Primate urges rule of law in Brazil’s corruption crisis

Posted Mar 23, 2016

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Primate of Brazil, the Most Revd Francisco De Assis da Silva, has appealed for calm in the country as continuing protests take place about alleged government corruption. Archbishop Francisco said that the protests “must not pass the limits of constitutional rights and liberties” and said that the corruption allegations must be dealt with by the “republican, democratic law” which was “soaked in the blood of men and women who gave their lives fighting for liberation in a fair, inclusive and peaceful society.”

The protests began in 2015 when allegations surfaced that a number of politicians had accepted bribes from the state-owned energy company Petrobras. They this month after the current President of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff, appointed her predecessor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, as her chief of staff which was widely seen as an attempt to give Lula immunity from corruption charges.

A judge of Brazil’s Supreme Court blocked Lula’s appointment last week over the corruption charges; and yesterday another Supreme Court judge refused to overturn that decision. The question will now fall to the full Supreme Court which will decide the issue when it reconvenes after 31 March.

The AFP news agency reports that Lula faces money-laundering charges related to a multibillion-dollar corruption scandal. Protestors are calling on President Rousseff to resign; but she has refused to do so, saying that she has not broken any laws. Speaking at a rally at the Presidential Palace yesterday, she called the protests a “coup against democracy” and told supporters: “I will never resign. Not under any circumstances,” the AFP said.

Archbishop Francisco De Assis da Silva has written “a few pastoral words” to the people of Brazil in response to the crisis as “a message of hope and trust in our God.”

He said that he hoped “the dialogue remains respectful and the political manifestations take place respecting the law and the Democratic rule-of-law State.”

He said:

The increasing tension must not pass the limits of constitutional rights and liberties, which have been earned by the Brazilian people and cannot be taken back. Two projects of society are at stake here: one that calls for the continuation of advances in social rights for the majority of the Brazilian population and the other builds on a conservative, authoritative presupposition, and is only for the elite and their interests alone.

In the face of all this, the Churches in Brazil are urging the Brazilian people to respect the republican, democratic law, constituted with a hard battle and soaked in the blood of men and women who gave their lives fighting for liberation in a fair, inclusive and peaceful society.

The investigations of corruption committed by agents of the State in all powers, including in the business sector, are an attack against the people and should be dealt with by the law, and only within the law. They are only legitimate when there is concrete proof and when they guarantee the right to a proper defence.

Corporate interests of the large media organizations cannot and should not be ideologically selective nor should they condemn anyone, a priori, because of their ideological profile. The attempt to disqualify people, as they are doing with the ex-president Lula, with no concrete proof, as well as other people with a left-wing political profile, is a clear corporative strategy which doesn’t help in the process of establishing the truth. It only accentuates the political character and increases the tension within society.

This is a global and Latin American problem that has caused conservative political changes in detriment of the large majority of the people and has provoked a disastrous political regression which our evangelical conscience should not tolerate.

But there is one thing that must not be forgotten: we should never let hate take over in political militancy and in the midst of the tensions we live in at the moment in our Society. Hate will always be a bad guide. Firm convictions cannot be used for the symbolic elimination of our opponents.

Therefore, I would like to say a few words to our Anglican friends, recommending that they observe the following:

  1. That the Democratic rule-of-law State be respected and that any manoeuvre that deconstructs the results of the ballot boxes be avoided;

  2. That any attempt to return to authoritarianism or any model that represents the end of individual rights be discarded;

  3. That the free expression of opinion be respected within limits that do not include hate and violence against people or groups.

May God bless us and may we be able to firmly defend a project for society that is filled with the values of Justice and Peace! A project that benefits all of society. May there be more love and less hate!