Former Brazilian President Jair Messias Bolsonaro has been barred from running for office until the year 2030. A recent vote of 5-2 from Superior Electoral Court (TSE) judges ruled that Bolsonaro participated in crimes of abuse of power and misuse of the media. This marks the first time a Brazilian president has been suspended over election violations. Unicorn Riot heard from Gilbertinho Campos, a long time Black rights organizer, about his thoughts on the ruling.
Bolsonaro was found guilty of promoting attacks on the Brazilian electoral system during a live TV broadcast, the same system that elected him in 2018, and in other previous elections in the state of Rio de Janeiro.
The judges ruling disallowed Bolsonaro from running in the municipal and federal elections of 2024, 2026 and 2028. Bolsonaro may return to run in 2030, when he will be 75 years old. This is if the Court of Auditors of the Union (TCU) doesn’t opt for his exclusion also in 2030.
After learning the result of the vote in the TSE, Bolsonaro claimed he was the victim and made several attacks on the Supreme Court. He named himself as the only one capable of removing the current President Lula da Silva and the Workers’ Party from power in the next presidential elections. Bolsonaro said Lula has ‘already won by W.O. if he cannot participate in the elections.’ (Victory by W.O., or walkover, is a sports and elections term that means when a team’s and/or player’s opponent does not show up for the matchup or have been disqualified and the participating party wins automatically.)
Bolsonaro has 15 other electoral court cases he faces charges on. He is also being investigated for criminal charges over a variety of alleged improper actions he took during his presidential reign which include inciting the Jan. 8 riots, not declaring millions of dollars in cash from properties, and falsifying COVID-19 vaccine cards. Bolsonaro was previously tried and acquitted for spreading ‘fake news’ in 2018.
We talked to Gilbertinho Campos, a resident of Vitória, in the state of Espírito Santo. Campos is a member of the Círculo Palmarino (Palmarino Circle) a movement for Black rights and a renowned member of the Black Capixaba Movement. He told us that he was in favor of the result of the process against Bolsonaro due to the fact that the process follows the precepts of the law. He further told us that:
“Bolsonaro is not responding to this one process, he is answering for several processes. So, he will have to give many justifications to [the courts] and Brazilian society why he wanted to strike a blow at Brazilian democracy.”Gilbertinho Campos
Unicorn Riot: Were you in favor of the process and result that made former President Jair Messias Bolsonaro ineligible until 2030?
Gilbertinho Campos: I was in favor of the process because it was an electoral crime already provided for in the law, also with the result that made him ineligible until 2030 because once he committed an electoral crime, the penalty that is applied for this type of crime is ineligibility for eight years, there was nothing extraordinary. The rite of the proceedings took place according to the precepts of the law. So, he had ample right of defense, but the absolute majority of the collegium of ministers was favorable, and I agreed with all the arguments that were presented by the courts.
UR: What would be the main arguments to justify the ineligibility of former President Jair Messias Bolsonaro, in addition to the processes that he has already been tried?
Gilbertinho Campos: The main arguments have all been listed in the votes of the ministers who voted in favor of ineligibility, and I agree with all of them, all of them. All these arguments strengthen the commission of the crime. So, they are arguments in order to encourage important sectors of society to contest an electoral process from which he was elected countless times and he never questioned.
It was a way for him to also convey to his militants, so to speak, that the process could be a fraudulent process, which it was not. And that acceptance of the outcome of this process they would not accept. So, there is already an important moment for him to mobilize his supporters to make a grandiose act with the characteristic of a coup d’état, after the result [of the elections.] And what happened was January eight. On the eighth of January, everyone saw it on television. And all those who were involved in that there, are hundreds, they are in jail and they are already being convicted because they committed a crime encouraged by former President Bolsonaro.
UR: How has the former president’s authoritarianism and lack of accountability affected democracy?
Gilbertinho Campos: First we have to understand that Bolsonaro is from an ideological current of politics called “conservatism.” So, Bolsonaro is the fruit of this conservative thinking, which has always been very strong in Brazil. With the 2016 coup, this conservative sentiment grew a lot with the right – with Michel Temer, who takes away workers’ rights. Anyway, then Bolsonaro is elected with this discourse that the extreme right would have to have hegemonic space in politics. It is a series of acts that focused on the Democratic State of Law, Brazilian democracy… Every hour is an attack on democracy; various gestures, huge mobilizations calling for a military coup, the end of the Federal Supreme Court, the end of the National Congress, camping in front of the army with the benevolence of the military. All this configured a framework to apply a coup in Brazilian democracy and impose an authoritarian regime. So, it wasn’t just an act, it’s a series of acts by Bolsonaro. And Bolsonaro is not responding to this one process, he is answering for several processes. So, he will have to give many justifications to [the courts] and Brazilian society why he wanted to strike a blow at Brazilian democracy.
UR: What do you think will happen going forward with former President Bolsonaro, given that he will still be tried in 15 more cases in the Superior Electoral Court?
Gilbertinho Campos: What will happen with Bolsonaro is that he will be very watched from now on, of the acts that he may commit in relation to this crazy project of his to implant fascism, a fascist regime here in Brazil. And we of the Black population, of the periphery, of the communities will be the biggest victims, because it is a system of government that does not admit that the poor can assume a leading role in society. And from now on things will calm down, because many of his supporters are seeing that the boat he wanted to put the people in was broken. There are some who will continue even because they think [the] same as him, there are some who will leave because they felt cheated, that this is not quite what they were thinking. What do you have of women, old people trapped there on the eighth of January, a shameful thing! He will try to find another figure to replace him in politics, which may even be Michele Bolsonaro. It will also open a space of dispute between them to know who will be Bolsonaro’s political heir. There’s a lot going on, there’s 15 more lawsuits. If in such a process he receives a conviction, he will not be able to apply because he will enter the application of the law that prevents the candidacy of candidates who have been tried in the second instance.
Despite the barring and charges he faces, Bolsonaro remains a popular far-right figure in Brazil. On July 14, a large rally was held for Bolsonaro when he publicly appeared in the central Brazilian state of Goiás.
Cover image via Jeso Carneiro.
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