President Bolsonaro and Prosecutor General Raquel Dodge

After last year’s general elections, the new members of Congress barely had time to decorate their offices before maneuvers for the 2020—and even 2022—elections got underway. However, before all that, there is another highly consequential race on the horizon which is currently flying under the radar. Raquel Dodge, Brazil’s prosecutor general, will see her two-year term run out on September 17. It will be up to President Jair Bolsonaro to give her another term or pick her replacement, a decision he will announce within the coming days.

Ms. Dodge was the first woman to become the country’s top prosecutor, but is now bending over backwards to try and get a second term. She is the outsider in this race, having long lost the support of those she was supposed to lead, who now see her as an opaque boss.

</p> <p>She is accusing of not maintaining a constant dialogue with prosecutors, and her feud with Operation Car Wash has not helped her case. But Ms. Dodge is also being burned by prosecutors in Brasília for not acting as a union leader and championing the demands of prosecutors who want their already-hefty salaries to be inflated further.</p> <p>Her cause is also hindered by the fact she filed charges of racism against Jair Bolsonaro last year (while he was still a congressman), a case that was later shelved by the Supreme Court.</p> <p>The government wants someone who won&#8217;t represent an obstacle to its agenda. Mr. Bolsonaro recently said he won&#8217;t pick an &#8220;environmental zealot&#8221; nor a &#8220;radical defender of minorities.&#8221;</p> <p>The ideal name, according to most observers, is Ms. Dodge&#8217;s deputy, electoral law expert Augusto Aras. He has positioned himself as a supporter of the president&#8217;s agenda and favorable to the pro-business economic reforms spearheaded by Congress. Moreover, he defends parliamentary immunity as a &#8220;sacred prerogative,&#8221; which was lambasted by candidate Jair Bolsonaro, but praised by President Jair Bolsonaro. The head of state&#8217;s son, Senator Flavio Bolsonaro, used it as a way to block money laundering operations against himself.</p> <p>Mr. Aras has important backers, not least the president&#8217;s sons—who hold enormous influence in this administration—and <a href="https://brazilian.report/power/2019/07/17/jair-bolsonaro-true-super-infrastructure-minister-tarcisio-freitas/">Infrastructure Minister Tarcísio de Freitas</a>, who is in the president&#8217;s good graces. Moreover, he has had five meetings with the president, which has led many to consider him as a lock for the next prosecutor general.</p> <h2>What does Brazil&#8217;s prosecutor general do?</h2> <p>The prosecutor general oversees the entire prosecutorial unit in Brazil. The office is responsible for ensuring the rule of law and defending the &#8220;diffuse interests&#8221; of Brazilian society (in areas such as the environment, public property, cultural heritage, human rights, and the protection of children, senior citizens, and indigenous communities).&nbsp;</p> <p>Brazil&#8217;s prosecutor general may file challenges to the Supreme Court on the constitutionality of laws, promote investigations, file charges against individuals and companies, and recommend actions to private and public actors.&nbsp;</p> <p>The office also holds the sole responsibility for investigating and charging members of Congress and the presidential cabinet. This facet of the job has gained prominence in recent years, with high-profile trials such as the <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-20764518">Mensalão scandal</a> (when it was discovered that the Lula administration paid monthly stipends to members of Congress in exchange for political support) and Operation Car Wash.</p> <h2>The &#8220;three-person list&#8221;</h2> <p>The pick for prosecutor general is the exclusive responsibility of the president, with only two requirements: the appointee must come from the Federal Prosecution Office&#8217;s ranks, and the person must be older than 35. However, the National Association of Federal Prosecutors (ANPR) has held, since 2001, an internal election for the job—before presenting the president with a list of the three best-voted candidates.</p> <p>In 2019, the best-voted candidate was Mario Bonsaglia, who is considered to be a moderate.&nbsp;</p> <p>During the Workers&#8217; Party era, prosecutor generals were invariably the candidates atop the so-called &#8220;three-person list.&#8221; Former presidents Lula and Dilma Rousseff said this was proof of how they respected the Federal Prosecution Office as a body independent from the government (especially since Lula&#8217;s predecessor, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, picked the cousin of his VP, who became known as the &#8220;shelver&#8221;—due to his propensity for shelving investigations into government members).</p> <p>Former President Michel Temer, who took office after Dilma Rousseff&#8217;s impeachment, <a href="https://noticias.uol.com.br/politica/ultimas-noticias/2017/06/28/temer-ignora-mais-votado-da-triplice-lista-e-escolhe-raquel-dodge-como-sucessora-de-janot.htm">broke the tradition</a> by picking Raquel Dodge (who was, in 2017, the second-best-voted candidate). On multiple occasions, Mr. Bolsonaro said he is not bound to respect the list.</p> <p>Many legal scholars criticize the list—including Mr. Aras, who didn&#8217;t put his name up for the internal election. Instead of giving independence to prosecutors, it would empower prosecutors more concerned about labor issues regarding their peers rather than legal doctrines. Also, &#8220;imposing&#8221; the list on the president would also take away one of the president&#8217;s constitutional prerogatives.</p> <p>Regardless of who Mr. Bolsonaro picks, the <a href="https://brazilian.report/newsletters/weekly-report/2019/08/03/senate-center-stage-remainder-2019/">Senate must confirm</a> the nomination—which will take some political negotiation.

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BY Gustavo Ribeiro

Gustavo is the founder of The Brazilian Report, and is an award-winning journalist with experience covering Brazilian politics and international affairs. His work has been featured across Brazilian and French media outlets.