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On November 7, Brazil’s Supreme Court ruled defendants could only be imprisoned after all appeals to higher courts had been exhausted. The decision changed its previous position, stating now that an arrest in this circumstance violates the citizen’s constitutional right, as his guilt could only be asserted after the “res judicata,” that is, after trial in the higher courts (the STJ – Superior Court of Justice – and then the STF – Supreme Court).

By: Zé Maria, Metalworker and National President of the PSTU

In the mainstream press and social networks, opinions about the fact fall into two broad strands. One, that the decision strengthens impunity, as it would bring irreparable damage to the fight against corruption, which would be represented, in this view, by the Operation Car Wash (Lava Jato), the Judge and current Minister Sergio Moro and the Public Prosecutor Dallagnol. Another, that the STF has once again aligned Brazilian justice with the rule of law and thus restores fundamental democratic rights in our country. Long live the Constitution, they say.

In my humble opinion, none of them happened. The accusations that have been aired on the Intercept website have shown to exhaustion the cynicism and hypocrisy with which the so-called Lava Jato has carried on its alleged fight against corruption. I mean alleged because it was clearly seen that the Lava Jato protected many corrupt politicians who were not investigated, much less punished. Why was not Aécio Neves convicted and arrested? What about Alckmin? And former president Temer? Or MDB’s leadership? Was Eduardo Cunha the only corrupt man at the National Congress summit?

Not to mention the illegalities it committed in its proceedings, at least in the case of former President “Lula,” which is why we defend his right to a new trial. Not his acquitting, because we think his government did maintain the same corrupt relationship with the big business. But he has the right to be tried according to the rule of law, with full guarantee of the right of defense. It is part of democratic freedoms, individual rights to which everyone should have access. That is, it is not true that the Lava Jato is the expression of the fight against corruption. It’s just one of the faces – always cynical and hypocritical – of the Brazilian judicial branch.

Even Bolsonaro (PSL) and his militiamen, who say they support the Lava Jato and made the “fight against PT’s corruption” an important issue of Bolsonaro’s campaign for the presidency, have never really been concerned with fighting corruption. On the contrary, it is as corrupt a government as the others. There are, to prove it, the PSL election fund laundering; the relations of this political group with the Rio de Janeiro militia, of which Queiroz (both, incidentally, the member of former Deputy Flávio Bolsonaro’s office and the other, charged with the murder of Marielle and Anderson); Bolsonaro’s relations with the lumpen sector of the bourgeoisie that funds its fake news network, and a long etc.

But the other face of the judiciary, represented by the STF’s decision  (don’t take it wrongly, it has also the complicit Bolsonaro’s support), is not prettier than that. It merely intends to restore, to its fullest, the impunity of the rich and powerful in our country. It wants to end “abnormal” situations that have always been unacceptable to the system, which is that of powerful contractors and politicians imprisoned. This is what left-wing sectors linked to the PT and its satellites are sadly praising. Because that is what, in the bourgeois democracy in which we live, such a democratic rule of law represents. It represents an achievement against the possibility of a dictatorship like the one we had here between 1964 and 1984. But bourgeois democracy and its rule of law have never represented democracy and freedom for all. Far from it.

First, because, in fact, the so-called rule of law in this country only exists (and always has existed) for the rich. And a right, to be called democratic, must be for everyone. If it exists only for some (the richer minority, it is good to say) it is not a right but a privilege. Second, because it is a lie that now the citizen will only be arrested after a trial in the higher courts. This will only apply to people who have a lot of money to pay attorneys to assure the delay of their arresting. This is what the STF decision restores.

Otherwise, let’s look at this same problem from another perspective, that of the poor in our country. According to the CNJ (National Council of Justice), Brazil today has 812,000 people trapped in the prison system. Out of these, 41.5% (over 330,000 people!) were never tried. It is not that they were tried only in the lower courts. They were NEVER JUDGED. Will all these people be released tomorrow, by this STF decision? No, they won’t. For them nothing changes. Because they are poor and mostly black. By the way, it is good to say that the changes in the drug law promoted by the Lula administration in 2006, are responsible for a boom in the number of people arrested … always, of course, poor and black.

I could spend a few more pages giving examples to demonstrate what I meant above. But I just want to add a few questions. Why wasn’t Queiroz arrested yet? As a reminder, it was the same STF, in the person of its stilted president, that suspended the proceedings and the investigations against him. What about the suspended investigations of Senator Flavio Bolsonaro’s scams?

And I don’t even want to get into the criminal role of that same court, which keeps on sheltering rulers and bosses, to attack and eliminate constitutional working-class rights, helping to impose outsourcing, for example, or legalizing police violence against workers when they fight for their rights. We are just facing the same cynicism and hypocrisy as ever, of a “third power” that is not there to ensure justice for the country and the people. It is there to protect the powerful and, for that, it does not hesitate to smash the workers and the poor people in our country.

We must continue to demand, from this and all the courts of the country, to investigate and put in jail all the corrupt people and corruptors, and to confiscate their properties. We have to demand the condemnation and imprisonment of militiamen like Queiroz, and their boss, Senator Flavio Bolsonaro, among many others. But the workers and the poor people of this country cannot and should not expect anything from this rule of law. It will only do for us what we achieve with our struggle. If we want real justice, the lower ones need to get organized. To fight for our rights, for freedom, and for decent living conditions. And to defend us from this system that is by its nature corrupt, unequal and unfair.