What does the ignoring of the judicial order for Lula’s release from prison mean for Brazilian democracy? To what extent do the events of the last few days mean it is turning into a fascist state?
1. First of all, Brazilian democracy was pretty sick already, after Dilma Rousseff’s illegal impeachment in 2016, and the conviction by prosecutor/judge Sergio Moro of Lula for “indeterminate acts” without material evidence, making him effectively a political prisoner.
2. The legal system which enabled Lula’s conviction is anyway a bizarre inheritance from the Portuguese Inquisition, and needs deep reform to be consonant with democratic norms.
3. Even within this system, Moro committed illegal acts which should have rendered his conviction of Lula null and void. That is to say, Lula was already a political prisoner without this observance of the law.
4. Modern-day fascism appears to be proceeding step-by-step, by gradual incursions on democratic norms, as opposed to the military coup d’etats which plagued Latin America in the 60s and 70s.
5. On Sunday there was a further such step, a further attack on the rule of law. When a higher court judge ordered Lula’s release, Moro from his beach holiday in Portugal called the Federal Police in his home state of Curitiba to tell them not to release him. As a lower court judge, he had no authority to countermand Judge Favreto’s order, and this represents not only the politicization of the judicial system, but an illegal politicization of the federal police, a quasi-fascist development. It appears that the Federal Police can now choose to look to conservative authorities before carrying out any judicial order.
6. When the conservative president of Favreto’s court (also on holiday) finally countermanded the order for Lula’s release, the question is to what extent this means that legal order was restored. An overview would suggest that this is far from the case. It is clear now that either legal or illegal authority will be used to keep Lula in prison, with the purpose of ending his bid for the Presidency, which he would certainly win. What happened at the weekend is a significant further step along the road to the end of Brazilian democracy.