the Brazilian judicial structure. He was quite articulate between the first and second instances. The speed of judgment is evidence in this regard[xvi]. This speed does not necessarily indicate illegal behavior, unlike the previous ones. However, it reveals the adherence of a certain second federal judicial instance (TRF-4) to the political project of the “Partido da Imprensa Judiciária”. This contrasts with the lack of articulation between the party and the third instance, especially with the Federal Superior Court (STF). Although there were individuals there with more adherence to the party[xvii], this was not enough to carry out a process quickly and with the desired result (condemnation)[xviii]. That is why palliative measures were so important, such as the approval of second-instance imprisonment. The political function of this debate was to make prison viable as a resource on the part of the “Partido da Imprensa Jurídica”, in addition to the specific objective of keeping Lula in jail.

In order to question the character of this judgment of Lula, I will not make a legal analysis here. It would not be able to issue an opinion on the support of the causal link established in the Moro judgment[xx]. I will make a political analysis here. I begin with the following question: would it be possible, in 2017, after all the public clashes that took place, for Moro to exonerate Lula? Anyone who has lived in that historical period will tend to answer that question in the negative. How would thousands of people react with the “I support Lava-Jato” sticker[xx] in their cars if Sergio Moro declared the leader of the Workers' Party innocent? It is not known, but this risk did not exist. Lula went through a process of deconstruction of his public image over several years, and an acquittal by the PT leadership would reverse all directions of the political dynamics of the period. Apart from the legal sense, it made no political sense for Lula to be acquitted. Lula lost. And he lost in the political arena. And this loss in the political arena resulted in imprisonment.

This doesn't just alter Lula's conditions. Everyone present on the political scene can reasonably consider that they face the same risk. The threat of prison may be the explanation for the behavior of many political actors that will follow.

When prison becomes a political resource available to a given actor, the costs of tolerance rise dramatically.

De-democratization is about not only raising the cost of tolerance, but also lowering the costs of repression. Regarding the second tendency, it is necessary to analyze the justification for the legitimacy of the “Partido da Imprensa Judiciária”. Using Weberian terminology, I support the partisan nature of those members because the legitimacy of the actions of these members is less based on a rational-legal basis and more on an affective basis.

To start supporting this argument, I resort again to the “I support Lava-Jato” stickers. Which legal operation needs population support and propaganda structuring? Such stickers needed to be produced and distributed. Unless I consider such stickers to be a fortuitous event completely removed from the concrete activity of Lava-Jato, the result of random voluntarism by certain dispersed subjects, I am obliged to locate this method of legitimation as a concrete component of the activity of the Judiciary Press Party. I consider the second hypothesis more plausible.

How would it be possible to prove such an affective character? If I were here writing an academic text, aimed at convincing an academic community, it would be necessary to bring empirical opinion research. This would be a very interesting research, as the militants of the Judiciary Press Party pronounce themselves regarding their link with legal documents.

But as this is a more journalistic text, intended for individualized convincing, I ask the reader to test my argument himself. To those opposed to Lava-Jato, I ask you to reflect on the conversations you had with defenders. The best way to verify the argument is by visualizing the reactions of such individuals when their ideas are confronted. Is the dialogue that unfolds a rational-formal argument, supported by elements present in legal documents? Or does it fall into the moral dimension, and the idea of ​​“enemy” arises directly or indirectly? For those defenders of “Lava-Jato” who are reading this text, I ask the following question: is the discomfort when reading such critical arguments felt more in the head or more in the stomach?

Speaking of subjective experiences as a way of sustaining the argument, I present mine here. As a citizen of Curitiba, living a few meters from the Federal Court, I couldn't escape this absolutely affective dimension when passing in front of the building and, for years, seeing the encampment of individuals dressed in green and yellow, uninterruptedly supporting a judicial process.

The emptying of rational elements in the foundation of anti-corruption actions can be clearly observed in the famous Power-point of the Public Ministry, which supposedly "proved" Lula's centrality in corruption schemes[xxx]. That figure, establishing arrows between balls with no logical connection, would only make sense in the mind of someone strongly emotionally connected with the anti-corruption project. The role of feelings here must be observed not only in the minds of party members, but also of its organizers. If the members of the Public Ministry saw some sense in that, it means that the party organizers were guiding their behavior based on affective senses, not on rational senses.

For this reason, I argue that the basis for legitimizing the fight against corruption in Brazil was supported more by affective relationships than by rational-legal relationships. What is the character of such affective relationships? I consider two important affective relationships in this legitimation process.

The first, classic in the Weberiando debate, is charismatic legitimation. Sergio Moro can be considered a charismatic leader, bearing in mind that this does not indicate great oratory capacity or intellectual exceptionality. It is often the opposite. This is why the charismatic relationship is viewed so strangely by those outside these connections. The charismatic bond is established by the affective, irrational, explosive relationship between leader and mass. The charismatic aspect can be studied through the profusion of “memes” that supported such a figure.

But there is another affective relationship, which I dare classify as more important for future political events. The feeling of hate. The construction of a public enemy was carried out. A generic anti-corruption objective was not enough to mobilize the population. It was necessary to point out certain corrupt people. The established party in the federal government became the target. Terms like “PTralhada” and “CorruPTos” were constructed at the time, because it was necessary to make the enemy concrete.

I propose here that this second sentiment prevails over the first. The main feeling that guides them is hatred. More than idolizing a particular judge, hatred of a specific political party was the most striking feeling, so much so that it transcended the militants of the Judiciary Press Party and became embedded in a large part of the middle and upper classes in Brazil.

By choosing the feeling of hate as an affective bond to mobilize its militants, this has some effects. First, it is necessary to grow it in the population. The articulation of the judiciary with the press, in this sense, becomes fundamental. The problem is that such feelings, if cultivated correctly, spread throughout the political scene, and are used by other political forces. Both by opponents (the “leftists” have this feeling elevated by the simple fact of having their existence “hated”) and by third parties (who may even become capable of producing more intense cathartic processes in this distillation of hate, as I will present later).

The dangerousness of using this feeling in the political scene is widely discussed by Machiavelli in “The Prince”. Its effect on the recent Brazilian political scene was to lower the costs of repression. For all political forces in this scene, the symbolic costs of repressive activity all but disappear. Anything with the naysayers becomes acceptable. In fact, it becomes necessary. Not even if Moro wanted to exonerate Lula in 2017 could he.

Therefore, I conclude that the Legal Press Party is organized by the extra-formal association of certain judicial sectors of first and second instance, radiating its influence in some Justices of the STF, also including sectors of the Public Ministry, Federal Police and vehicles of the great press Brazilian.

I also defined that the Judiciary Press Party had two exceptional political resources. Legalized espionage and incarceration. Such resources produced an increase in the costs of tolerance in the Brazilian political scene. To legitimize such resources, the feeling of hatred in certain sections of the population was consolidated, which reduced the costs of repression in this same scene.

These were the advantages of the Judiciary Press Party. However, this one suffered from a major defect. The inability to launch their own candidate in 2018. In the future it is possible that they will do so. But at that moment it was not possible. This limitation, combined with two unexpected results, help explain what happened in Brazil in 2018.

The party[xxiii] Fascist

The use of the term Fascist is also controversial. If we were to use statements by government leaders as a criterion, perhaps the most appropriate term for the classification would be Nazi. But given the more generic nature of the term fascist (applied not only in Italy, but also in Portugal and Spain), in addition to its recurrent use in contemporary debates[xxiii], he was selected.

It does not indicate the application of a specific economic policy. It would not be possible to classify the Bolsonaro government by economic attributes, as the precipitation of a minister (Paulo Guedes) could completely change the direction of this sector. It is also not possible to classify him solely by a nationalist attribution, given the dubious nature of his economic policies and the symbolic role of his unilateral adherence to the United States. It would be fascist because it constitutes identity between supporters through the “friend-enemy” differentiation, this enemy being more defined in the right-left relationship than in the citizen-foreigner relationship. Enemies, in this sense, is a classification used directly to compatriots who differ politically from the leadership.

The origin of this fascist political position in Brazil can be traced back to long before the period discussed here. The historical reinterpretations of the Escola Superior de Guerra[xxv] and Bolsonaro's controversial interventions in the press in the 1990s are indicative of this origin. Also fundamental is the conservative political culture that has developed in Brazil since the first decade of the 2000s, as shown by the work of Di Carlo and Kamradt.[xxiv], which correlate the culture of political incorrectness with the political rise of Jair Bolsonaro.

But such a position had not yet supported the electoral viability of obtaining the position of President of the Republic. Even if supported by a strong ideological foundation and a great articulation in digital media, two unexpected results of the process of combating corruption are quite explanatory in the process of turning an initially discredited candidacy into an almost victorious one in the first round.

First, the fight against corruption spilled over into political forces beyond the PT. Even though it did not reach leaders of what is called the “high clergy” in Brazil, there was a strong delegitimization of several parties. Treated, in 2018, as “the old policy”.

As the Judiciary Press Party could not launch its own candidacy and the traditional parties did not produce viable candidacies, it was necessary to support a candidacy of some marginalized political character.

But why Bolsonaro? What would be the convergences that united such political forces? I maintain that hatred as an affective feeling of legitimacy is what united the two political forces. This union resulted from a second unexpected result in the political scene of 2018, the survival of the PT.

Lula's arrest in 2018 effectively produced an intense cathartic effect on those involved in anti-PT hate sentiment. However, such action did not produce the expected result, of “ending the PT once and for all”. The electoral viability of the PT candidate was concrete proof of the limitation of incarceration as a political fact. If there was an extremely pleasurable cathartic effect among those who saw the incarceration, and if the limitation of such a procedure was verified, it was only a logical step to create the idea of ​​shooting.

One should not underestimate such speech by Bolsonaro[xxv]. He didn't win the 2018 election despite that line, but because of it (including other causes, obviously). An idea needs time to mature. It took a while to legitimize Lula's arrest. As Milton Friedman would say, it is necessary to nurture an idea (a crisis) for a while until it ceases to be politically impossible and becomes politically inevitable.[xxviii]. That's how it was with Lula's arrest. It has become inevitable. It is possible that this is the case with the idea of ​​shooting.

There was a confluence, as the two deal with the use of direct means of physical coercion as a way of dealing with political opponents. The Legal Press Party proposed imprisonment, the Fascist Party shooting. Many in the first party were initially unwilling to take such a step, but in terms of the population's support base, this could change depending on the crisis to be faced in the future. And of course, if the risk of being shot becomes a consideration in the political scene, the costs of tolerance skyrocket. Just as, if such a proposal (even as a joke) becomes electorally endorsed, the costs of repression drop drastically (it becomes acceptable).

I maintain that the Legal Press Party supported the Fascist Party in 2018 through three indicators. First, Antonio Palocci's Awarded Delation, released on October 2, 2018, five days before the first round vote (occurred on 07/10/2018). Direct interference in the electoral process against the PT candidacy. Action completely contrasting with the position of the Federal Police, which in November 2018 launched an investigation against the relations of the son of the president-elect, and according to reports, leaked information to those involved[xxviii]. In addition to these two facts, the third is even more serious. Perhaps in a failed act, Vice President Hamilton Mourão admits that it was promised, during the campaign, that Sergio Moro would be nominated for Minister of the STF[xxix]. These indicators, of course, are not capable of accounting for all the articulations that took place behind the scenes on the political scene. Questions remain. When did these parties form an alliance? What is the intensity of the relationships? How legal are they? Anyway, I consider strong enough indicators to at least support the claim that in 2018 there was an alliance between the Legal Press Party and the Fascist Party.

Did this alliance last? For the reader in 2020, with the departure of Sergio Moro from the Ministry of Justice and the arrest of Queirós, it will be clear that the alliance fell apart. But I maintain here that the attacks by the Fascist Party on the Judiciary Press Party began on the first day of the Bolsonaro government.

The conflict

Bolsonaro is not a guy recognized for his intellectual attributes. However, mere classification of him as an imbecile does not help us to understand his behavior. I maintain that some rationality, however precarious and superficial, can be found in the mind of such an obnoxious fellow. If it wasn't, it's likely he wouldn't even have reached the office of president.

I maintain that, if there is any rationality in that sick mind, it is probably this: “I will not let what they did to the PT do to me”. I consider it plausible that such reasoning could have emerged considering that Bolsonaro was an active politician in the midst of the impeachment process, even if still marginalized. He probably watched the actors, and identified certain dangers.

The costs of toleration rose, and those of repression fell. New risks were posed on the political scene, as well as new opportunities. The PT, perhaps because of an irresponsible belief in the neutrality of the judiciary, perhaps because it judged that they were too weak to stand up to the Legal Press Party, accepted all the attacks directed at them. For this reason, at that time, the increase in the costs of tolerance and the decrease in the costs of repression did not produce great friction in the functioning of institutions. Bolsonaro's government was just beginning. It started under this new conjuncture of rising costs of tolerance and decreasing costs of repression. Unlike the PT, he adjusted his behavior to these new conditions.

As much as they were allies, the Judiciary Press Party would always be a risk to the Fascists. Those who commit crimes have more reason to fear prison, and therefore their costs of toleration are even higher. They are easy victims of a judiciary party (whose weapons are specially designed to combat them), and therefore need to fight with special intensity against this political force.

But even if the Fascists were eager to attack, the Legal Press Party, even with the means, was especially paralyzed in the face of such a force. Perhaps due to a self-deception in relation to their position in relation to the democratic process (they act with modesty in the preservation of institutions, even though this modesty did not exist in previous moments); but most likely from the intrinsic cowardice of his character. They are incisive when attacking democratic political forces, not inclined to use physical force, but cowardly in the face of political forces willing to use it.

In any case, the beginning of the Fascist Party government was marked by a strong offensive and a frivolous accommodation by the Legal Press Party. The fascists' offensive had two fronts, one open and one discreet.

The open offensive was against the press. The conditions of journalists in office on January 1, 2019 already made it clear how Bolsonaro intended to treat the mainstream press[xxx]. Sequential attacks on journalists and media outlets were a constant during the government[xxxii]. This was possible because the Fascist Party, unlike the Legal Press Party, did not depend on such means of communication to reach its militants. By the way, discrediting the traditional vehicles seemed an interesting strategy since its own communication could invent the story it wanted about the events of the government. Di Carlo calls this the Bolsonarista Matrix[xxxi]. This produced great autonomy for Bolsonaro, since he did not need institutions to mediate communication.

The press reaction was initially impressively measured. They were critical of the specific attacks they were targeted, but they supported very significant aspects of the government, such as economic policies. Even though they were openly attacked, they were quite moderate in their reaction.

The second offensive of the Fascist Party, more discreet, was on the judiciary. He managed to dismantle a significant part of the associative relations established between the members of the Judiciary Press Party by removing the charismatic leadership from its traditional post. Intoxicated by political success, Sergio Moro considered it appropriate to abandon the position of judge and became a minister. Political success is the greatest danger for a professional politician. Under his drunkenness, he is capable of making the biggest mistakes.[xxxii]. Seduced by the super prefix, perhaps deceived by the possibility of passing bills that would give more autonomy to the judiciary, he left his position in the judiciary and, most likely, disarticulated the entire set of relationships that had been consolidated until then (which were informal). At this juncture (of the early years of the Bolsonaro government) large operations lose their centrality in the political scene and the names of the party (delegates, prosecutors and judges) move to the back of the stage.

Only Moro remains in a central position, but always linked to the figure of Bolsonaro, who as his boss imposed himself.

Although attacks by the Fascist Party were constant, the Legal Press Party always acted with restraint. The relationship between the two parties would only become an open war on May 24, 2020, with the resignation of Sergio Moro from the super (sic) ministry of justice.

The political situation we live in today is open war between these two parties. Criticism in the mainstream press intensified. Police operations have returned. The political climate is marked by threats and conflicts, which add to the health crisis in the world due to the Covid-19 virus. The resilience of the fascist party, as well as its retreat, is well treated by Luis Filgueiras and Graça Druck[xxxv]. The outcome of the war is yet to be defined. But some considerations about the marks that this process will produce on the political scene can already be made.

Final considerations

The outcome of the conflict between these two parties is still open, and it will probably be resounding. But regardless of it, the process of de-democratization follows its full course. Regardless of who emerges victorious, he will find a political scene in which it is no longer rational to tolerate the opposition, nor to stop using the available means of repression. De-democratization is the direction that recent history in Brazil has been taking uninterruptedly, with a succession of political forces sequentially willing to take the next step in this process.

Therefore, I say categorically. Democracy is over in Brazil. The institutions, anachronistically, still exist. But the political scene is configured in such a way that any democratic behavior becomes ineffective, and only anti-democratic behavior becomes effective. Just as it took 1968 (AI-5) for Brazilians to realize what happened in 1964, we are yet to see an event that explains the magnitude of what happened in 2016.

*Rodolfo Palazzo Dias é Postdoctoral fellow at UFRJ.


[I] This is descriptive text, not explanatory. There are two major flaws in this text. An analysis of how this conjuncture fits into the class struggle. This is already being developed in the works of Armando Boito Jr (, although I would include the importance of the lumpembourgeoisie in the Bolsonarist base. And also an analysis of the insertion of this Brazilian dynamic in the international context. This research is currently being proposed in the NESFI research group, present at UFSC, which brings a perspective of networks to study the connections of think tanks international with national ones, mediated by large international organizations and university and political institutions in central countries. The present text was discussed by this Nucleus. And for that I thank all its members, and especially Ary Minella, Rodrigo Orlando Silva. I also thank Josnei Di Carlo for her careful reading and recommendations.

[ii] DALH, Robert. Polyarchy: Participation and Opposition. São Paulo: Publisher University of São Paulo, 1997.

[iii] Williamson, J. (1990) What Washington Means by Policy Reform. In: Williamson, J., Ed., Latin American Adjustment: How Much Has Happened? Institute for International Economics, Washington, 7-20.

[iv] I do not make a detailed characterization of the transformation of the meaning of the term corruption. This view of misconduct can be traced back to before neoliberal doctrine. Neoliberals did not create such a perspective, even if they used it. In Brazil, this perspective is decisive in the electoral process of 1960, when Jânio Quadros was victorious. In the present text I take only two historically very distant examples to establish a contrast, to show that there is the possibility of thinking of corruption as something different from the current meaning.

[v] A fundamental axiom of the current conception of corruption is the intrinsic goodness of the judge. For he is the great guarantor of the right standard of conduct to be carried out.

[vi] Moro, SF Preventing Systemic Corruption in Brazil. Daedalus, v. 147, p. 157-168, 2018.

[vii] “The judicial process is just a reaction against corruption, as the justice system cannot turn a blind eye to crime.”


[ix] A chronology of this is systematized at:

[X] The interpretative extreme would be the simple belonging to the organization as attribution of responsibility for the criminal activity, without evidence that demonstrates the direct activity of the subject on the event.

[xi] For a detailed analysis of the transformation process of the Brazilian judicial system since 2003, I recommend reading the following article: KOERNER, Andrei. Judiciary and the moralization of politics: three reflections on recent trends in brazil. Think, Fortress, v. 18, no. 3, p. 681-711, Dec. 2013.

[xii] In this sense, this concept would be less of Political Science and more of Political Sociology (less formal), to use a distinction made by Giovanni Sartori. The party discussed here would not be a consolidated “institution”, but recurrent “associative relationships”, interested in obtaining and exercising political power.


[xiv] Here I consider the press and the judiciary unified in a single party because their relationships mutually supported their exercise of political power. Both public intervention provided legitimacy for the judiciary, as well as the direction of legal actions supported the characterization of “enemies” by the press. Some tensions can be observed in this historical process, but until the present historical moment there is no effective (successful) questioning of any of the parties in relation to the behavior of the other.




[xviii] Opponents of such a party in the STF can be identified through a survey of ministers who were defamed on social networks during the period. Digital social networks proved to be valuable legitimation resources, although they were always linked to official press vehicles. Such articulation was dismantled in the historical process and who appropriated these social networks will be another party, analyzed later in the text.

[xx] Despite the legal term “causal link” not even appearing in the sentence issued by the judge.

[xx] Such stickers are also strong indicators of the practical organizational articulation of such a party. Any party militant knows the organizational, design, logistical difficulties involved in the production and distribution of stickers. Of course, this is a one-off activity, but an activity that has been carried out. In order for it to exist, some organization was needed. The Judiciary Press Party tried to mature this existing organization through resources from Petrobras, creating a foundation, but this attempt was frustrated. ( Ministro-do-stf-suspende-fundacao-da-lava-jato-para-gerir-ate-25-bilhoes-da-petrobras-23525950).


[xxiii] The definition of party applied here is also made more flexible. In this sense, the PSL would only be an “incubator” institution, to use Rodrigo Mayer's term. Which hatched the serpent's egg.

[xxiii] About this debate, the following article is interesting:


[xxiv] DI CARLO; KAMRADT. Bolsonaro and the Culture of Politically Incorrect in Brazilian Politics. Theory and Culture. v. 13. n. 2. 2018.


[xxviii] FRIEDMAN, M. Capitalism and freedom. Chicago: Chicago University Press. 1982. p. 7.






[xxxii] Great errors in the beginning of governments can be credited to this drunkenness. Mensalão could be the PT's big mistake in this regard. Moro's entry into the Bolsonaro government can also be considered the great mistake of the Judiciary Press Party. We must still wait for the consequences before we can qualify Bolsonaro's actions as a mistake.


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