Opinion, by Michael Royster
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The Curmudgeon, together with almost everyone else in Brazil, is still on tenterhooks today — Saturday March 19th. The question on everyone’s mind is “Will he or won’t he?” The “he” is Brazil’s former President Lula, and the question is whether he will, or will not, take office as current President Dilma’s Chief of Staff.
The question has left the administrative sphere, because Dilma did appoint Lula, Lula did accept and was hastily sworn in last Thursday. In a normal world, that would have made the question of his appointment moot; Brazil, however, is far from normal.
As everyone now knows, the release of the wiretapped conversation between former and current Presidents showed (to put it mildly) an unseemly haste on the current President’s part to drag the former President out from his shadowy éminence grise position, into the public spotlight of Saviour of the Republic.
Haste makes waste, people say; it also makes for litigation. Within hours of the release of the tape, and within minutes of the swearing-in ceremony, lawsuits began to pop up all over Brazil, all of which sought injunctions against the former President becoming the de facto President. Two of these cases were filed in lower courts, and injunctions issued; both were overturned within 24 hours by appellate courts.
But then, in the immortal words of the Coaster’s eponymous 1959 hit, “along came Jones” in the reincarnated form of STF Justice Gilmar Mendes. Unlike the musical Jones, Mendes has never been known for being the “slow-walkin, slow-talkin” sort. Indeed, he’s the most extroverted and controversial Justice on the STF.
Holding in favor of a complaint brought by an opposition political party, Justice Mendes said “Halt!” to the appointment, on the grounds that the manner in which the appointment came about indicated several breaches of constitutional norms applicable to ministerial appointments.
This “monocratic” decision is subject to review by the full STF, or at least by one of its five-member panels, and it will be appealed. But over the weekend, former President Lula is still in limbo and we the people are still on tenterhooks.
The Curmudgeon will emit more dismal columns as long as limbo persists.