Are we experiencing the collapse of our institutions in Brazil?

Image: Robin McPherson
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By OLIVIA SILVA TELLES & CHICO WHITAKER*

In today's Brazil, institutions have stopped working and seem to have collapsed.

At the end of June this year, activists gathered at the Todos pelo Bem Comum nucleus evaluated the initiatives of Brazilian civil society, since the first year of the current President of the Republic's term, so that republican institutions would prevent their actions and omissions from causing the debacle that the country is experiencing.

The conclusion they reached led them to ask the worrying question posed as the title of this article: are we experiencing the collapse of our institutions in Brazil?

In fact, if no society is free, in an unfortunate political situation, to elect a bad government, it is precisely to curb abuses and excesses that public institutions exist, organized in a system of checks and balances, having to act as a true immune system in defense of society. health of democracy and society.

It so happens that in Brazil today, institutions have stopped working and seem to have collapsed, which is why society – the poorest part in particular – finds itself at the mercy, defenseless and surrendered, in the hands of a criminal government.

The examples are plentiful and speak for themselves. In the first place in this sinister role is evidently the Attorney General of the Republic. Invested in a key function for the supervision of the federal Executive, the current PGR refuses to denounce the serious crimes committed by the President of the Republic in the exercise of his mandate.

Next, and as serious as is the position of the President of the Chamber of Deputies, who refuses to follow up on no less than 144 impeachment requests against the President of the Republic for crimes of responsibility, in fact exercising excessive power that is attributed to him , without even a deadline, and which must be urgently redesigned.

The Federal Supreme Court, in turn, not only “sat on top” of the representation filed in August 2021 by the Arns Commission asking for the opening of an investigation against the Attorney General of the Republic for the crime of prevarication, but also granted an injunction, in February of 2022, to remove the possibility of framing in this crime the abusive exercise of the so-called "freedom of conviction" of the members of the Public Ministry and the Judiciary.

Of the same suit is the inaction of the Senate, holder of the attribution of prosecuting and judging the crimes of responsibility of the Attorney General of the Republic, and, therefore, of the power to enact his impeachment, and does nothing.

The subsidiary criminal complaint filed against the President of the Republic, in April 2022, by AVICO - Association of Victims and Families of Victims of Covid-19 - which asserted the right attributed to citizens to file a private criminal action, on a subsidiary basis, in cases of inertia by the Public Prosecutor's Office (Constitution, art. 5, LIX – “Private action will be admitted in crimes subject to public action, if this is not brought within the legal period”).

Nor will it be too much to emphasize the direct responsibility of the Electoral Justice in this true hecatomb that Brazil is experiencing. The Superior Electoral Court only came to judge the request for the annulment of Bolsonaro and Mourão's diplomas on October 28, 2021 (!), and decided - late and badly - as is known, for the dismissal of the two Electoral Judicial Investigation Actions that pointed out abuse of economic power and misuse of media in the 2018 campaign.

Equally or more terrifying is the pervasiveness of the Bolsonarist mentality in the police – who should ensure the safety of the population – and which recently culminated in the murder under torture, in an episode that became known as the “gas chamber”, of Genivaldo de Jesus Santos, vulnerable citizen from every point of view, massacred by the Federal Highway Police in Sergipe. And that also explains the recent massacre of indigenous people by military police in Mato Grosso do Sul. And the fact that, until now, the person who ordered the murder of councilwoman Marielle Franco has not been discovered, more than four years after the crime (!). And that does not herald an effective investigation into the recent murders of journalist Dom Phillips and indigenist Bruno Pereira in the Amazon.

Furthermore, the sepulchral silence of the political parties is shocking, whose function, it never hurts to remember, is solemnly enunciated in art. 1 of the Law on Political Parties: “to ensure, in the interest of the democratic regime, the authenticity of the representative system and to defend the fundamental rights defined in the Federal Constitution”. Nothing could be further from reality – the parties are now fully committed to the electoral campaign, as if we were living in normal times of alternation in power. One wonders, moreover, if the alliances are restricting their freedom to denounce and shout against the crimes that are being committed. More than polarizations, aren't they contributing to the abyssal differences that exist between those who support the criminal and those who want him to be urgently removed?

The people, in turn, are in a way asleep or anesthetized – partly due to the suffering caused by the pandemic and aggravated by the government – ​​limiting themselves, at best, to wasting good energy with manifestations of hate and cursing on the networks. social, and most of them are incapable of starting to organize themselves autonomously to solve the problems that afflict them.

One hope comes precisely from the most precarious layers of the population – both in rural and urban areas – who need to wake up and realize the immense power they have, if not in many other ways, at least through voting, electing rulers – in the Executive and in the Federal and state legislature – with social sensitivity, because, if it depends on the public institutions of control and inspection, both elected and public and sworn in, these segments of the population will continue for a long time to be totally forgotten and ignored precisely by those who are paid by the people to defend them from bad governments.

But now, on the eve of elections that will directly give the people the power to choose a new president, it is becoming increasingly evident that even these elections are at risk, or that their results, if unfavorable to the current President of the Republic, will not be accepted. by him. And his spokesmen already warn that he will not be able to control his supporters if they repeat here what the President of the United States tried to do in the elections held there last year, with the invasion of the Capitol.

And as if crowning these perspectives, Congress itself seems to have fallen into a trap, approving electoral legislative initiatives and even constitutional changes that could open the space for authoritarian initiatives.

It is only up to us, citizens without institutional power, to draw attention to the immediate imperative of uniting all of us in actions that guarantee the effective holding of these elections and their full supervision, so that, after them, it will be possible to carry out the necessary changes so that what is happening in our country never happens again.

And it will always be worthwhile for those who have not yet done so to sign the Open Letter to Senators for the impeachment of the Attorney General of the Republic (https://ocandeeiro.org/fora-aras-ja), one of the ongoing initiatives that may still produce some effect in the effort to wake up our institutions.

*Olivia Silva Telles, lawyer, holds a doctorate in law from the University of Paris I (Panthéon-Sorbonne).

*Chico Whitaker is an architect and social activist. He was councilor in São Paulo. He is currently a consultant to the Brazilian Commission for Justice and Peace.

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