Sérgio Moro’s exit may precipitate Bolsonaro’s fall

But political parties will have to move quickly and show willingness to do more than just talk

Former judge and now former justice minister Sérgio Moro may be responsible for overthrowing the second president of his career. First, he contributed to Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment by unveiling the immense corruption scheme involving her party, the Worker’s Party, as well as sending former President Lula da Silva to prison.

Now, his departure from Bolsonaro’s government has opened an unprecedented crisis that could precipitate the president’s downfall, which has already been severely criticized for the way he has dealt with the coronavirus pandemic.

On Thursday night, it was said in the corridors of Brasília that Sérgio Moro’s right-hand man, Federal Police Chief Maurício Valeixo, would be exonerated from the institution’s command — and that Moro, therefore, would not agree to remain in office. Negotiations followed between the still-minister and President Jair Bolsonaro. They were unsuccessful. Although Moro was granted full autonomy when he took office, the promise proved to be false.

Bolsonaro is known for not tolerating that his subordinates have more light of their own than he does, the resignation of Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic was the first major demonstration that the president would not accept to share the spotlight. With popularity on the rise, as well as on the measures of social isolation, Mandetta did not resist in office. Bolsonaro, as is known worldwide, opposes such measures in the name of a supposed defense of the economy.

However, Moro’s resignation is not the result of a mere broken promise, but of a series of alleged crimes denounced by him in a press statement in the morning of April 24.

Moro left office by openly attacking the former boss and denying Bolsonaro of an important support base. The former minister represents one of the fundamental pillars of so-called bolsonarismo, the anti-corruption struggle and the defense of Lava Jato (Car Wash) Operation. Other important pillar, the military, also showed dissatisfaction with the minister’s resignation. Other important pillars are the evangelicals and the so-called “olavists,” followers of the self-styled philosopher Olavo de Carvalho, considered the “ideological wing” of the government and the one that best represents the illusions of the extreme right of Bolsonaro.

There is also the agribusiness sector which, however, has also been distancing itself from the government due to the insistent clashes of the ideological wing (and in particular the Minister of Foreign Affairs Ernesto Araújo) with China, one of the main partners of Brazil and the agribusiness sector.

Moro accused Bolsonaro of trying to gain access to confidential documents from Federal Police investigations — which include cases against his sons, in particular Congressman Eduardo Bolsonaro and Councilman Carlos Bolsonaro, pointed as leaders of a network of fake news and attacks on institutions such as the Federal Supreme Court (STF) — and of changing the direction of the same Federal Police without consulting him in order to gain control over the institution.

Moro directly accused Bolsonaro of asking him to intervene in the investigations against his son Carlos Bolsonaro and also made another serious accusation, that his signature had been forged on the document that exonerated Valeixo. The President would also have asked Moro to have access to confidential information and reports of ongoing investigations.

For Bolsonaro, Moro would not have been committed to preventing investigations harmful to him and his family, and the change in the direction of the Federal Police would have been a way to control the institution by appointing someone more susceptible to its control, therefore preventing the continuity of investigations.

Until the day after Moro’s resignation Bolsonaro was already the object of more than 20 impeachment requests in the House of Representatives and the Supreme Court Justice, Celso de Mello, even accused the president of the House, Rodrigo Maia, of omission for not having yet examined the requests. After Moro’s denunciations, a new flood of requests is expected — STF justices commented to the press that they see a series of crimes of responsibility to be investigated and that can possibly lead to the impeachment of Jair Bolsonaro.

An impeachment that already comes late. Bolsonaro has been blamed for the alarming number of Covid-19 cases in Brazil for openly advocating an end to social isolation measures, the Brazilian economy is still plunged into a deep crisis predating the pandemic, just as the president has taken numerous measures seeking to violate the rights of indigenous peoples, appointed a neo-Nazi to the post of Secretary of Culture and has promoted a foreign policy that is extremely harmful to the interests of the country.

Moro seems to have kicked off the end of the Bolsonaro government — considering that the opposition’s capable of moving fast -, but the damage caused in just over a year will take a much longer time to be repaired, particularly if the momentum passes and Bolsonaro manages to tighten his grip to power with the allies he has left and the new ones he’s trying to buy from parties used to being paid to support the government in turn.

Journalist, PhD in Human Rights (University of Deusto). MA in Communication Sciences, BA in International Relations. www.tsavkko.com.br

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