When Brazil’s federal appellate court (STJ) released the former governor of the Federal District, José Roberto Arruda, from prison on Monday, April 12, it also released the other five former aides to the governor and members of his administration who were in jail at Papuda, the federal prison.
All of them part of an attempt to bribe a witness in the investigation known as Pandora’s Box, which was looking into a corruption ring in the Federal District. Among those who walked out was Geraldo Naves, a substitute deputy.
What is a substitute deputy? In Brazilian politics, all senators are elected with a standby, a substitute, who is part of the ticket. Known as “suplentes,” the substitute is usually a crony, often a family member, frequently a big campaign donator.
Because of the difficulty getting majorities in Congress (there are 27 political parties in Brazil) and the horse trading it involves, it is very common for a senator to be tapped for a position in the administration (at the beginning of this month no less than ten ministers resigned to run for elective offices in this year’s general elections). What this means is that suplentes are frequently in action as substitute officeholders.
In the case of deputies (representatives) it is a little different. Candidates who are not elected go on a kind of standby list, in general the most voted at the top. When a deputy is tapped for a position in the administration (deputies are also part of the horse trading) he will be substituted in the legislature by the first “deputado suplente” on the list.
Geraldo Naves, first on the list, will substitute Junior Brunelli who resigned after a film (made by the whistleblower, Durval Barbosa) was made public showing him doing what is known as “the prayer in praise of bribes.”
In other words, on Monday Geraldo Naves got out of jail and on Tuesday he took office as a deputy (“deputado distrital”). And in that position, on April 17, he will vote for the new governor of the Federal District.
The Brazilian Supreme Court decided to postpone a ruling on a lawsuit brought by the Brazilian Bar Association (OAB) against the 1979 Amnesty Law. A session was scheduled for April 14 but the Chief Justice decided that the issue was sufficiently complex and important to require an examination by the whole court. Only eight justices would be present for the session while there are 11 Supreme Court justices.
The OAB lawsuit claims that the Amnesty Law infringes on a fundamental precept when, in its first article, the law refers to crimes “of any nature”.
The OAB position is that ordinary crimes, such as rape, bodily harm and other forms of sexual assault cannot be considered political crimes.
In its suit, the OAB points out that there is a difference between “political crimes committed by people who opposed the military regime and ordinary crimes committed against them by agents of repression as ordered by government officials.”
This is a question that goes to the very heart (fundamental percept) of amnesty in Brazil. For the simple reason that the translation of “rape, bodily harm and other forms of sexual assault” is torture.