Brazil For Bolsonaro jail after defeat

Brazil: For Bolsonaro jail after defeat?

RIO DE JANEIRO | “I have three options for the future: be locked up, be dead or win,” Jair Bolsonaro had launched in August 2021, more than a year before his loss to Lula in Sunday’s presidential election.

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“You can be sure that the first option (jail) does not exist,” the far-right president said at a meeting with evangelicals.

However, analysts consulted by AFP believe this risk of imprisonment is very real, even though the trials could take years.

Since the beginning of his tenure, President Bolsonaro has been the target of multiple investigations, including for misinformation, and more than 150 impeachment requests, most related to his handling of the COVID-19 crisis, which has claimed at least 685,000 lives in Brazil.

These threats to reduce his mandate were rebuffed by two key allies: Attorney General Augusto Aras, who refrained from formally indicting the head of state, and Chamber of Deputies President Arthur Lira, who refused to pursue impeachment requests.

But from January 1, the situation changes: if Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is appointed to the top position, Jair Bolsonaro will lose his immunity as president.

He can then be judged by courts of first instance and not only by the Supreme Court.

Documents under lock and key

The Brazilian judiciary is already deeply interested in the affairs of the Bolsonaro family.

At the end of 2020, prosecutors filed charges against the president’s eldest son, Flavio Bolsonaro, now a senator, for embezzlement and money laundering.

Flavio Bolsonaro

He was suspected of “rachadinha,” when state-paid employees of an elected official donate part of their salary to their employer.

The case was finally dropped last May after a higher court found the inquiry had violated his parliamentary immunity by, among other things, lifting his banking secrecy.

However, a series of reports from news site Uol showed that prosecutors had strong evidence that the practice of “rachadinha” was widespread in the Bolsonaro family, including in Jair, who was an MP 27 years before he took office.

“When the presidential mandate ends, Jair Bolsonaro will be able to respond to general justice and the public prosecutor’s office will be able to open new investigations,” assures lawyer Rogério Dultra dos Santos of the Federal University of Fluminense.

The president has consistently denied any wrongdoing and said he was the victim of “political persecution,” including as Uol recently revealed members of his family had purchased 51 properties from 1990 to 2022, paid in whole or in part in cash, for a total of almost 4.8 million euros.

During his 100-year tenure, President Bolsonaro sealed a multitude of official or personal documents that could prove compromising.

“Lula has already promised that if elected, he will provide access to these documents. If he does, there could be legal consequences,” said Rogério Dultra dos Santos, who is a member of the Brazilian Association of Advocates for Democracy (ABHD).

These documents could contain, for example, revelations about interventions by evangelical ministers in the budget of the Ministry of Education.

“Fate à la Trump”

However, Rogerio Dultra dos Santos stresses that the trials “could take several years”, with multiple appeals delaying any possibility of imprisonment.

Jair Bolsonaro could benefit from a Supreme Court ruling releasing Lula after 18 months in prison on corruption charges.

In November 2019, the leftist ex-president was released after that Supreme Court ruled that an accused can only be jailed after all his appeals have been judged, rather than after an initial conviction on appeal.

In addition to the legal issues, Jair Bolsonaro had made surprising comments three weeks before the election that he wanted to “hold out” from political life in the event of defeat.

“I would be very surprised if he gave up politics. I see it more as fate à la Trump, who despite his defeat in 2020 retains significant influence over American politics,” said Mayra Goulart, a political scientist at Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.

Brazil: For Bolsonaro jail after defeat?

Indeed, in his speech on Tuesday, Bolsonaro said, “It is an honor to be the leader of millions of Brazilians,” after celebrating that “the right in Brazil has truly emerged under his tenure.”