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Bolsonaro’s lawyer: Workers’ Party “uses courts to create a political narrative”

. Jan 12, 2020
karina kufa bolsonaro Karina Kufa, Jair Bolsonaro's lawyer.

Known for some time in Brazil’s political corridors for her work with parties in the electoral field, Karina Kufa gained public notoriety after she was chosen by Jair Bolsonaro to serve as his lawyer. This relationship was established after Ms. Kufa helped establish the Social Liberal Party (PSL) in São Paulo, allowing the party to put forward candidates for the 2018 election—among them, Mr. Bolsonaro’s son Eduardo, who is now a member of Congress.

Since then, Ms. Kufa assisted Jair Bolsonaro in his ascendancy to the presidency and was accused of being involved in last year’s internal split of the PSL, which led Mr. Bolsonaro and his allies to seek a new party. Ms. Kufa, who declares herself as a feminist, claims the rift took place because the PSL had no financial or administrative organization, and that all of her suggestions were ignored by party chairman Luciano Bivar.

One of the biggest scandals involving the PSL were the accusations of unlawful use of dummy female candidacies to embezzle electoral funds. The result of the imbroglio was the Alliance for Brazil party, created by Jair Bolsonaro to include his family and allies. The final approval of the group depends on the electoral courts.

Speaking of Mr. Bolsonaro’s affiliation with the PSL, Ms. Kufa called it a “marriage of necessity.” “There was no courtship period, it was a union with strangers. We believed the PSL was willing to change, but then we realized we had been deceived,” she told The Brazilian Report, in an exclusive interview.

Read the full interview below:

</p> <p><strong>Were the irregularities seen in the São Paulo office an early indication that the PSL would cause future problems?</strong></p> <blockquote class="wp-block-quote"><p>Unfortunately, at the time, the president did not have a more structured party to contest the elections. The PSL was extremely disorganized throughout Brazil. We already saw that it would be difficult to organize a party that was not concerned with good management.</p></blockquote> <p><strong>After that event, did the PSL seek you out to provide your services nationwide?</strong></p> <blockquote class="wp-block-quote"><p>After that job, I was introduced to Eduardo Bolsonaro by the General Secretary of the President&#8217;s Office, Jorge Oliveira, who was [Eduardo&#8217;s] chief of staff, and I spoke with him about managing the legal part of his campaign. After some successes on the congressman&#8217;s campaign, I was called to work on President Jair Bolsonaro&#8217;s campaign.</p></blockquote> <p><strong>How was your work in relation to fake news?</strong></p> <blockquote class="wp-block-quote"><p>Due to lack of funds to hire tools and people, we used Facebook&#8217;s search function, we listed the links and we filed our suits. It&#8217;s worth remembering that the only candidate to be punished [for misinformation] was Fernando Haddad, from the Workers&#8217; Party. Among the main instances of fake news, we discovered a false website that asked for campaign funds and a video that attacked the Supreme Court in the name of the president.&nbsp;</p><p>In the run-off stage [of the election], we saw that the Workers&#8217; Party&#8217;s lawyers were filing several actions, many of them spurious, to increase the caseload and overload the electoral courts and our team. Because of this exaggeration, we proposed a conciliation with the Workers&#8217; Party before the two parties submitted any lawsuit. The idea was accepted by the [electoral courts] and, on a daily basis, we watched the campaign broadcasts of the day and discussed whether cases would be filed. This helped to greatly reduce the number of lawsuits.&nbsp;</p></blockquote> <p><strong>So, was there a dispute between the Workers&#8217; Party and PSL beyond the electoral field?</strong></p> <blockquote class="wp-block-quote"><p>The Workers&#8217; Party tried to create a judicial narrative and bring it into the political arena. In one of the first actions they submitted, claiming fake news, the Workers&#8217; Party lawyers included several links, but none of them were lies or linked to President Bolsonaro. At the same time, the party&#8217;s vice-presidential candidate Manuela D&#8217;Ávila began saying on social media that she was the <a href="https://veja.abril.com.br/politica/tse-manda-facebook-derrubar-33-fake-news-sobre-manuela-davila/">victim of fake news</a>.</p><p>The ones known for spreading fake news are the Workers&#8217; Party. There were [scandals] in the campaigns of member of Congress Gleisi Hoffmann and former Governor of Minas Gerais Fernando Pimentel, and the 2014 attacks on then-candidate <a href="https://brazilian.report/power/2019/12/02/marina-silva-brazil-last-great-environment-minister/">Marina Silva</a>.</p></blockquote> <p><strong>Would you accuse the Workers&#8217; Party of litigating in bad faith?</strong></p> <blockquote class="wp-block-quote"><p>Yes. We identified this and tried to defend ourselves from this plan and attack it whenever possible.</p></blockquote> <p><strong>President Bolsonaro and his vice president, Hamilton Mourão, are answering a complaint for abuse of economic power in last year&#8217;s elections. How has the case progressed?</strong></p> <blockquote class="wp-block-quote"><p>The rapporteur of this case has already said it is weak and there is no proof. The plaintiffs demanded the lifting of confidentiality of businessman Luciano Hang, the owner of the Havan chain of department stores, who is a staunch supporter of the Bolsonaro government, and the search and seizure of his computers at his home and businesses. The request was turned down. It is out of order.&nbsp;</p><p>Everything that happened in the campaign was organic, and the biggest proof of that are the social networks of the Alliance for Brazil [Jair Bolsonaro&#8217;s new party, which is awaiting validation from electoral courts]. Within a week of creating these profiles we already had 100,000 people, two weeks later that number increased to 500,000. All this because the president and his sons posted the links on their social media.</p></blockquote> <p><strong>Is it necessary to create some sort of mechanism on social networks to fight fake news?</strong></p> <blockquote class="wp-block-quote"><p>We need to carry out social studies of what society wants. Social media is nothing more than an instrument of popular participation that helps in the propagation of ideas. Before, we had to send letters or emails in order to talk to any public official, or wait for stories to be published in the newspaper. Today, a post from anyone can gain notoriety, reaching the press and all political actors, including the president.&nbsp;</p><p>These mechanisms should not be diminished, but increased, always with responsibility. What we need is oversight. I believe that the law vetoed by President Bolsonaro that criminalizes fake news is unnecessary, even more so because they are already criminalized. This is a way to silence the voter, when we must give them more and more of a voice. The punishment should come after the act, not before. That goes for the press, too. The biggest damage to democracy is censorship.</p></blockquote> <p><strong>The divorce between the Bolsonaro family and the PSL, which resulted in the creation of the Alliance for Brazil party, was this always a tragedy waiting to happen?</strong></p> <blockquote class="wp-block-quote"><p>Yes. It was a marriage of necessity. There was no courtship period, it was a union with strangers. We believed the PSL was willing to change, but then we realized we had been deceived. The PSL was a small party and after the election it became one of the biggest parties in the country, with a lot of money. From that moment on, the leaders had to think about how the party would be managed, in every sense.</p><p>To plan this, I met with the deputy head prosecutor of the electoral courts, Humberto Jacques, and he suggested that the PSL sign a term of good party practices with the Public Prosecution Service, using rules already in place for structured parties to see how to we would properly spend the resources received from the public electoral fund and avoid dummy candidates. This occurred at the same time that the first complaints involving PSL president Luciano Bivar, former secretary Gustavo Bebianno, and Tourism Minister Marcelo Álvaro Antônio were reported.</p></blockquote> <p><strong>And how did the PSL receive these ideas?</strong></p> <blockquote class="wp-block-quote"><p>When we discovered this situation, we started thinking about what we could do to make sure the president would have a decent party, especially because President Bolsonaro had already demanded more transparency from political parties. He was very upset when he found out about the dummy candidate scheme, and I believe that his rift with Mr. Bebianno came about as a result of this.&nbsp;</p><p>We drew up a model of good practices in January 2019, which is actually in the statute of the Alliance for Brazil party. The PSL statute is really bad, even allowing for internal voting by proxy, but people sign the proxy when they take office as leaders.</p><p>These ideas were taken to Mr. Bivar and the party authorities. But he never had an interest in the matter. I was told at the time that he said he was afraid to implement the model because he feared an audit. And in one of the meetings with the Public Prosecution Office, congresswoman Joice Hasselmann was present and said she had been the mentor of the electoral compliance project, but that is a lie. She never gave that idea.&nbsp;</p></blockquote> <p><strong>You declare yourself a feminist, how did you react to the dummy female candidate scandal?</strong></p> <blockquote class="wp-block-quote"><p>It bothered me a lot because I have always advocated strengthening the presence of women in politics. But I see that the solution to this problem goes beyond quotas for women [Brazilian law requires that women make up 30 percent of candidacies of each party and that part of the puplic electoral fund be transferred to these candidates]. It&#8217;s also necessary to educate these women, so that they realize when they&#8217;re being used to embezzle funds, and create reporting channels so that the authorities may become aware of these facts.</p></blockquote> <p><strong>You&#8217;ve been heavily criticized on the internet, including with references to your private life. Did these attacks come from the PSL?</strong></p> <blockquote class="wp-block-quote"><p>Yes, they carried out a smear campaign and I have no doubt that the dossiers that reached the press came from the party. I know people who saw members of the PSL with these dossiers and congresspeople allied to the president confirmed that these reports had already been prepared long before the party split.</p></blockquote> <p><strong>And why you, and not the president, or his children?</strong></p> <blockquote class="wp-block-quote"><p>It is the logic of machismo: to reach the weakest link, which in this case is me, a woman. They must have thought that this would take me completely out of the picture, to blame me for the delay in implementing compliance, and then sign a manual of good practices made their way.</p></blockquote> <p><strong>The Alliance for Brazil is already being treated as a political party, but technically it has not yet been formalized. Members and congressmen who are helping to create the party have already stated that other parties could be used to host candidates if the Alliance is not approved in time for this year&#8217;s municipal elections. Could the PSL situation repeat itself?</strong></p> <blockquote class="wp-block-quote"><p>I am the treasurer of the Alliance at the request of the President Bolsonaro himself, but I have no interest in being a party leader, because my professional goal is to continue practicing law. I believe we will be able to formalize the party before the deadline.

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Brenno Grillo

Brenno has worked as a journalist since 2012, specializing in coverage related to law and the justice system. He has worked for O Estado de S. Paulo, Portal Brasil, ConJur, and has experience in political campaigns.

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