Brazil’s Legal Education

Joaquim BarbosaLast month, Brazil’s Supreme Court sentenced José Dirceu, chief of staff and closest political adviser to former Brazilian president Lula da Silva during his first administration (2003-2006), to nearly ten years in jail. At Same time, court convicted 25 other co-conspirators in Dirceu’s scheme, which involved bribing congressmen to vote in lockstep with the government, and also implicated banks, advertising agencies, politicians. The court estimated the scheme involved the embezzlement of at least $150 million in public funds. The case is part of the Brazilian judicial branch’s recent campaign against political corruption, a development has unleashed public enthusiasm for the justice system. The trial lasted for four months, and its sessions were televised daily. On some days, as many people tuned in to the proceedings as tuned in to Brazil’s popular teledramas. At first, Lula tried to stay aloof from the trial, maintaining he had been “betrayed” by the defendants and he “knew nothing” about the scheme. Later, when the Supreme Court handed down its ruling, Lula said that the charges were simply an attempt to discredit his party and him. That is unlikely. When he was sentenced to more than 40 years in jail, Marcos Valerio, an advertising executive and a principal in the scheme, told prosecutors Lula had personally authorized him to borrow money from banks. Lula’s party used the funds to buy off members of congress. In light of the revelation, Justice Joaquim Barbosa, the head of Brazilian judiciary, who became an instant hero during proceedings for his lucid arguments for conviction, said he wanted public prosecutors to open a new investigation into Lula’s role. Lula has denied Valerio’s charges, but an investigation could nevertheless take place. Indeed, on the returning from his New Year’s holiday, Roberto Gurgel, Brazil’s chief public prosecutor, announced that he had ordered a formal investigation of Lula’s role in the scheme. Beyond the crack legal education that the trial gave a generation of television-watching Brazilians, its most important lesson was that Brazil’s highest court would no longer tolerate blatant corruption among country’s political elites. Tellingly, although eight of the 11 Supreme Court justices who sat for trial, including Barbosa, had been appointed by Lula or his successor, Dilma Rouseff, majority toed Barbosa’s strict line. “The law is the same for everyone, not just chicken thieves or poor kids in the slum,” Barbosa said at one point. And a majority of the other justices seem to have concurred. Next few months, though, will tell whether momentum against corruption is sustainable. For one, much of public interest in trial revolved around Barbosa. Like Lula da Silva, who rose from a blue-collar factory job to become president, Barbosa was born poor, in a town where slaves once dug for gold. The oldest of eight children, as a boy he helped his father, a mason, make bricks. He also made time for his studies, though, attended university in Brasilia. After winning a competitive examination, he entered the foreign ministry, was posted in Europe. While in France, he continued his legal studies. He then became an investigative prosecutor at Public Ministry where he was recognized as an eminent legal scholar. Barbosa was the first black person appointed to the Brazil’s highest court when Lula chose him; Lula, for his part, saw a political advantage to placing a minority on the highest court (…..)



Acerca de ignaciocovelo
Consultor Internacional


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