Al Capone, Bolsonaro and us – 03/17/2023 – Demétrio Magnoli
Al Capone ended up in Alcatraz for the least of his crimes: tax evasion. The common crimes that weigh on Jair Bolsonaro in the case of jewelry mean little compared to the constitutional crimes systematically practiced throughout his mandate. But a scenario is being outlined in which the former president will have the fate of the American mobster. It would be a way of mixing, in the blender of demagoguery, impunity with ineligibility.
During the pandemic, Bolsonaro sabotaged health restrictions and the vaccination campaign, operating against the collective right to public health. His government encouraged the invasion of indigenous lands by prospectors and loggers, challenging the state’s commitment to protect these peoples. For four years, the president mobilized his supporters in persistent coup agitation, which culminated in the 8th of January in Brasilia, betraying the duty of respect for democratic institutions. However, it seems, he will answer only for embezzlement, embezzlement and abuse of power.
The “Al Capone solution” would make Bolsonaro ineligible, by decision of the TSE, based on the Lei da Ficha Limpa. It would be a typical Brazilian way – that is, an artifice to ignore the principles that sustain the democratic order.
The much-celebrated Clean Record Law, a fashionable adornment among so many progressives, never served to reduce corruption in the public machine. On the other hand, it surrounds a crucial pillar of democracy: popular sovereignty. The law gives prosecutors and judges the prerogative to veto candidacies. Vetoes will be the more arbitrary the greater the political-partisan contamination of the Public Ministry and the Judiciary.
The Lula case taught the ultimate lesson. Moro and his fellow prosecutors certainly wanted to imprison the PT leader, but they never had the certainty that they could do so, as the outcome depended on the oscillating opinions of the STF regarding the arrest on appeal. However, the car wash conspirators controlled the means to obtain their main objective: the ineligibility of the former president. To do so, a decision by a collegiate was enough – and they got two. Without the annulment of the processes by a STF surrounded by the revelations of Vaza Jato, the popular will expressed in 2022 would have been irremediably silenced.
Political rights constitute the soul of citizenship. You cannot revoke them without amputating your own citizenship. Voters have the exclusive right to choose their representatives – which includes even those convicted in a final sentence. An elected deputy while serving a prison sentence? Yes, if voters accept the consequence that their representative will not take office. Bolsonaro’s hypothetical ineligibility would imply, as in Lula’s case, the cancellation of the will of a significant portion of citizens.
On the other hand, burying Bolsonaro’s constitutional crimes in the grave of oblivion is equivalent to signing a blank check for the anti-democratic delinquency of those in power, in the present and in the future. And this is what is taking shape, judging by the infinite postponement of the necessary judicial procedures.
“We are not going to throw stones,” replied STF Minister Luís Roberto Barroso when asked, on January 9, about the ex-president’s responsibility for the attempt to light the spark of the coup d’état. The password indicates a desire of a large part of the political elite. Bolsonaro light and free, unpunished, but transferred to the diaphanous ghetto of those who cannot run for elections – this is the rehearsed form of a “national reconciliation”.
Al Capone was a common criminal. Putting him behind bars, under any sentence, served the public interest. Bolsonaro belongs to a different category. The impunity of its constitutional crimes only serves, after all, the long-term interests of Bolsonarism.
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