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Author of Dilma impeachment sees no reason to oust Bolsonaro

. Feb 28, 2020
Janaina Paschoal Bolsonaro impeachment Janaina Paschoal speaking before the Brazilian Congress. Photo: ABr

Law professor Janaína Paschoal was near unknown to Brazilians until late in 2015, when she co-authored—alongside Brazil’s former Justice Minister—the impeachment request that led to Dilma Rousseff’s removal from office the following year. Gaining notoriety thanks to one particularly inflamed speech at a rally in São Paulo, Ms. Paschoal would become an unlikely protagonist of the biggest political crisis in Brazil’s recent history.

Janaína Paschoal provided all the legal justification for Ms. Rousseff’s removal. Formally, the ex-president was ousted for having pulled fraudulent budget maneuvers during her first term. And while the Constitution states that articles of impeachment can only encompass the current term of a given elected official, Ms. Paschoal argued that when Ms. Rousseff was re-elected in 2014, her second term could be considered an extension of her first four years in office.

</p> <p>In no time, she went from being a fringe professor at the University of São Paulo to becoming one of the faces of a new conservative wave that would sweep the country&#8217;s political establishment in 2018. Ms. Paschoal was elected as a state representative for São Paulo—representing Jair Bolsonaro&#8217;s then-Social Liberal Party—becoming the best-voted representative in Brazilian history with over 2 million votes.</p> <p>Despite being unmistakably conservative, Ms. Paschoal has now become an independent voice among Jair Bolsonaro&#8217;s supporters. She was once considered an &#8220;ideal running mate&#8221; for the president, but was visibly reluctant to be on Mr. Bolsonaro&#8217;s ticket and asked his supporters to avoid authoritarian behaviors.</p> <p>As <a href="https://brazilian.report/newsletters/brazil-daily/2020/02/27/bolsonaro-impeachment-offense-markets-coronavirus-vale/">calls for Mr. Bolsonaro&#8217;s impeachment begin to surface in Brasília</a>, <strong>The Brazilian Report</strong> reached out to Janaína Paschoal for her take on the current moment. While in 2015, Ms. Paschoal did not hesitate to employ a somewhat unconventional interpretation of the law, now she is much more cautious when it comes to calls for her president&#8217;s head.</p> <p><em>The following interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.</em></p> <p><strong>President Bolsonaro shared a video inciting people to protest against Congress. His critics have invoked article 85 of the Constitution, which says that threatening “the free exercise of the power of the Legislative branch” is an impeachable offense. Do you think what the president did qualifies as such?</strong></p> <blockquote class="wp-block-quote"><p>From a legal standpoint, it is not impeachable. I do not support the [anti-Congress] protests, much less the way the president uses to speak his mind, but there is not yet any grounds for an impeachment request.</p><p>While impeachment is a political process, it has to have a legal grounding. There were elements to oust former presidents Dilma Rousseff [in 2016] and Fernando Collor [in 1992], but for now, there is nothing against President Bolsonaro. I have no doubt about that. If the president is impeached just because he has no support in Congress, it will be very bad for democracy.</p></blockquote> <p><strong>But many of your detractors say the same about your accusations against Ms. Rousseff…&nbsp;</strong></p> <blockquote class="wp-block-quote"><p>People don&#8217;t understand &#8220;fiscal pedaling&#8221; [the budgetary maneuvers for which Ms. Rousseff was impeached]  and treat it as a minor issue. But it actually is budgetary fraud. Brazil&#8217;s fiscal responsibility laws prevent heads of state from taking loans from public banks—and Dilma Rousseff used the Banco do Brasil, BNDES [the National Development Bank], and Caixa Econômica Federal to fund her administration&#8217;s programs.</p><p>She also used public money to hand out billion-dollar loans to handpicked business owners. Mr. Bolsonaro&#8217;s situation is different. He did not embezzle money—at least not that we know of—he did not use a public bank to pay for a government program, and he did not loan federal money knowing that he would not be paid.</p><p>The situation is very different.</p></blockquote> <p><strong>Many scholars believe that the impeachment process you filed aggravated many of the country&#8217;s political problems. How do you respond to that accusation?</strong></p> <blockquote class="wp-block-quote"><p>This argument does not hold water. Severe crimes were committed, not to mention the corruption within Petrobras. I never promised that the Dilma Rousseff impeachment would solve the country&#8217;s problems. What we did was take action in the face of serious crimes. There was a power play in place, and it would have been very bad for the country [if Ms. Rousseff stayed in office]. </p><p>Several times I said that they wanted to transform Brazil into Venezuela, and I stand by everything that I said.

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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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