Former Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro has been barred from holding political office for the next eight years. The country’s Supreme Court ruled on June 30 that he had abused his political power, attacked the electoral system and misused the media. Analysts say he’s likely to suffer more consequences, as this was just one of more than a dozen cases pending against the former president.
The ruling has left some wondering how Bolsonaro could be stripped of his right to hold office in Brazil, while his idol, Donald Trump, in the United States is still a leading candidate for the Republican nomination next year. For legal scholars, the answer comes down to the differing role of free speech rights in each country.
Production / Post-Production: Michael Fox
Mike Fox: Former Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro has been barred from holding public office for the next eight years.
The country’s Supreme Court ruled on June 30th that he had abused his political power, attacked the electoral system and misused the media.
Benedito Gonçalves, Supreme Court Justice: “I declare his ineligibility for eight years from the election of 2022.”
Mike Fox: Five judges agreed that he used government channels and social media to promote his campaign and spread misinformation about Brazil’s electoral system.
Alexandre de Moraes, Supreme Court Justice: “He spread lies, absolutely fraudulent Information. They were not opinions. They were not possible opinions. They were lies.”
Mike Fox: The ruling focused on a meeting that Bolsonaro held in July, last year, where he told foreign ambassadors that the country’s electoral voting system was rigged and the [results] of the then-upcoming election could be manipulated.
This, despite the fact that Brazil’s electoral system had long been internationally recognized as safe and secure.
Benedito Gonçalves, Supreme Court Justice: “He created the belief that the alteration of the results was a threat to the 2022 elections.”
Mike Fox: Brazilians celebra ted the ruling across the country.
Crowds: “Unelectable!” “It’s time for Jair to leave!”
Mike Fox: The judgment marks the first time a Brazilian president has been barred from holding public office for election violations.
Bolsonaro’s supporters attacked the ruling on social media. His far-right Liberal Party shared a video in his defense.
Donald Trump: “One of the great presidents of any country in the world, President Bolsonaro.”
Mike Fox: Bolsonaro denounced the judgment against him, calling it politically motivated.
Jair Bolsonaro, former Brazilian President: “No one behaved better than me. Some people even complained I was too good. I never did anything outside the Constitution… I’ve been out of the government for six months. I wasn’t even here on January 8, and they have been persecuting me the whole time.”
Mike Fox: Bolsonaro’s on-going attacks on the country’s electoral system led many of his followers to question the results of last year’s October’s elections, which former leftist president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva won by more than 2 million votes.
Bolsonaro’s followers protested the election results. They camped outside military barracks, demanding that the armed forces intervene to block Lula’s inauguration.
On January 8th, they attacked Brazil’s capital, ransacking government buildings in a copycat performance of the January 6 capitol invasion by Trump supporters in 2021. Thousands of pro-Bolsonaro rioters were swiftly jailed by Brazilian law enforcement.
Bolsonaro is now barred from running for office until 2030. And this ruling is the culmination of just one of more than a dozen cases pending against the former president.
Fabio de Sa e Silva: “There is not a short list of conducts that he committed that violate the law, whether it’s electoral law, whether it’s a criminal law. And I’m sure he’s going to suffer more consequences from what he did.”
Mike Fox: Many analysts believe it could be the end of his political career. But it will not likely be the end of his far-right movement.
His wife, Michelle Bolsonaro, is a devout evangelical who posted on Instagram following the ruling that their “dream is more alive than ever.” “I am at your orders, my CAPTAIN,” she wrote.
Bolsonaro has said she could potentially run for office in the next elections.
Bolsonaro also has three politician sons, all of whom are prominent figures in Brazil’s far-right. But they have also faced criminal and political investigations.
Bob Fernandes, Brazilian journalist: “I hope that this ruling is just the first step so that they investigate all areas of Bolsonarism—meaning, Bolsonaro and his family.”
Mike Fox: The Supreme Court ruling has left some wondering how Bolsonaro could be stripped of his right to hold office in Brazil, while his idol, Trump, in the United States is still a leading candidate for the Republican nomination next year.
For legal scholars, the answer comes down to the differing role of free speech rights in each country.
Fabio de Sa e Silva: “Bolsonaro is basically being punished by something that he said about the electoral system. And in the United States, saying things, you know, propagating lies and misinformation about the electoral system… I don’t think it would be punishable at all under any circumstance, because of how strong the protection to free speech rights is in the United States. And, you know, in the past, I think a lot of people thought of this as an advantage of the United States in comparison to other societies. But I think, more recently, there has been a rethinking of this, and there has been an understanding that it’s not that other countries lack free speech rights; it’s just that they have other rights that they balance free speech rights against. And in the case of Brazil, you know, because we all understood in the 2018 election that misinformation was a serious threat to democracy, the legal system began to offer a response.”
Mike Fox: In other words, for Brazil, democracy and fair elections trumps people’s right to share and spread clearly biased information. And that includes the president.
For The Real News, I’m Michael Fox