Two forms of authoritarianism



Considerations on Sergio Moro and democratic erosion

In recent weeks, Brazil has witnessed an intense movement by the main characters of the Lava Jato operation towards electoral politics. Sergio Moro announced his affiliation with Podemos on Wednesday, November 10, with the aim of making his candidacy for the presidency viable. Deltan Dallagnol announced his departure from the Federal Public Ministry in search of a candidacy in the Chamber and a day later he also joined Podemos.

The departure of the protagonists of the Lava Jato operation from the justice system and their entry into the electoral world point in two directions: the first of them, already explored by many, is that in fact the Lava Jato operation had political purposes and its defeat in the judicial arena – which it sought to seize with the support of sectors of the mainstream media – implies seeking space in the arena in which it originally sought to generate impact. The second direction, however, is more dangerous and Brazilians should prepare a reaction to it. It is about selling the anti-corruption utopia with the aim of transforming politics into an anti-corruption judicial court with exception rules. The results are as dangerous for democracy as Bolsonaro's open attacks.

To achieve this objective, Lava Jato was willing to carry out extensive publicity work completely incompatible with democracy and the criminal justice system. Once again, the main spokesperson for this conception is Sergio Moro himself in his analysis of the Clean Hands Operation. For him, in the same text from 2004, “The publicity given to the investigations had the salutary effect of alerting the potential investigated about the increase in the mass of information in the hands of the magistrates, favoring new confessions and collaborations. More importantly, it guaranteed public support for the lawsuits, preventing the investigated public figures from obstructing the work of the magistrates”.[2]

There is also an element obscured by the two statements made by the former holder of the 13th court: the ability of the judge and the Public Prosecutor's Office to articulate in a non-public way to achieve these objectives. The two avowed objectives of Lava Jato are articulated with this third, namely, condemning people from political parties identified by the task force as politically undesirable. This is how Deltan Dallagnol created his famous PowerPoint, in which all the problems of the Brazilian political system were attributed to former President Lula. That was how Sergio Moro saw fit to publicize Antônio Palocci's accusation, which was not supported by any evidence, a few days before the 2018 election, and that was how Deltan Dallagnol once again decided to post on social media a series of positions against the candidacy of Renan Calheiros for the presidency of the Senate in 2019, which earned him a warning from the National Council of the Public Ministry.

Today we know, thanks to the work of a hacker without any political connection, that all these acts were politically oriented with a view to reorganizing the political system. The aim was to make left-wing parties, and especially the PT, the source of all corruption. Corruption cases linked to other parties were left aside. Moro and Dallagnol worked together to circumscribe the limits that the justice system placed on their actions, explicitly excluding members of some parties, such as once again publishing their messages on the app Telegram made it clear.

More than that, they acted together to reduce the rights of the defense, to validate inadmissible testimonies and, mainly, to ignore the fragility of the evidence they held. We know that Deltan Dallagnol himself considered the complaint against former President Lula “lame”.[3] Still, Lula was sentenced to more than nine years in prison. That is, Lava Jato dissociated the evidence from the conviction process by accepting the open collusion between the Public Ministry, the judge and the media.

The interesting thing is that today we know that the main leaders of Lava Jato committed several crimes and were not punished for them. We know what these crimes were: the most serious among them was the Federal Police operation at the Federal University of Santa Catarina conducted by delegate Erika Marena, which ended with the dean's suicide. Today we also know that Marena forged statements and that Deltan Dallagnol thought she should protect her. According to Conjur, “on January 25, 2016, Dallagnol said that the MPF should protect Erika”. After having forged testimonies, Erika Marena was appointed by Sérgio Moro to a high-ranking position in the Ministry of Justice, showing that the former judge was not concerned with abuse of authority or falsehoods in judicial proceedings. It was, as we all know, about protecting her friends or partners. Thus, we note a procedural double standard in Lava Jato, which is what Moro and Dallagnol intend to bring to the political system.

We know that Dallagnol used, in the cases opened against him by the National Council of Public Prosecutors, all possible methods of obstructing justice. He was able to postpone for 40 times the trial of the lawsuit filed by former President Lula’s lawyers against the presentation in which Lula was transformed into the biggest beneficiary of Petrobras’ deviations, an accusation discarded by Moro only in the declaratory embargoes of the sentence. Thus, we have not only the uncritical use of the justice system, but also the emergence of a group that clearly considers itself above the justice system and its principles. It is this group that today intends to take over the political system through elections, with the usual manipulations.

We saw – in the act of affiliation with Podemos – a Sergio Moro with a deep and modulated voice pretending that nothing illegal had occurred in his communications with Deltan Dallagnol, in the falsification of testimonies by Erika Marena, in the admission by the judge of evidence that he thought he needed to carry out the subsequent conviction, not to mention the attempt by the Federal Public Ministry of Paraná to appropriate a portion of the funds paid by Odebrecht.

All these problems – which in any strong tradition of the rule of law are considered crimes – were replaced by the following sentence: “The advances in the fight against corruption have lost their force. Measures were approved that make the work of the police, judges and prosecutors more difficult. It is a mistake to say that corruption is over when, in fact, the tools to fight it have weakened. Almost every day we hear news of criminals being released, usually based on formalisms or arguments that we simply cannot understand.” That is, there is an attempt by Moro and Dallagnol to return with the aim of once again distorting the rule of law in Brazil in favor of a political project.

The former judge from Curitiba even spoke of “creating a national anti-corruption court, similar to what other countries have done, using existing structures and summoning judges and civil servants dedicated to this very important mission”. It is not very difficult to understand the political project behind this exceptional court proposed by Sergio Moro: it is about bringing together, in a single institution, prosecutors and judges supposedly specialized in fighting corruption. Behind the motto of specialization practices will be developed such as not prosecuting its members even when they falsify testimonies; they pursue political enemies circumscribing the limits of justice; they appropriate anti-corruption resources for activities of specific groups. What is intended, with this, is to implement a process of purification of Brazilian politics and society, seen by such actors as impure. The authoritarian outbursts of Jair Bolsonaro and his sons will seem like child's play if this project is chosen by Brazilians at the ballot box.

*Leonardo Avritzer He is a professor at the Department of Political Science at UFMG. Author, among other books, of Impasses of democracy in Brazil (Brazilian Civilization).



[1] See

[2] Same, ibidem.

[3] See the website Conjur, March 02, 2021.

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