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Opinion: indigenous leader Cererê will not be released by the Brazilian Supreme Court and why that matters more than you think

(Opinion) Justice Luis Roberto Barroso of the Brazilian Supreme Court (STF) denied a request for the release of the Xavante Indian chief Cererê, temporarily detained by order of his fellow Justice Alexandre de Moraes.

Indigenous people have special protection under Brazilian law. This was so at least until Dec. 12, when an indigenous leader was arrested by order of self-proclaimed censorship czar Justice Alexandre de Moraes of the Supreme Court of Brazil for allegedly engaging in “illicit conduct and anti-democratic acts.”

Read also: Check out our coverage on curated alternative narratives

Cacique Cererê (“Chief Tserere”) of the Xavante Tribe dared to criticize the behavior of top electoral judges during the recent presidential election in Brazil, so he suffered aggression and was arrested by a new kind of tyranny-style police operation ordered by Moraes.

(Chief Cererê, is this anti-democratic or on the country is the very expression of democratic action?)

On the night of Dec. 13, Moraes was denounced before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights for violating several articles of the Pact of San José of Costa Rica, with the arrest of Cacique Cererê.

The complaint, signed by the Latin American Journalism Council, requests, as a matter of urgency, a precautionary measure for the International Court to recommend the immediate release of the indigenous leader because, according to Law 6001/73, Brazilian Indians are considered unimputable.

“The arrest of an indigenous person without due process of law and without respecting the status of indigenous peoples constitutes a crime against indigenous peoples,” states the complaint.

Numerous other arbitrary arrests are happening across the country. The Brazilian judiciary has now moved on to a new phase, and the federal police keep arresting people on political grounds.


By arresting Cererê, Moraes complied with a request from the Prosecutor General’s Office. In the decision, the minister sustained the “need to guarantee public order, given the evidence of the practice of the crimes of threat, persecution and violent acquittal of the Democratic State of Law.

According to Barroso, the habeas corpus lacked the necessary information to clarify controversies.

In addition, the STF directs for the judge the inapplicability of habeas corpus proceedings against ministerial class or plenary acts.

According to the Supreme Court, the cacique (chief) would have made “antidemocratic” demonstrations in front of the National Congress, at the International Airport of Brasilia, in the shopping center Park Shopping, the Esplanade of Ministries and in front of the hotel where Lula da Silva was staying.

Antidemocratic acts may sound serious, but it really is only an artificial bubble created by Moraes with no legal foundation that gives him leverage for arbitrary decisions.

Have you ever heard that in a real democracy, diffuse, undefined ‘anti-democratic’ acts put someone in jail? No, because that only happens in dictatorships.

And haven’t demonstrations been expressions of democratic action for decades? In this sense, Cererê’s acts are not anti-democratic, but Moraes’ arbitrariness certainly is.

In examining the PGR’s request, Moraes assessed that the indigenous man’s conduct presents risks to society.

“The restriction of the freedom of the investigated, with the decree of temporary arrest, is the only measure capable of ensuring the hygiene of the investigation,” he argued.

The PGR understood that Cererê Xavante was using his position as chief of the Xavante people to gather activists and inflame the demonstrations.

“The demonstration, in theory, criminal and anti-democratic, had the clear intention of instigating the population to try, by using violence or serious threat, to abolish the democratic rule of law, preventing the inauguration of the elected president and vice president of the Republic,” the PGR said.

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