Brazilian judge requests charges against president for promoting militias

The head of Brazil’s constitutional court ruled Thursday in favor of recommending a prosecutor to file criminal charges against President Jair Bolsonaro for inciting the formation of paramilitary militias. Bolsonaro “incited the formation of…

Brazilian judge requests charges against president for promoting militias

The head of Brazil’s constitutional court ruled Thursday in favor of recommending a prosecutor to file criminal charges against President Jair Bolsonaro for inciting the formation of paramilitary militias.

Bolsonaro “incited the formation of ‘paramilitary forces’ … in order to ‘restore a state of law’ in 2016, which clearly goes against the Constitution,” judge Chico Pereira de Armas said in a ruling.

Bolsonaro, a far-right nationalist who has called the judiciary “neo-slavery” and the media “treacherous,” won the presidential election in October with an electoral coalition that included the right-wing Social Liberal Party and the Christian Democratic Party, which in the past has led violence-plagued states.

Police believe Bolsonaro may have incited militia groups in 2016, when he posted a photo on his social media accounts in which he is surrounded by members of his Young Republica party.

In the post, Bolsonaro says the militia is representing the ideals of “liberty, equality and fraternity,” all of which are enshrined in the Brazilian Constitution.

In the ruling, Armas compared Bolsonaro’s post to violence committed by militias under former President Fernando Henrique Cardoso. There, death squads controlled by allies of Cardoso, also in the late 1990s, killed thousands of suspected militants.

Armas said the possibility that Bolsonaro may have signed pledges with his militia group to “effect an institutional coup or overthrow” is “interesting.”

“The real danger is that it’s become possible in Latin America to tell the people that they’re free, and when a truth emerges that suggests a different story, the people who try to commit this evil do it over and over again,” he said.

“An ideological mass is used to leave a legacy, which might appear profound … but when we study the background and the genesis of the phenomenon, it’s only a petty, bourgeois, careerist reality.”

Armas recommended that Bolsonaro be referred to the prosecutor general to be charged on two grounds: inciting the formation of a “mercenary army” in 2016 and inciting violence and criminal acts committed by militia members in recent years. The prosecutor general has up to 180 days to file a charge and may decide to offer a lighter sentence in exchange for agreeing to withdraw the criminal charges.

Previous rounds of violence are expected to lead to more arrests, according to Brazilian news reports Thursday. Police arrested two individuals on Wednesday night in Rio de Janeiro on suspicion of inciting similar militias.

In the opening days of his administration, Bolsonaro adopted a hard-line foreign policy that is likely to be at odds with the United States. In his first speech as president, Bolsonaro stood with the leaders of Belarus and Cuba, both countries he has repeatedly praised for their human rights records. He also met with Venezuela’s embattled president, Nicolas Maduro, who was also on his list of foreign policy priorities.

Bolsonaro has also vowed to reverse many of the social and economic reforms put in place by his Workers’ Party predecessor, Dilma Rousseff, during its 13 years in power. Rousseff lost her legitimacy in 2015 when the Supreme Court convicted her of breaking accounting laws.

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