What Justice cannot see – spectacularization, publicity and coercion in times of Carwash Justice Statue, Brasília - DF - Brazil - photo credit: PSantaRosa

As it has been extensively discussed lately, Brazil has developed a fresh (and arguable) political conscience in the past years. People have been to the streets to protest for better transportation conditions, civil rights and even political reforms, being those demonstrations permeated by distinct political views, which caused, at times, even physical conflicts.

It is no wonder that this popular eagerness to ‘regain control’ over the country would echo in areas where public opinion shouldn’t have any influence, ergo the Judiciary was suddenly on the spot as well. The tragic death of the Supreme Court Justice Teori Zavascki became another of the many examples of how these political changes have taken new shape, along with the players involved.

Brazilian politics, especially in the late years, has been exposed to the citizens in many of its aspects – the corruption, the schemes, even the supposed crimes related to it. The reaction generates outraged comments, online and offline demonstrations, conspiracy (or not) theories and, above all, a feeling of political insecurity and a tendency to pressure all the political spheres they can – among them, the Judiciary.

It is not the first time in Brazilian politics that an unexplained accident of this kind happens. To remember a few cases, in 2002, mayor Celso Daniel suffered a kidnap followed by a tragic murder (a crime that now appears in the investigation of the Carwash Operation); Eduardo Campos, a president candidate with real chances in polls was in an airplane crash in his own plane (following some other memorable ‘presidential fatalities’, such as Mr. Kubitscheck’s car crash and a healthy Mr. Goulart’s unexplained heart attack). Mr. Zavascki was involved in a plane crash, in dubious ‘bad weather conditions’, during a time when he was analising over 800 plea-bargaining deals that would deeply involve politicians from various political parties, reasons why it was not a consensus that his being alive was convenient. Some years ago, Beatriz Catta Preta, a lawyer working in the same Operation, dropped the case after she saw the black market money changer, Lúcio Funaro , playing with her kids, a clear sign of coercion to push her client, Julio Camargo, into omitting episodes of corruption related to the then Lower House speaker, Eduardo Cunha.

For the well-functioning of a democratic system, there must be a guarantee that the powers are related, self-managed and independent. This means that external pressure should not be a factor to those who work for these powers to cope with. The Brazilian political system makes it possible for people not only to know the measures taken by their representatives, but also to communicate with them and follow their decisions online. The Judiciary, for its turn, has in its members judges indicated by the president – in case of retirement of death of one of the Supreme Court members – and is, by definition, free from any sort of external pressure or popular demand.

However, many factors, such as the 3-year-investigation of the widest corruption scheme known in Brazil, its possible consequences for some of most profitable Brazilian companies and biggest political parties, and the press (sometimes biased) coverage have turned the juridical processes of greater instance into a spectacle that would make Guy Debord jealous and the judges into characters, whose decisions are frequently questioned and interpreted by those who follow the great media. It, at times, even creates heroes: Judge Sergio Moro became an idol to the rightists after convicting many in Carwash Operation (and is speculated to be running for president in the future). It becomes obvious that politics goes way beyond articulating - more than is dreamt of in our philosophy.

If the political scene in Brazil was once called our House of Cards, nowadays it looks much more like another edition of Big Brother Brazil (a TV show based on unrestricted observation of the participants, on air in Brazil for seventeen years - and counting). The publicity guaranteed by the Constitution is fairly taken as entertainment and interpreted as such, without the reflection politics requires.

Being so, it is to say to say that the Supreme Court in Brazil (even though it is not an idiosyncrasy of this country) suffers – and might suffer even more- with the pressure that is installed in the country’s dynamics. That comes from several reasons, being the most significant of them the suspicious coverages of those events, the popular pressure from citizens who act more like rooters and, finally, from the players themselves, once an unfavorable decision can – especially in times of Carwash Operation – lead to ‘accidents’. The Judiciary faces a great challenge to keep in control of subjects that should be no one else’s competency and, being the price for that personal lives and honor, it is a mystery whether they are going to make it.  

Luísa Monteiro

MD Senior Editor, PR Manager

Luísa Monteiro is a bachelor in Social Communication and is currently taking a Master's degree in Communication and Politics at PUC São Paulo.
Her researches are closely linked to the studies of internet as a democratic agora and her latest academic production correlates the (offline) social movements and their exposure on the net.

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