BRASA Statement on the Brazilian Political Crisis
The following statement was approved by a clear majority of those in attendance at the BRASA Town Hall Meeting of March 31st, 2016, held as part of the BRASA XIII conference at Brown University. The statement does not reflect the unanimous opinion of either the Executive Committee or BRASA’s general membership. BRASA is a non-partisan organization and values diversity of opinion. Its members are united in commitment to research and debate that contribute to the growth of a democratic and stable Brazil:
“We, the undersigned academics, students, and scholars, living and working in the United States, Europe, and other parts of the world, who are specialists in Latin American studies, are alarmed at the current political situation in Brazil, which poses a serious threat to democracy.
Since 1985, Brazil has been enjoying the longest period of democratic stability in its history, following a coup d’état in 1964 and a violent military dictatorship that lasted twenty-one years. Under the aegis of the 1988 Constitution, which guarantees a wide range of social and individual rights, Brazil has become a more democratic society, with greater political participation, broader and more inclusive notions of citizenship, and the strengthening public institutions.
In spite of these advances, corruption remains endemic. A series of scandals involving politicians of different party affiliations have outraged the public.
As a result, there have been widespread mobilizations demanding an end to illicit practices. There have also been bold actions by state institutions, such as the Federal Police, the Federal Prosecutors Service, and the Judiciary.
The combat against corruption is legitimate and necessary to improve the responsiveness of Brazilian democracy. But in the current political climate, we find a serious risk that the rhetoric of anti-corruption has been used to destabilize the current democratically-elected government, further aggravating the serious economic and political crisis that the country is facing.
Instead of retaining political neutrality and respecting due process, sectors of the Judiciary, with the support of major media interests, have become protagonists in undermining the rule of law. During their investigations, some public officials have violated basic rights of citizens, such as the presumption of innocence, the assurance of an impartial judiciary, attorney-client privilege, and the guarantee of the right to privacy.
The Lava Jato Operation, led by the federal judge Sérgio Moro, has centralized the principal corruption investigations over the last two years. These investigations have been marred by repeated excesses and unjustified measures, such as arbitrary preventive detentions, dubious and problematic plea-bargaining agreements, selective leaking of information to the media for political purposes, and the illegal wiretapping of both the current President of the Republic and the most recent former president.
All of this has taken place with the sustained support of powerful sectors of the media in an unprecedented effort to influence public opinion for specific political ends. The combat against corruption must be carried out within strict legal limits that protect the basic rights of the accused.
The violation of democratic procedure represents a serious threat to democracy. When the armed forces overthrew the government of President João Goulart in 1964, they used the combat against corruption as one of their justifications. Brazil paid a high price for twenty-one years of military rule. The fight for a democratic country has been long and arduous. Today, all those who believe in a democratic Brazil need to speak out against these arbitrary measures that threaten to erode the progress made over the course of the last three decades.”