Opinion, by Michael Royster

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Law is not always boring, and the past week has brought (mostly) good news on the legal front in Brazil and in Rio de Janeiro. The Curmudgeon reports below on the good news and the bad, in reverse chronological order.

The Curmudgeon, also known as Michael Royster.

Today, November 9th, the ten Supreme Court Justices will, by a close majority (some say six to four) decide that the “Ficha Limpa” (or “Clean Rap Sheet”) Law, passed by Congress in 2010, is constitutional and can be applied in the 2012 municipal elections. Last year, the Court struck down applying the law for the 2010 elections, but avoided pronouncing on its underlying validity.

The bad news is that it’s a very bad sign for democracy when Congress has to protect voters from themselves, prohibiting them from electing candidates who have been convicted of fraud, corruption and other crimes. One would hope that the people, exercising their sovereign right to “throw the rascals out” would have done so; sadly, 2010 proved that many want to keep the rascals in.

Yesterday, after dithering for over three months, President Dilma appointed the 11th Supreme Court Justice. Rosa Maria Weber, a labor court justice from Rio Grande do Sul, was named to replace Ellen Gracie.

This appointment appears to have been made without relying upon Lula’s eminence grise, former Justice Minister Marcio Bastos, and is thus another indication that, slowly but surely, she is weaning herself off the Lula Legacy.

The bad news is that the advisors most responsible for convincing Dilma to appoint Judge Weber were her former husband and daughter. Nepotism it’s not, but it’s a bad sign when Dilma doesn’t seem to have others around her to give her counsel.

Yesterday, the papers reported that the Rio authorities had uncovered a long-running “militia mafia” operation whereby cops and their minions run the illegal parking schemes featuring “flanelinhas,” those hapless rag-waving figures who extort money from people wanting to park.

The bad news is that the scheme is widespread, involving dozens of civil and military police. Or, perhaps that’s a good sign, as it indicates that these police have now lost at least a part of their other traditional off-books income source—protection for drug traffickers—because the UPP civic campaigns are now moving traffickers out of their usual haunts.

Speaking of traffickers, on Sunday Nem, the drug kingpin of Rocinha, paid an unannounced visit to the municipal first aid station (UPA) in Rocinha, for treatment after an undisclosed incident during an all-night “funk” event.

Further reports are that Nem has already gotten word that Rocinha will be the next stop in the UPP pacification program, quite possibly soon. The bad news is, he’s supposedly moved forward the election of community organization officers, to ensure those who are elected remain his steadfast supporters, post-pacification.

Finally, last week news broke that the Federal Labor Ministry, long the fiefdom of PDT, another of the congeries of parties comprising Lula’s coalition, had been distributing largesse (i.e. government funds) to NGOs of its choice, without any follow-up. Reportedly the Minister is for the high jump.

There is no bad news here, only good. The sooner Lula’s greedy cronies are removed from power the better. More power to Dilma to make it happen.

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Michael Royster, aka THE CURMUDGEON first saw Rio forty-plus years ago, moved here thirty-plus years ago, still loves it, notwithstanding being a charter member of the most persecuted minority in (North) America today, the WASPs (google it!)(get over it!)

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The Curmudgeon moved to Rio almost forty years ago, and has pretty much remained here ever since. He’s been writing political commentary for The Rio Times for almost seven years. He used to refer to himself as a WASP (look it up) but doesn’t any more because it embarrasses him.

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