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World Brazil: President Jair Bolsonaro's showdown with the Supreme Court

13:50  29 may  2020
13:50  29 may  2020 Source:   spiegel.de

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In the fake news investigation, the Brazilian judiciary has offices and homes searched by Bolsonaro confidants. The President rages and threatens the Supreme Court - and his dangerous strategy could work.

  Brasilien: Präsident Jair Bolsonaros Showdown mit dem Obersten Gericht © MAURO PIMENTEL / AFP

Upside-down world in Brazil : The man who has been the greatest threat to democracy since the end of the military dictatorship 35 years ago is now complaining that the judiciary is denying his supporters the right to freedom of expression.

"They want to silence the media that are benevolent to me," raged Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro after the federal police, on the orders of the Supreme Federal Court, searched the apartments and houses of several of its supporters to distribute fake news in should be responsible for social media. "It has to end, damn it!"

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Brazil's rulers have seldom been seen as aggressively and agitated as this Thursday in front of his residence. His response suggests that the nation's top judges have hit the president in his most sensitive spot: they want to shut down the virtual propaganda machine that largely owes Bolsonaro his election victory. According to reports by former employees, it has been controlled from the presidential palace since taking office.

"Cabinet of Hate", the entrepreneur Paulo Marinho, a former follower of the President, calls the circle of Bolsonaro confidants, who floods the Internet with fake news, defamation and hate messages. You are said to be working from a room a few steps from Bolsonaro's office.

Attack on Third Violence

Investigations by a parliamentary committee of inquiry indicate that Bolsonaro's second oldest son Carlos is leading the group. Assistants from MPs who are close to Bolsonaro should help him; Bloggers spread the lies and slander through Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Whatsapp. Entrepreneurs who support Bolsonaro are said to have financed the fake news factory with several million dollars during the election campaign.

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With the start of a judicial investigation, the showdown between Bolsonaro and the institutions has entered a new phase in the middle of the corona crisis. While more and more people are dying of the virus outside the country , the president is pushing ahead with the dismantling of the rule of law.

His attacks are directed primarily against the third violence: he and his supporters have injected themselves into the Supreme Federal Court (STF), the highest judicial body in the nation. Its judges watch over the constitution, they are one of the pillars of democracy.

The Bolsonaro clan has been targeting the STF for a long time. "A soldier and a corporal" would be enough to close the court, his son Eduardo said two years ago. Just a few weeks ago, the president headed a business delegation to a bizarre spontaneous demonstration against the governors' corona quarantine measures in the courthouse, which is located directly opposite the presidential palace in "Place of three powers" in Brasília. Most recently, the STF sparked Bolsonaro's anger when the presiding judge released the video of a cabinet meeting that plays an important role in the abuse investigation into Bolsonaro.

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But no measure has upset the President as much as the fake news investigation. It was only a matter of time before Brazil broke the existing order, Bolsonaro son Eduardo said in a video yesterday. The conservative President of Parliament Rodrigo Maia described the statement as "bad" and "serious".

"Absurd orders are not obeyed"

General Augusto Heleno, the military spokesman in Bolsonaro's cabinet, immediately asserted that the armed forces were not seeking a coup. They don't have to, they are already in the government. The Bolsonaro Junior provocation is more likely to test the climate for further flexion of the rule of law.

It fits that the president has announced that he will not respect STF decisions from now on if he does not like them. "You don't follow absurd orders," he announced in the soldier's jargon. He apparently speculates that the judges will not have the courage or the strength to enforce their orders.

His calculation could work: despite the economic crisis, corona pandemic and the ongoing attacks on democracy, Bolsonaro's political base is stable: A third of the Brazilians support him, a survey published by the opinion research institute Datafolha in the middle of the week, just as much as four weeks ago. 43 percent refuse to take office, which is a slight increase of five percent. The division of the country appears to be carved in stone.

Against this background, impeachment proceedings have become even less likely, especially since Bolsonaro has made a pact with the "Centrão". This group of MPs is known for supporting everyone who provides them with posts and benefices. Bolsonaro has opened the state treasury locks for them. Without their votes, there is no majority for impeachment.

Against this background, the government can afford to draw the boundaries for democracy ever closer. General Heleno, the oldest and toughest of the ruling military, has set the bar: if the Supreme Court allows investigations to seize and evaluate the president's smartphone, as opposition MPs have requested, it will have "unpredictable consequences" for the stability of the nation.

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