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Brazil’s Bolsonaro to ask Congress to impeach Supreme Court Justices who repeatedly investigate him

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro announced today, August 14, that he will ask Congress to initiate impeachment proceedings against two Supreme Court Justices who have ordered legal action against him, whom he accuses of violating the Constitution.

Read also: Brazil’s Supreme Court orders pretrial detention of head of Brazilian Labor Party (PTB)

The announcement, a new step in the institutional crisis the country is experiencing due to the confrontation between the head of state and members of the country’s highest court, who claim to be trying to curb abuses.

Bolsonaro’s move came only one day after the Federal Supreme Court (STF) ordered the arrest of Roberto Jefferson, head of the Brazilian Labor Party (PTB), an act that surprised many.

Bolsonaro’s message is aimed primarily at Justices Luis Roberto Barroso, a member of the Supreme Court but also president of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal and Justice Alexander de Moraes.

Read also: Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro engages in power struggle with country’s Supreme Court

De Moraes is in charge of the case filed against allies of the Brazilian president, who are accused of spreading false news on social networks that are said to be undermining democracy.

“Next week I will present a petition to the president of the Senate, Rodrigo Pacheco, to initiate proceedings against both of them, in accordance with Article 52 of the Constitution,” the president said in a message published on his Twitter account, citing the article of the Constitution that allows Congress to initiate impeachment proceedings against judges.

“Justices Alexandre de Moraes and Luis Roberto Barroso of the Supreme Federal Court have long exceeded the limits of the Constitution with their decisions,” the President added.

Read also: Brazil’s Supreme Court opens investigation against Bolsonaro for fake news undermining democracy

There are currently five cases against President Bolsonaro before the Supreme Court and one before the Electoral Tribunal: for alleged attacks on the electoral system; for divulging a confidential court document; for spreading allegedly anti-democratic messages;, for allegedly interfering with the federal police; and for allegedly protecting corruption in the purchase of vaccines against Covid-19.

Luis Barroso. (Photo internet reproduction)
STF Justice Luis Roberto Barroso. (Photo internet reproduction)

All these investigations, which indirectly suggest to the public that a president against whom the Supreme Court has to open so many investigations cannot be all right, are taking place at a time when the 2022 presidential election campaigners are powering up their engines.

Critics say Brazil’s Supreme Court is setting precedents potentially dangerous to democracy. The STF is said to have adopted unorthodox measures and largely ignored the Federal Prosecutor General, in its attempt to restrain what is said to be a Bolsonarist onslaught against governmental institutions.

Some say that sidestepping due process, regardless of the intended purpose, could lead to the creation of dangerous precedents that, in the future, could be used arbitrarily by the Judiciary in general.

Read also: Brazil’s Bolsonaro criticizes Supreme Court members for coordinating rejection of printed ballot

Bolsonaro, in his tirade today, added that “the Brazilian people will not stand idly by while fundamental rights and guarantees, such as freedom of expression, continue to be violated and punished with arbitrary detentions by those who should be defending them, of all people.”

Bolsonaro claims that Barroso is violating his right to free speech by prosecuting him for publicly doubting the security of Brazil’s electronic voting system and insinuating that fraud is possible.

“Everyone knows the internal and external consequences of an institutional rupture, which we neither provoke nor desire,” he added, suggesting that the institutional crisis can cause a “rupture” but stressing that he has done nothing to provoke it.

STF Justice Alexandre de Moraes. (Photo internet reproduction)


In July, a columnist for Folha de S. Paulo, a newspaper of reference in Brazil, reported that the STF has recently adopted unorthodox measures and largely ignored the Federal Prosecutor General’s office, in an attempt to contain the Bolsonarist onslaught against other governmental institutions.

Folha wrote that specialists fear that actions taken by the STF outside the usual rules – which call for the Public Prosecutor’s Office to be involved in investigations – could create a dangerous precedent for democracy. The current Federal Prosecutor General (PGR) Augusto Aras, is seen by critics as being unusually favorable to President Bolsonaro, an attitude said to be designed to win him a seat on the STF next year.

Read also: Analysis – Brazil’s Supreme Court is setting precedents potentially dangerous to democracy

USP Law School professor Rafael Mafei compares the relationship between the Planalto Palace and the STF to a soccer match in which tempers flare and fouls become increasingly harsher. “In these cases, there are only two possible outcomes: either the opposing party is intimidated and retreats, or it escalates into a generalized clash and the game stops.”

“Today it’s very difficult to say what the outcome will be, whether it will be positive or negative in the end. It largely depends on who wins the 2022 elections,” the professor says.

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