Brazil’s leadership is suffering a different kind of pandemic

  • Brazil is currently in a crisis of institutions – an apparent pandemic or political madhouse, in which executive, legislature and judiciary all seek to overstep their limits.

The President’s general for “Security” issued a Note threatening the judiciary – simply insulting the democratic order. Happily, though, the Armed Forces are not behind him – we expect their exemplary behavior to inspire all 3 powers to show better respect for their Constitutional duties.

The true asset of a democratic country is its institutions, which ensure and guarantee individual liberty, the rule of law, and the existence of governments elected by the people.

In a democracy, if an irresponsible government invades the prerogatives of the constitution, the legislature and judiciary must act as counterweight, to re-establish the constitutional order, punish those who have done wrong and, in the limit, remove them from power.

But what is now happening in Brazil, when the representatives of all three powers begin to act as ‘vigilantes’, no longer obeying the constitutional limits laid down for them?

Brazil’s Constitution in fact has a clear answer. In the event of a ‘political pandemic’, the Armed Forces are expected to intervene to re-establish constitutional order. Article 142 of the constitution states the purpose of the Armed Forces as: “to defend the Country; to guarantee the Powers under the Constitution, and, at the initiative of any one of them, Law & Order”.

Thus, it is understandable that Brazilians who prize democracy are apprehensive at the frightening frequency of inappropriate acts by the three powers, irresponsible speeches by politicians at various levels of government, and unjustifiable attitudes taken by the president’s ‘military’ minister, who appears to speak in the name of the Armed Forces.

The inappropriate Official Note issued by General Heleno, who has ministerial ranking in the president’s ‘Office for Institutional Security’, threatening to act against the Judiciary, is a simple insult to democratic order. The inappropriate support for him from the Defense Minister, General Fernando Azevedo, and some retired military people, gives an impression that an Armed Forces conspiracy for a coup is in progress.

Happily, though, the attitude of these pajama generals does not represent the stance of the Army, Navy and Airforce. Indeed, we expect the exemplary behavior of these forces’ high command to inspire the executive, legislative and judiciary to be more restrained in their decisions, more responsible in their official statements, and above all, more respectful of their constitutional duties and obligations.

In this current political pandemic: the Judiciary and even regulators have unduly invaded spheres exclusive to the heads of the executive power, at the municipal, state and federal level; Congress has caved in to state corporatism, approving public expenditure that threatens to lead the country to bankruptcy; the president of the Republic has sought to interfere in the autonomy of state governors; and his ministers have suffered from verbal incontinence, firing off offenses and threats to the legislative and judiciary powers.

The survival of democracy calls not only for respect for the constitution and the rule of law, but also participative citizenship – civic engagement to combat acts of those in positions of government who threaten the functioning of democracy.

If democracy is under pressure in Brazil, this is the fruit of a combination of irresponsible governments, apathetic citizens, and autonomous adventurers seeking individual leadership by coordinating a coup to take power. Happily, the Armed Forces continue to be the iceberg of good sense in a world of irresponsible, delinquent people in ostensible government positions who lack the minimum veneer of civility and good behavior necessary to exercise power.

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