Opinion, by Michael Royster
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – This is written on Friday the 13th of November, which may or may not be coincidental. Today, the Presiding Justice of the Brazilian Supreme Court, Ricardo Lewandowski, showed his true colors and the reason Lula appointed him in 2006: his remit was to ensure that the Lula/Dilma axis continued in power.
Justice Lewandowski was a lawyer in São Bernardo do Campo, Lula’s stomping grounds, one of the most corrupt local governments in all Brazil (which is saying something). Tired of practicing law, he joined the municipal government, and there caught the eye of São Paulo Governor Orestes Quercia, one of the most corrupt governors ever (which is saying even more), and was appointed state court judge.
Lula knows talent when he sees it, and Lewandowski is talented. He’s bright and thorough and thoroughly politicized. He knows which side of the bread gets the butter spread upon it. That’s the side he defends, always and in any circumstances.
Do any of our readers remember the “Mensalão” scandal? Sure, that was only small change compared to the “Petrolão” and other scandals burgeoning about Brazil nowadays. But think back!
The Presiding Justice at that time, Joaquim Barbosa, led the STF to convict prominent PT politicians and send them to jail. On the STF, his main opponent was always Justice Lewandowski. Every reason Barbosa put forth to convict PT politicians, Lewandowski said was wrong. Every attempt to put PT bigwigs in jail, Lewandowski opposed.
In short, Lewandowski knowingly acted as PT’s lawyer. Fortunately for Brazil, he was unsuccessful, and the Mensalão marked a sea-changing point in Brazilian society — important politicians were no longer above the law.
Today, Chief Justice Lewandowski, doffing his wig and his robe, got up on his hind legs and told a university audience the same lie that Dilma and PT have long been spouting — that impeachment amounts to a coup d’état. He said that if Dilma did not finish out her four year term in 2018, she will have been the victim of an “institutional coup”.
That is simply wrong, as Lewandowski well knows. When President Collor was impeached, Lewandowski supported impeachment. But of course, when it’s Dilma and Lula who are being shoved off their power perches, he’s changed his mind. Somebody (guess who?) called in the favor Lewandowski owed him, and he kowtowed to the power to whom he is beholden.
What this shows, in addition to a complete lack of ethical and moral scruples by Justice Lewandowski, is that PT, Lula and Dilma are beginning to be seriously worried about impeachment. Lewandowski is a heavy hitter, and he’s been trotted out as part of the shock troops defending PT’s corrupt scheme to maintain power at any cost.
By far the most worrisome aspect of this episode is, all but two of the eleven STF Justices were appointed by Lula and Dilma. Today, Friday the 13th, they know in their bones that they too will be called upon to betray their judicial independence and obey the political master who appointed them.
That is a frightening vision of Brazil’s future: it’s Lula as Putin, or Maduro, or Kirchner, or Mugabe, or (why not?) Kim Jong-un.
The Curmudgeon is a lawyer in his waking hours, and is immensely and intensely disappointed by the level of political subservience shown by Supreme Court Justices in both Brazil and the USA.