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Image: Lucas Vinícius Pontes
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By CHICO WHITAKER*

With the clock ticking down to the decisive minute, we are all called upon to turn our outrage into action.

After the tragedy they experienced and caused in World War II, many Germans asked themselves: why didn't we wake up in time? Today researchers are trying to understand what would have happened to a large part of this people, who offered the world the work of great philosophers, artists and scientists, but elected a madman to govern the country, and accepted to submit to their cruel designs and even to participate the execution of its plans.

But haven't we, in Brazil, been progressively “normalizing” a succession of unacceptable actions of our mismanagement and of situations created by it? We will have fallen into a trap similar to the one that immobilized the Germans, despite the fact that the vast majority of the Brazilian people – 61% of voters, if we also consider abstentions and blank and null votes – have refused in 2018 to elect the candidate for President of the Republic that was actually the least prepared and the least reliable?

Jair Bolsonaro's demolishing action began shortly after he declared, newly sworn in, at a large dinner at the Brazilian embassy in Washington, that his mission was to destroy. Few voices were heard, here, with the necessary vigor to demand that he explain what he meant by that. Today we see that all the civilizing advances built since we freed ourselves from the military regime imposed in 1964 have been and continue to be systematically dismantled – despite the protests against disrespected rights and those who participated in these achievements.

Already three months into his government, he demonstrated that he had not the slightest notion of the “dignity, honor and decorum of his office”, as required by the Constitution, by posting a depressing scene from the São Paulo carnival on a social network. Only one woman stood up, alone, to ask the Chamber of Deputies for her impeachment. Today it seems that we are all used to the president we have, and we are not scandalized by the profanity he uses and his foul language, even at ministerial meetings and official ceremonies. Or when he rudely attacks journalists who ask him uncomfortable questions, even more so if they are women. Meanwhile, more than 150 requests for impeachment for well-characterized crimes of responsibility are piled up on the mayor's table, without him putting them to a vote. And life continues…

In the second year of his mandate, he fully revealed his psychopathic personality: he associated himself with the deadly action of the disease that invaded the country, creating obstacles to the vaccination of the population at the same time that, with the power of communication that a president has – even more in a country with a low level of education and political awareness – advertised ineffective medications and undervalued precautions.

But little by little, we stopped being impressed by the skyrocketing increase in the number of deaths, and by the demonstration that many of these deaths would have been preventable, had it not been for the actions and omissions of him and his assistants in coping with the disease. Today – as if we were contaminated by their lack of compassion – we are not concerned with the fate and the number of sequelae, as if it were just a thing of a sad past to forget. And we leave for later the punishment of those responsible for the suffering experienced.

And without realizing that our common boat was already sailing in less calm seas, when its pilot made a first attempt at a coup - frustrated - on the Mother's Day last year, we peacefully resumed our activities and leisure activities, as if nothing special was happening. And we didn't realize he was heading in the direction of a storm. And now, in the first months of the last year of his term, when we see that he will not be re-elected, we hear him, appalled, repeating and repeating to his supporters that they arm themselves to the fullest.

His hand imitating a pistol – in a gesture that even children were taught – had already become one of his symbols in his election campaign. But elected, he went much further: throughout his government he encouraged a threefold increase in the number of guns registered in the country. At the same time, he relaxed controls on smuggling, so that a much larger number of weapons would probably enter the country and go directly into the hands of “hunters, collectors and shooters” unknown to official records. And his crazy calls are not being heard by the “institutions”, which should oblige him to stop them immediately, as clearly unconstitutional. As they didn't have the eyes to see how many weapons illegally entered our ports and airports.

And having felt free to declare, in the main hall of an embassy in the country, what his predatory intentions were, now, thanks to the normalization of his behavior and mismanagement, he feels free to declare that he will not trust the results of the elections that will dictate the end of his tenure as President of the Republic. And, like a criminal adventurer with his band of armed thugs, he reveals his violently bellicose temper and says, in all letters, that only God will remove him from his office.

Bolsonaro and his sons, equally unbalanced and users of “cracks” in parliaments, have already declared that only a civil war would “fix” the country. But it cannot be said that they intend to start it, only one side will be armed. What their sick minds surely plan is to create chaos, bloody as all wars are. In which Bolsonaro will possibly seek to resemble Hitler, eliminating not the Jews, but his greatest enemies, the “communists”. And together with them as much as possible of the other beings he hates: the indigenous, the black, the LGBTQI, the women, the poor… And why not also the elderly, for him a weight that he has to get rid of… They will take care of that , cruelly, the most brutish and primitive of its supporters, in the image of its “myth”, with its total lack of human respect and capacity to understand what a civilized society is, much less the society we dream of.

Until one day the Armed Forces find themselves “obliged” to intervene to impose “law and order” on the rubble that remains – and we can only hope that they do so as quickly as possible, even to save many of us. Surely he will try to remain in power, already as a dictator, relying on the military he enlisted in his destructive mission. But we can only hope that it will be prevented by generals who have not been intoxicated by the benefits and other temptations of power, and who have preserved a minimum of common sense and capacity to distinguish where, in fact, good and evil lie, and even to arrest him and try him.

But these “defenders of the homeland” will not fail to assume political power, for the “general good of the nation”, for as long as they see fit. Until one of them says enough is enough, it is time to “open up”. So that our historians can dedicate themselves to studies to try to answer, walking in the alleys of cemeteries, the question raised so many times in human history: why?

Will we be able to neutralize the effects of some powerful sleeping pill that is preventing us from seeing that our central and essential struggle has become Outside-Bolsonaro-before-it's-too-late, in time for him and his supporters not to disturb the elections themselves, before and during them, preparing the ground for their results not to be respected? I have to believe that it is possible, because I want to continue living in our country.

But what then, concretely, can we do about it? On which beach to find some forgotten lifelines? It is the usual question, in the face of troubled situations.

There are those who insist on the need to occupy the streets, protesting. But many trials have already shown that today the fear of contagion with Covid still dams participation. And the economic debacle with which Bolsonaro put the country back on the hunger map also made it difficult for people to travel in cities.

Appealing to International Courts requires deadlines that are not our urgency. Opinion courts alert public opinion and raise the level of general awareness, but they do not interrupt destructive processes or punish those responsible.

Many then only see the solution that democracy offers us with elections, within the principle of desirable alternation in power. It is still heard throughout the country and even abroad – even on the peak of Everest – the cry Fora Bolsonaro. But we were not able to make that cry come true during his mandate and, therefore, the path of elections has already won many hearts and minds, some with the best of intentions. For these people, the moment is to give ourselves body and soul to this alternative, and this is what the political class and all those aspiring to be part of it are committed to. Your movement is already intense.

The mass media, in turn, add to the smoke thus provoked, entertaining us with the spectacle of the political world's clever game, often driven by purely personal goals of candidates. And with that, the urgency of the essential fades – which for many has already become impossible.

But time passes and deadlines shorten, with less than five months ahead of us. How can the people show that in a democracy, in addition to voting and demonstrations, all power emanates from them?

Our hope then turns to other types of action. Luckily, not everyone in Brazil has “normalized” the unacceptable and stopped fighting to avoid what is happening. There are other ongoing struggles aimed at removing Jair Bolsonaro. Making these fights better known, so that more people associate themselves with them, is the least that everyone can do. Strengthening them has become essential.

Among these ongoing struggles, two aim to get the Attorney General of the Republic, Augusto Aras, to effectively fulfill the function assigned to his position by the Constitution: defending the interests of society, which would now require opening the way to prosecute Bolsonaro for common crimes.

More than a year ago, in January 2021, wiser judges, gathered in their Association of Judges for Democracy – AJD – realized that the impeachment requests that were piling up would come to nothing. In order to begin the trial of the numerous crimes for which Bolsonaro is responsible, a minimum of 342 votes in the Federal Chamber is required. But the appetites of more than 342 parliamentarians are of a different kind. And the current President of the Chamber has exacerbated these appetites, with instruments such as the secret budget. The Judges then represented the Attorney General of the Republic, so that he could fulfill his function. This representation was followed by several others with the same objective: from the OAB, from Movimento 342 – Artes, from AVICO – Association of Relatives of Victims of COVID and finally a CPI installed in the Senate, which for six months unveiled, for the entire Brazil, the huge amount of common crimes that the president was committing.

But Augusto Aras soon showed that he did not have the necessary moral stature for the moment we live in. He preferred to defend the president, who had nominated him for the position he held and had also promised him a good reward. So he decided to become a criminal himself, not paying any attention to the representations he received. That is, he decided to prevaricate - a crime attributed to a public agent who does not take the necessary measures in the face of the news of a crime, the same incident that the CPI accused the president himself, when he received the complaint of negotiating with vaccines.

People and entities articulated on a digital platform (ocandeeiro.org), which had already experienced a failure by pressing the mayor in 2019 to put the impeachment to a vote, began a struggle to get Aras out of his inaction. First, with the Superior Council of the Public Prosecutor's Office, which he directs. They weren't successful. Then, equally unsuccessfully, with the body of prosecutors of the Public Ministry. His boss was making them accomplices, by omission, in the president's crimes. Finally, as the Senate is authorized by the Constitution to dismiss the Attorney General, if he does not fulfill his function, they sent an Open Letter to Senators and Senators for the impeachment of Aras, so that the Attorney General who replaced him would open the way to try Bolsonaro for common crimes.

Very few acknowledged receipt of the Letter, which today has more than 3.600 signatures (see https://ocandeeiro.org/fora-aras-ja/). So why not increase that number much more by publicizing the Charter? Why not ask the senators – especially those we elected – if they received the 3600 copies of the Letter that were sent to them, and find out from them what they will do so that the Senate decides on the impeachment of Augusto Aras?

In turn, the Arns Commission filed a lawsuit with the Federal Supreme Court directly accusing the Attorney General of prevarication, for his inaction, omission and action in the face of what is happening and the representations he has received. Can't we try to find out when the Ministers of the STF will follow up on it, given the great representation of the Arns Commission? Can we not ask Minister Alexandre de Moraes, rapporteur for this action, how and when will he act? Can we not let the Arns Commission know that we are closely following its initiative?

There is an alert surrounding it: one of the Justices of the STF, in a preliminary decision in the process for which he was the rapporteur, assured the functional independence of the Attorney General – a prerogative that must be assured, but obviously within the limits of ethics. This injunction still depends on validation by the Court's Plenary. Would the STF be able to authorize the Attorney General of the Republic to prevaricate, in the name of functional independence without any limits? What can we do so that the STF decides soon for the non-validation of this limit?

Given this situation, a third initiative, by the Association of Relatives of Victims of COVID – AVICO, gained special relevance: a “criminal complaint” directly against Bolsonaro in the STF. AVICO had already submitted a request to impeach Bolsonaro to the Federal Chamber and subscribed to the Open Letter to Senators. There is a constitutional precept that is little known in Brazil, which gives the victims of a certain crime the right to ask for the punishment of the culprits themselves, directly to the judicial authorities, if the public agent who should file a public criminal action does not do so.

Supported by this precept, AVICO filed a “subsidiary private criminal action” with the STF against Bolsonaro, which removes Aras as an actor, without being removed. If the STF accepts this criminal complaint, it will be taking a historic step in the functioning of our democracy. And who knows with it, the Out-Bolsonaro-before-it's-too-late can become effective.

But despite its importance, the mass media practically did not report on this criminal complaint. How can we all publicize it and offer our support to AVICO? We cannot tell Minister Luís Roberto Barroso, his rapporteur, that we hope he will examine with the care and urgency that the relatives of the large number of victims of the pandemic deserve, especially those whose preventable death occurred due to the president's criminal actions and omissions of the Republic?

It cannot be said that there is not enough to do. In the summits of the powers of the Republic are the representatives that we elect and public agents remunerated with the money that comes from our taxes. We have the right to demand your action. There are very many of us who can question you directly. For this, there are Citizen Portals in all institutions.

We can also organize demonstrations so that the voice of the plains is heard. Each and every one can do what is within their power. Those who have contacts at other levels or broader possibilities can use the power at their disposal for the benefit of all. Even parties created to fight for justice that have not become bureaucratized or swallowed by electoral dynamics can be pressured.

In fact, with the clock ticking down to the decisive minute, we are all called upon to turn our indignation into action. If we don't want to suffer what will we suffer if we remain seated, as passive spectators, “watching the panorama from the bridge”, normalizing the unacceptable!

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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