Mag Bolsonaro blijven en doorgaan als president? Of toch Lula?

Civis Mundi Digitaal #127

door Michel van Hulten

‘Lula is Toxic, but Bolsonaro is Lethal’


Gaat het in de wereld om Johnson? Om ‘Biden/Trump’, om ‘Poetin en Zelenski’?- Rusland/Oekraine’? Azië slipt nog net naar binnen in ons belangstellingsveld (Xi). Afrika is blanco. En Latijns-Amerika? Het meest dominante land Brazilië (215 miljoen inwoners), ook daarvan horen en lezen we nauwelijks.
De dag voor dit nummer van Civis Mundi uitkomt worden er belangrijke presidentsverkiezingen gehouden. Wie heeft er al over gelezen of gehoord? Misschien een enkele onderzoeker, beleidsmaker of-adviseur, journalist of voorspeller/opiniemaker? Blijft Bolsonaro of behaalt nu Lula weer de meerderheid onder de kiezers?
Recent zag ik twee artikelen die mogelijk wat belangwekkende informatie en in elk geval twee opinies geven als deel-antwoord op de vraag of het wat uitmaakt voor ons en voor de wereld wie van hen wint.
Het eerste is geschreven door Victoria Abut in the Global Anticorruption Blog, (18 okt). Zij concludeeert op een levensterrein dat mijn belangstelling heeft en dat veel beleid beinvloedt: “Not only is Bolsonaro worse for corruption, but he is worse for the country. Lula is the lesser of two evils. Het tweede artikel stond een week later ook in the Global Anticorruption Blog, (24 okt).

Dit was een oorspronkelijk Portugees geschreven open brief van 59 Braziliaanse academici die anti-corruptie onderzoeken en onderwijzen onder hun motto:
 “you cannot fight corruption without democracy” (1).
Posted on October 18, 2022 by Victoria Abut in: the Global Anticorruption Blog, Law, Social Science, and Policy

Victoria Abut is a student at Harvard Law School and received her undergraduate degree in International Studies and Latin American Studies from Vassar College. Prior to starting law school, Victoria worked for the Sao Paulo offices of two different international law firms. Her research interests include gender and sexuality, populism and political performance in Latin American politics.

When it Comes to Corruption, Lula is Toxic, but Bolsonaro is Lethal
The second round of Brazil’s presidential election—which pits incumbent right-wing President Bolsonaro against left-wing former President Lula—is a no-win situation for those who principally care about anticorruption. Both candidates have been embroiled in corruption scandals, and though both have deployed corruption allegations against their opponent, neither has articulated anything resembling a meaningful anticorruption agenda. For those voters whose top priority is increasing integrity and accountability within the Brazilian government, the question at the ballot box on October 30 will be: which candidate is the lesser of two evils?

Though painful, that question has a clear answer: Bolsonaro poses by far the greatest threat to anticorruption efforts in Brazil, and to the integrity of Brazilian democratic institutions as a whole. Lula is by no means an ideal candidate, and it is entirely understandable that many Brazilian voters are deeply concerned about the numerous corruption scandals involving his party, the PT (see herehere, and here). But Bolsonaro’s administration has been ripe with scandals as well (see herehere, here, and here). Ultimately, whatever Lula’s personal ethical failings may be, he is far more likely than Bolsonaro to preserve the institutional accountability mechanisms that are necessary to address corruption over the longer term.
To get an idea of why, it is useful to take a look at Bolsonaro and Lula’s track records:
• Although Bolsonaro’s first presidential campaign back in 2018 emphasized anticorruption rhetoric, his “decisions in government [have] systematically undermine[d] the anticorruption agenda.” Within a month in office, the Bolsonaro administration issued a decree that would have allowed a far greater number of public officials to classify official government information with the highest degree of confidentiality, thereby obstructing government transparency to a staggering extent. Although the decree failed in ongress, Bolsonaro nevertheless took advantage of existing legal loopholes to  designate an unprecedented amount of information as classified. Such brazen disregard for transparency has dangerous long-term implications, as it makes corrupt acts harder to identify and prosecute.
• Rather than bolster the institutions fighting corruption, Bolsonaro has systematically chipped away at their power and legitimacy. For instance, in a dramatic break from precedent, Bolsonaro appointed Augusto Aras to be Chief General Prosecutor, despite him not being on the list of candidates drawn up by the country’s federal prosecutors. This move defied longstanding norms regarding limits on presidential interference with the prosecutor’s office. Once appointed, Aras wasted little time in shutting shut down numerous anticorruption taskforces (see here and here), most notably the Operation Car Wash Taskforce. Stunningly, Bolsonaro audaciously claimed that this taskforce ended “because there is no more corruption in the government.” Bolsonaro similarly dismantled the Financial Activities Board Control (known by its Portuguese acronym COAF) by relocating it several times and removing its head. Even more suspicious, such changes overlapped with the emergence of news that COAF was investigating allegations against Bolsonaro’s eldest son for money laundering. Bolsonaro has also lodged repeated attacks against the Federal Police and the Supreme Court. In short, Bolsonaro has been systematically weakening and politicizing the institutions that are supposed to be checks on corruption.
• By contrast, Lula, for all of his ethical shortcomings, was an institution builder. The irony of Lula and the PT is that they empowered and strengthened the institutions that ultimately led to their downfall. Indeed, under Lula, judges, prosecutors, and the police were given far more independence and greater budgets, allowing them to be more effective watchdogs on government accountability. “Before Lula took power, we were toothless,” said Luis Humberto, of the Federal Police union. “The [PT] increased our budget, upgraded our equipment and gave us more authority. It is ironic. They lost power because they did the right thing.” Whereas Lula strengthened the administrative institutions that came back to haunt him, Bolsonaro has undermined them at every turn.
• A nice illustration of the difference between Lula and Bolsonaro’s approaches to corruption as it pertains to institutions has to do with the way their administrations have each attempted to funnel money to legislators in return for favorable congressional votes. Under Lula, this became known as “mensalão,” the term used to describe the notorious 2005 vote-buying scandal wherein numerous politicians closely tied to the PT were arrested for bribing lawmakers with under-the-table stipends in return for their political support. In contrast, Bolsonaro’s administration passed a 2019 parliamentary budget amendment known as the “secret budget” because of its scant disclosure requirements regarding how the money is to be spent or allocated. Through this amendment, the Bolsonaro administration was able to channel at least 9 billion reais (roughly US$1.75 billion) to legislators in return for their support on critical votes. While some may say mensalão was worse because it was illegal, the secret budget far more nefariously renders bribery formal, legal, and routine. When corruption is institutionally formalized, not only does it become harder to eliminate, but corrupt practices become just a part of doing business. Yet despite sharp criticisms from international anticorruption organizations and warnings from Brazil’s own Federal Budget Office that the secret budget lacks “any constitutional support,” Bolsonaro has maintained the policy. That Bolsonaro and his administration have repeatedly ignored warnings, including from his own cabinet, regarding the shaky constitutional grounds on which this provision stands raises alarms as to his utter disregard for the democratic accountability systems that help fight corruption. (All that said, the Supreme Court plans to revisit the secret budget after the elections, and seems poised to deem it unconstitutional. But the point here has less to do with whether the secret budget will persist, but what this reveals about Bolsonaro’s approach to governance.)
Of course, past behavior doesn’t necessarily guarantee what Lula and Bolsonaro would do next term. There is the chance, for example, that a Lula presidency this time around will be far different from his prior administrations. For one, Lula is no longer the same candidate as before, and his former advisors have themselves either been mired in controversy or replaced by the attorneys who defended him during his corruption investigations. Perhaps Lula’s prior convictions will lead him to change his views regarding respect for institutional accountability mechanisms, and he might therefore work to undermine or politicize Brazil’s institutions. But there is a near-certainty that Bolsonaro will do so, given that is what he is already doing. Indeed, a more general process of democratic backsliding under Bolsonaro has already begun.
An additional factor also suggests that another Lula presidency would pose less of a corruption threat than a continued Bolsonaro administration: In the most recent congressional election, held on October 2, members of Bolsonaro’s party won the most seats in both chambers of Congress. With a highly partisan Congress in his pocket, Bolsonaro would have far more liberty to be even more brazen with his corruption and his assault on Brazilian institutions. In contrast, a President Lula would have to contend with a hostile Congress that would watch him like a hawk. The looming threat of impeachment would also serve as a powerful disincentive for Lula to give his enemies in Congress even the most threadbare excuse to initiate proceedings to remove him from office.
To be clear, this upcoming election isn’t just about corruption. As noted above, Bolsonaro also poses an existential threat to Brazilian democracy, through his unsubstantiated attacks on country’s electronic voting system, as well as his alliance with the Brazilian military (including his support for Brazil’s brutal military dictatorship). But these issues are also intertwined with corruption. After all, corruption thrives in circumstances of political disarray. And in the wake of a catastrophic pandemic, and with the country facing a record increase in social inequality and environmental collapse, the dangers of corruption have only been magnified and exacerbated under Bolsonaro. So while there isn’t an ideal choice in this election, there is clearly a better choice. Not only is Bolsonaro worse for corruption, but he is worse for the country. Lula is the lesser of two evils.

Brazilian Anticorruption Experts Weigh in on the Presidential Election | GAB | The Global Anticorruption Blog Posted on October 24, 2022 by Matthew Stephenson
Brazilian Anticorruption Experts Weigh in on the Presidential Election
The upcoming presidential election in Brazil, which pits right-wing incumbent Jair Bolsonaro against former President Lula –  of the left-wing Workers’ Party (PT) – puts voters who care primarily about government integrity in a tough spot. Some of the leading figures in Brazil’s so-called “Car Wash” anticorruption operation have publicly embraced President Bolsonaro, pointing (explicitly or implicitly) to the corruption scandals under Lula and the PT. Others, including Victoria on this blog, have argued that between the two, Bolsonaro would be worse for the fight against corruption than would Lula.

Recently, a group of 59 Brazilian scholars who research and teach on anticorruption and related topics weighed in on this issue with an open letter, originally published in Portuguese. This is an important contribution to the discussion, of interest not only to Brazilians but to the international community that cares about this issue. With the permission of the letter’s organizers, their English translation of the letter is below, with the list of signatories:
 You cannot fight corruption without democracy
In a few days, Brazilians will go back to the polls to vote for president and, once again, corruption takes center stage in the public debate. In light of the damaging incidents uncovered in the past, several of which were exposed by Operation Carwash, there are many who are reluctant to trust former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva with their vote, fearing that his victory would represent a backward step in the fight against corruption.
We are researchers and educators who have dedicated our academic and professional careers to studying corruption, ethics, integrity and transparency. We have conducted our studies and research in Brazil and in countries around the world. We have backgrounds in various fields of knowledge such as law, economics, management, history, political science, and several others. What we all have in common is the fact that we produce knowledge that helps understand the serious social issue that is corruption.
Taking into account just how large of a role the study of corruption plays in our lives, we understand that for many it might come as a shock to know that, on October 30, we will be voting for Lula. Although we have all made the same decision, each of us has taken a different path before reaching it. However, we are united in the certainty that there is no contradiction whatsoever between our vote and our commitment to the anticorruption agenda. On the contrary, they both reflect the same conviction: you cannot fight corruption without democracy.
In recent decades, successive investigations have uncovered extensive evidence on the extensive collusion between certain business and political leaders to the detriment of the public interest, which has led many Brazilians to deeply distrust the country’s political system. However, it is necessary to acknowledge that these vicious practices only came to light thanks to certain institutional and regulatory advancements that have developed since the advent of the 1988 Brazilian Constitution, many of which were designed, implemented, and improved under intense pressure from – and interaction with – the opposition, organized civil society, the professional media, and the international community – something that can only happen in a democracy.
Thus, it is impossible to separate this strengthening of anticorruption efforts from the democratic gains achieved over the past decades. Though it may not have played out in an entirely unswerving manner, this strengthening process can be observed in each of Brazil’s federal administrations since re-democratization up to the launch of Operation Carwash – including that of the Workers’ Party, to which Lula belongs, during which the country made significant strides toward developing a legal and institutional framework to combat corruption.
This process has been interrupted by the election of Jair Bolsonaro in 2018. Although he was elected with promises of taking the country to a new level of integrity and rejecting these much-reviled practices found in Brazilian politics, the following four years were marred by successive corruption scandals, alliances with the most deeply clientelist sectors of Brazil’s political landscape, political interference in key investigation organs, the dismantling of the nation’s legal and institutional corruption-fighting apparatus, and the undermining of public transparency and social oversight over the government’s affairs.

All these setbacks, which have been widely documented in academic publications, civil society statements, and even by international organizations, point to the same unavoidable conclusion: Bolsonaro’s alleged commitment to the fight against corruption is merely rhetorical. The anticorruption cause only interests him as far as it can be used as a cudgel to get the Brazilian people to vote against his rivals.

Even more serious than Bolsonaro’s lack of commitment to the anticorruption agenda is his lack of commitment to democratic values and the rule of law. The fight against corruption is not an end in itself. Above all, what inspires this fight is the recognition that corruption is one of the greatest barriers to the State’s capacity to address various existing inequalities and serve its citizens adequately, thus ensuring fundamental rights for all. The fight against corruption is, therefore, a means to a greater end, that of guaranteeing the rights of the people. It follows, then, that the anticorruption agenda is not advanced at the expense of democratic institutions and the rule of law, but rather must be steered by them.

Throughout his political career and his time as President, Bolsonaro has shown time and time again that he does not share the democratic values that guide the 1988 Constitution. From his declared admiration for Brazil’s military dictatorship and its torturers through his several attempts to sow distrust in the integrity of the country’s electoral process, including his constant attacks on the constituted powers, it has become clear that Bolsonaro represents a real and imminent threat to Brazilian democracy. This is why so many of Lula’s historical rivals have set aside their differences and rallied around his presidential bid – because he represents the only current alternative to a project that seeks to dismantle our republic.

Voting for a certain candidate does not mean endorsing their policies: at times, all we are given is the choice of which administration to oppose. Many of us, signed below, will certainly choose to oppose the winning candidate, whether we voted for them or not. However, when faced with the choice of being in the opposition to a democratic government or an authoritarian one, we will always opt for the democratic government.

Therefore, voting for Lula does not, in any way, dim or extinguish the critical faculties that each citizen must cultivate in a democracy as pluralistic as Brazil’s; on the contrary, it is precisely these critical faculties that have led us to acknowledge the exceptional nature of the choice now presented to the Brazilian people.

To vote for Lula is to express the conviction that the fight against corruption will not advance by means of bravado or political catchphrases; it means expressing the conviction that the fight against corruption must not come at the expense of the democratic order; on the contrary, it is the conviction that progress in this area can only be sustainable when it is accompanied by the strengthening of democratic values and institutions; in short, it is the conviction that you cannot fight corruption without democracy.



Amon Barros
André Assumpção
Andreia Reis do Carmo
Armando Castro
Bárbara Alencar Ferreira Lessa
Beatriz Silva da Costa
Bruno Pinheiro Wanderley Reis
Bruno Wilhelm Speck
Caio César de Medeiros Costa
Caio Coelho
Camila Pagani
Cecília Choeri
Conrado Hubner Mendes
Eduardo Saad Diniz
Fabiano Engelmann
Fabio de Sa e Silva
Fernanda Odilla
Fernando Filgueiras
Frederico Lustosa da Costa
Graziela Dias Teixeira
Guilherme France
Guilherme Siqueira de Carvalho
Isabel Cristina Veloso de Oliveira
Jamile Camargos de Oliveira
João Mendes Rocha Neto
José Álvaro Moisés
José Sérgio da Silva Cristóvam
Juliane Sant’Ana Bento
Leonardo Avritzer
Letícia Meniconi Barbabela
Ligia Mori Madeira
Luciano Da Ros
Luiz Fernando Vasconcellos de Miranda
Manoel Galdino
Manoel Gehrke
Marco Antonio Carvalho Teixeira
Marcos Fernandes Gonçalves da Silva
Maria Dominguez
Maria Eugênia Trombini
Mariana Carvalho
Mariana Mota Prado
Marta Rodriguez de Assis Machado
Michael Freitas Mohallem
Miguel Reale Júnior
Nara Pavão
Paula Chies Schommer
Paulo Roberto Neves Costa
Rafael Cláudio Simões
Ranulfo Paranhos
Raquel de Mattos Pimenta
Renato Chaves
Rodrigo Rossi Horochovski
Rogério Arantes
Rossana Guerra
Suylan de Almeida Midlej e Silva
Thiago José Tavares Ávila
Vanessa Elias de Oliveira
Vinicius Reis
Wagner Pralon Mancuso