Brazil under an ultra-conservative wave?

In this week’s issue: Hard-line Brazilians grow in number. Understanding the investigation into Jair Bolsonaro’s campaign.

The week in review

  • Presidential race. The favorite in the presidential race, Jair Bolsonaro, has sustained his comfortable, 19-point lead over Fernando Haddad. Next week’s polls, however, will measure whether a recent illegal campaign financing scandal will have any impact on the former Army captain’s support (more below, in Power). 
  • State races. Gubernatorial candidates with the support of Mr. Bolsonaro have also locked up many of the state races, such as in Rio de Janeiro, Minas Gerais, and Rio Grande do Sul.
    The only question mark remaining is São Paulo, where the gap between <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">João Doria</a> and incumbent Márcio França is of only 6 points.</li> <li><strong>National Museum.</strong><strong> </strong>Teams searching the debris of Rio&#8217;s National Museum, which burned down on Sep.2, have found the 13,000-year skull of Luzia, the oldest fossil of the Americas. The skull, however, has been damaged by the disaster.<div class="free rcp_restricted 1"><div class="paywall "></div><p> <div class="readmore-cta-block"> <p><strong>Read the full story NOW!</strong></p> <div class="readmore-cta-grid"> <div class="readmore-cta-full"> <a href="" class="button button-green button-full">Start your 7-day free trial</a> </div> <div class="readmore-cta-half"> <a class="button black-text button-full" href="">Login</a> </div> <div class="readmore-cta-half"> <a class="button black-text button-full" href="">Subscribe</a> </div> </div> </div> </p> </div></li> <li><strong>Torture.</strong><strong> </strong>The São Paulo State Court dismissed a lawsuit against the estate of the late Army Colonel Carlos Alberto Brilhante Ustra, who has already been recognized as a torturer during the military regime. He had been convicted of killing a journalist during a 1971 torture session. The court cited the statute of limitations to reach its decision.</li> <li><strong>Central Bank.</strong><strong> </strong>Markets became volatile after <em>Bloomberg</em> reported Central Bank President Ilan Goldfajn intends on leaving his position at the end of the year, citing unnamed sources. Analysts point out that, if this does happen, it will likely mean that the Selic benchmark interest rate will have to go up from its 6.5% level in order to avoid capital flight.<br /> <hr /> </li> </ul> <h2>Hard-line Brazilians grow in number</h2> <p>Just a couple of weeks ago, Datafolha &#8211; Brazil&#8217;s most respected polling institute &#8211; published a survey showing that Brazilians have never been more appreciative of democracy. Curiously, though, the same institute published a new poll yesterday evening, which shows that the country is increasingly more in line with enabling the government with authoritarian powers.</p> <p>An increasing number of people now think that the public powers should be allowed to torture suspects, shut down Congress, push specific parties into illegality, or censor the press. Half of Brazilians also believe that the country faces risks of a new dictatorship &#8211; the rate is much higher among Fernando Haddad&#8217;s voters rather than Jair Bolsonaro&#8217;s voters.</p> <hr /> <p><img class="alignnone size-full wp-image-24588" src="" alt="Hard-line Brazilians grow in number" width="1300" height="820" srcset=" 1300w, 300w, 768w, 1024w, 610w, 460w" sizes="(max-width: 1300px) 100vw, 1300px" /></p> <hr /> <p><img class="alignnone size-full wp-image-24589" src="" alt="dictatorship" width="1200" height="332" srcset=" 1200w, 300w, 768w, 1024w, 610w" sizes="(max-width: 1200px) 100vw, 1200px" /></p> <hr /> <h2>Understanding the investigation into Jair Bolsonaro&#8217;s campaign</h2> <p>After a Thursday report that private companies were illegally paying for mass messaging services in support of Jair Bolsonaro (often spreading <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">fake news</a> about the Workers&#8217; Party and its candidate, Fernando Haddad), the Superior Electoral Court has decided to open an investigation.</p> <h4>The accusations against Jair Bolsonaro&#8217;s campaign</h4> <p><strong>Donations from corporations:</strong> Since 2015, corporations are forbidden to contribute to campaigns in any way, shape, or form. If proven that private companies have paid for services destined to help a campaign, that constitutes illegal campaign donations &#8211; which could result in the annulment of the Bolsonaro ticket.</p> <p>In September, one of the businessmen accused of taking part in the scheme, retail mogul Luciano Hang, was convicted of illegally sponsoring posts on social media for Mr. Bolsonaro, and fined BRL 10,000.</p> <p><strong>Illegal purchase of WhatsApp user databases:</strong> Campaigns are allowed to have mass messaging services, as long as they use their own databases, with numbers provided by voters themselves, with explicit consent to receive messages with content about politics. Campaigns are not allowed to use bots or fake profiles in order to spread information (even if the content is not false).</p> <p><strong>Illegal donations:</strong> The Thursday report claims that the costs with the messaging services were not declared by Jair Bolsonaro&#8217;s campaign &#8211; which constitutes illegal campaign financing, another electoral crime which could cost him his eligibility.</p> <h4>Actions taken so far</h4> <p>WhatsApp sent an extrajudicial notification to four companies that offer mass messaging services asking them to stop their activities for Mr. Bolsonaro. Over 100,000 accounts associated with those agencies were banned, said the company in a statement. Mr. Bolsonaro supporters, however, have migrated their messaging groups to Telegram, a Russian competitor.</p> <p>The Workers&#8217; Party filed a lawsuit asking for Mr. Bolsonaro&#8217;s ticket to be excluded from the race. This case, however, is unlikely be decided in the short-term. In 2014, Dilma Rousseff&#8217;s campaign faced similar accusations, and the case went to trial in 2017. If, however, the campaign is found guilty after Mr. Bolsonaro has been elected and has taken office, a new election must be called.</p> <h4>Steps before a verdict</h4> <p>Jair Bolsonaro and his campaign will only be convicted of anything if there is proof of collusion between his campaign and the scheme &#8211; and that&#8217;s a big if. Here are some of the steps of the investigation:</p> <p><strong>Analysing the contracts:</strong> Who exactly hired the messaging companies? Who paid for the services? Is it possible to make a connection with the Bolsonaro campaign? How much were these contracts worth? How many messages were sent out &#8211; to how many users?</p> <p><strong>Depositions:</strong> The Justice system will likely call a high amount of people to the stand, which can take time. Defense attorneys usually try to call dozens of people as defense witnesses with the sole purpose of delaying the case.</p> <p><strong>Bank secrecy:</strong> Investigators can ask for the Justice system to lift the bank secrecy of companies, as well as asking for access to phone communications between suspects. This could be the most revealing part of the investigation.</p> <p>The heads of the Superior Electoral Court will hold a press conference on Sunday &#8211; we will keep you posted on how this breaking news evolves.

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BY Gustavo Ribeiro

An award-winning journalist with experience covering Brazilian politics and international affairs. His work has been featured across Brazilian and French media outlets.