Rio judges bend the rules for Flávio Bolsonaro

. Jun 26, 2020
flávio bolsonaro rio de janeiro court coronavirus education minister Senator Flávio Bolsonaro. Photo: Marcos Oliveira/Ag. Senado

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We’re covering the latest legal win for Senator Flávio Bolsonaro. How the coronavirus exposes states’ incompetence. And Brazil’s new Education Minister.

Flávio Bolsonaro gets a win in Rio appeals court

A three-judge panel at a Rio appeals court granted

&#8220;parliamentary immunity&#8221; to Senator Flávio Bolsonaro in the investigation into alleged money-laundering operations carried out within his office, during his stint as a Rio state lawmaker. In practical terms, the case now leaves the trial courts and moves up to the appellate court, and will be conducted by the politically-appointed State Prosecutor General.</p> <ul><li>The privilege, known as “<a href="">jurisdictional prerogative</a>,” means that federal elected officials may only be prosecuted and tried by the Supreme Court. For state-level officials, the venue is the state court.</li><li>Those venues are highly politicized and have served as safe harbors for corrupt politicians. In the Supreme Court, for instance, one-third of all cases against politicians stall and are dismissed after reaching the statute of limitations.</li></ul> <p><strong>In a nutshell.</strong> Flávio Bolsonaro, the president&#8217;s eldest son, is accused of running a criminal organization within his office, forcing staffers to surrender part of their salaries back to him —&nbsp;and laundering money through dummy businesses such as chocolate stores or shady real estate deals.</p> <p><strong>Legal maneuvers.</strong> The judges&#8217; decision goes against a 2018 Supreme Court ruling that <a href="">changed the rules</a> over parliamentary immunity. Justices decided that the privilege is only valid in cases where alleged crimes happened during the politician&#8217;s current term <em>and</em> which have a connection to their political activity. A case of domestic violence, for instance, would not fit the bill.&nbsp;</p> <ul><li>&#8220;There is no doubt that the state court disrespected the Supreme Court&#8217;s opinion. That&#8217;s Brazil. It&#8217;s make-believe. &#8216;The Supreme Court ruled one way, but I see things differently so I&#8217;ll go in another direction,'&#8221; complained Justice Marco Aurélio Mello.</li></ul> <p><strong>Bottom line.</strong> The Flávio Bolsonaro case encapsulates one of the biggest problems with Brazil&#8217;s justice system: inconsistency. Judges do not respect precedents, sometimes not even their own. And the issue is not limited to state judges&nbsp;— Supreme Court justices are also to blame, shifting their interpretation on cases depending on the political climate.</p> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>Covid-19 exposes public procurement problems in Brazil</h2> <p>Brazilian states have purchased 7,000 ventilators during the pandemic — but only 3,000 of them were actually delivered, according to a survey by news website G1 with data obtained through the Access to Information Act.</p> <ul><li>One ventilator can cost between BRL 40,000 and 226,000 (USD 7,400 and 42,000), depending on the state.</li><li>In most states, administrations are being investigated for possible fraudulent purchases. In Rio de Janeiro and Santa Catarina, officials have even been arrested for their alleged involvement in overpricing schemes.</li></ul> <p><strong>Why it matters.</strong> The data reveals a sheer lack of strategy —&nbsp;something that could have been minimized with coordination from the federal government. But a lack of trust between governors and the president —&nbsp;not to mention Jair Bolsonaro&#8217;s denialism towards the coronavirus —&nbsp;made any joint effort impossible.</p> <div class="flourish-embed flourish-chart" data-src="visualisation/2641109" data-url=""><script src=""></script></div> <p><strong>Willfully under-testing?</strong> Data obtained from the Health Ministry by freedom of information NGO Fiquem Sabendo reveals that only 36 percent of Covid-19 tests purchased by the government have been distributed to states and municipalities. Around 5.6 million tests remain in stock. Brazil has a lower testing rate per 1 million people than almost all countries among the top 10 in infections (India is the exception, but the Southeast Asian country has a population of 1.3 billion).</p> <p><strong>Outbreak.</strong> Despite under-testing, no single state has shown signs of a slowdown of coronavirus cases, according to an analysis by the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, one of Brazil&#8217;s top biological centers. Scientists say Brazil has reached a plateau —&nbsp;that is, a consistently high level of transmission which could be prolonged indefinitely.</p> <p><strong>By the numbers.</strong> Officially, Brazil has 1.2 million infections and 55,000 deaths. The real numbers are possibly much higher, as <strong>The Brazilian Report</strong> has <a href="">shown</a>. Data journalist Aline Gatto Boueri revealed that in some cities, deaths in 2020 increased eightfold when compared to the average of the four previous years.</p> <div class="flourish-embed flourish-scatter" data-src="visualisation/2952436" data-url=""><script src=""></script></div> <div class="banner_covid"> <div class="texto"> <h3>COVID-19 TRACKER</h3> <p>Keep up to date with all of the latest news on the coronavirus outbreak in Brazil in real-time</p><img class="mobile" src=""> <a href="" class="botao">Latest</a> </div> <div class="imagem desktop"> <img src=""> </div> <div class="clearfix"></div> </div> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>Brazil&#8217;s new Education Minister</h2> <figure class="wp-block-image size-large"><img loading="lazy" width="1024" height="492" src="" alt="President Jair Bolsonaro with new Education Minister Carlos Alberto Decotelli. Photo: PR" class="wp-image-43399" srcset=" 1024w, 300w, 768w, 610w, 1250w" sizes="(max-width: 1024px) 100vw, 1024px" /><figcaption>President Jair Bolsonaro with new Education Minister Carlos Alberto Decotelli. Photo: PR</figcaption></figure> <p>President Jair Bolsonaro picked a new Education Minister: Carlos Alberto Decotelli, a former Navy officer who presided over the National Education Development Fund (FNDE) in 2019. He will also be the first black cabinet member of the current administration.</p> <p><strong>Profile. </strong>Unlike his predecessors, Mr. Decotelli is not identified with the cultural wars the Bolsonaro camp has engaged in over the past year and a half.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Why it matters.</strong> The new minister is a bona fide conservative who has a more respected résumé than his predecessors. His nomination should serve to decrease the political pressure on the president — after the Education Ministry became a source of political crisis under Abraham Weintraub, who left last week.</p> <p><strong>Controversy.</strong> Mr. Decotelli, however, is not totally immune to scandal. During his 169-day stint in charge of the FNDE, he was reportedly absent 38 times — with an average of one trip made every four days. Moreover, under his leadership, the fund signed a BRL 3-billion contract that was suspended by the Comptroller-General&#8217;s Office under suspicion of fraud.</p> <p><strong>Perspective.</strong> It took a week for Mr. Bolsonaro to choose a new Education Minister. Meanwhile, the Health Ministry continues without a permanent cabinet minister for 40 days&nbsp;—&nbsp;despite the pandemic.</p> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>What else you need to know today</h2> <ul><li><strong>Say what?</strong> During a live Facebook broadcast on Thursday, President Jair Bolsonaro said he might have contracted the novel coronavirus —&nbsp;despite having disclosed <a href="">three negative tests</a> in May.</li><li><strong>Interests.</strong> In its latest inflation report, the Central Bank projected a 6.4-percent drop in the Brazilian GDP this year —&nbsp;considered an optimistic forecast. It means, at least in theory, that the bank&#8217;s appetite for more cuts in the benchmark interest rate has become smaller. The Selic rate is already at an all-time low of 2.25 percent.&nbsp;</li><li><strong>Inflation.</strong> The IPCA-15 price index, considered to be a predictor of the official inflation rate, came in at +0.02 percent in June, after a 0.59-percent drop in May. The result was above the median projection by analysts. Food and beverages drove the inflation index up, compensating for price drops in fuel and transportation. According to the official statistics bureau, Rio de Janeiro was the only state capital in which the cost of living actually went up during the pandemic —&nbsp;overall prices increased 0.49 percent.</li><li><strong>Supreme Court.</strong> In a symbolic vote, Justice Luiz Fux was chosen by his peers to become the Chief Justice for a two-year term starting on September 10. In theory, any justice would be eligible, but the court traditionally picks the longest-tenured member among those who have never had the top job. With the title comes the power to decide on the court&#8217;s agenda.</li><li><strong>Foreigners.</strong> The Supreme Court <a href="">ruled</a> on Thursday that the government cannot deport foreign nationals who have a Brazilian-born child. The court said allowing that would expose the child to &#8220;rupture and abandon, with terrible future consequences.&#8221;

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