quarta-feira, 16 de janeiro de 2013

Brazil Selects First Black Supreme Court President Joaquim Barbosa

Brazil Selects First Black Supreme Court President Joaquim Barbosa

  • Joaquim_Barbosa.jpg
    Joaquim Barbosa smiles during his inauguration ceremony at the Supreme Court in Brasilia, Brazil. (AP)

Joaquim Barbosa was sworn him on Thursday, making him the first black justice to head Brazil’s Supreme Court.

The 58-year-old became the first ever to serve on the court when he joined in 2003, even though more than half of the country’s 192 million people identify themselves as having African descent.

Barbosa was elected in October to a two-year tenure as Supreme Court President. His election was a foregone conclusion since the court’s presidency always goes to the justice who has served on the bench the longest.

Over the past several weeks he gained national and international renown presiding over a high-profile corruption trial involving a congressional cash-for-votes scheme. The court has convicted 25 people including the fort chief of staff of ex-President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

President Dilma Rousseff, members of her Cabinet, state governors, congressional leaders and several sports and entertainment personalities were present at Barbosa’s swearing in.

“The multiculturalism that characterizes the Brazilian people is evident here today with Joaquim Barbosa heading the highest court of the land,” said Ophir Cavalcante, president of the Brazilian Bar Association in a speech during the swearing in ceremony.

Valter Silveiro, coordinator of the Center for Afro-Brazilian Studies of the University of Sao Carlos, believes Barbosa as a Supreme Court president “has a strong symbolic impact for Brazilian blacks.”

“The new generation of blacks will have the opportunity that my generation never had — of seeing a black man presiding over one of the three branches of government.”

Silveiro also stated Barbosa's history, background and achievements "strengthen affirmative action programs that try to increase the presence of blacks in the country's universities."

Barbosa was born in the small town of Paracatu in Minas Gerais state, where his father worked as a bricklayer. When he was 16 he went to the capital, Brasilia, to study. He worked as a cleaner and a typesetter at the Senate to pay for his studies at the University of Brasilia’s law school.

After graduating he was hired by the Foreign Ministry and served three years at the Brazilian Embassy in Finland.

A former federal prosecutor, Barbosa taught law at Rio de Janeiro State University and was a visiting scholar at the Human Rights Institute of Columbia University’s law school in New York and the UCLA law school in California.

Based on reporting by the Associated Press.


Lula's associates are sentenced in mensalao (monthly stipend) corruption trial

Supreme Court sentencing begins in Brazilian corruption trial

by Juliana Barbassa, Associated Press, October 26, 2012

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — A political corruption trial seen as a turning point toward cleaner governance in Brazil is nearing its end, with the country's Supreme Court starting to hand down tough sentences this week against powerful defendants.
Twenty five people have been convicted on charges related to the funneling of public money into political campaigns and a cash-for-votes scheme in the legislature. The court adjourned Thursday due to a judge's health problem and will likely resume discussions of sentencing of the convicted in the second week of November.
The trial has riveted Brazil for months, with results that have tarnished the reputation of the governing Workers' Party. The alleged corruption dates back to the government of former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, though he has not been charged and denies the schemes happened.
The accused included Jose Dirceu de Oliveira e Silva, who was Silva's chief of staff, and a host of other politicians, consultants and bankers. Jose Dirceu, as he is known, pleaded not guilty, but was convicted of racketeering and leading the vote-buying in Congress during Silva's first term in office, among other charges.
The first sentence, which came Wednesday, was for Marcos Valerio de Souza, a consultant considered the key operator in the cash distribution scheme. So far, he's been condemned to more than 40 years in prison and fined more than $1.3 million. Both will be recalibrated once a last judge has his say, and he'll be eligible to serve in a more lenient, semi-open prison system after completing one-sixth of the sentence.
To many in this country where public service has long been marred by corruption and impunity, the sentence was a powerful message signaling improving political health. The country's main newspapers reported it with above-the-fold headlines, trumpeting "the hour of punishment."
The Supreme Court has also determined that consultant Marcos Valerio de Souza acted under Jose Dirceu's command. On Wednesday, judge Joaquin Barbosa noted that "Marcos Valerio agreed to take part in this criminal enterprise headed by Jose Dirceu to seize political power."
Brazilians followed minute-by-minute on news sites the judges' discussion of sentences for Valerio's former business partner, Ramon Hollerebach, and wondered what this could mean for Jose Dirceu, who was once considered a likely presidential candidate. He resigned his post when the scandal broke in 2005.
Political analyst Matthew Taylor, author of "Judging Policy: Courts and Policy Reform in Democratic Brazil," called the sentencing "a watershed for Brazil." He noted that this is the first major political corruption scandal where the Supreme Court found the defendants guilty.
This has real weight, since the Supreme Court has traditionally been very deferential toward power and constrained by the cumbersome rules of Brazilian justice, he said.
Still, Taylor, a professor at the American University in Washington, cautioned against investing the case with too much significance. Brazil has made significant strides in promoting accountability in government and combatting corruption at various levels, but the judicial system is lagging behind, he said.
"The courts remain the chief bottleneck for justice in Brazil," Taylor said. "While this case is very important, it is the exception that proves the rule."
He said one of problems impeding justice is the glacial pace of the courts, noting it took seven years for this case to reach the Supreme Court. He also pointed to the special privileges afforded to politicians, including the right to be heard directly in Brazil's highest court, and to a plethora of avenues for appeal available to the elite.
"The fact that there are special privileges for politicians is anachronistic for a democracy as vibrant as Brazil," he said.

José Dirceu sentenced to 11 years in prison!

[I don't know how I missed this article.]

A Former Brazilian Presidential Chief-of-Staff Gets 10 Years in Vote-Buying Scheme

by Simon Rimero, The New York Times, November 12, 2012
RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazil’s high court on Monday sentenced one of the most powerful figures in the governing Workers Party to nearly 11 years in prison for orchestrating a vast vote-buying scheme, sending shock waves through Brazil’s political establishment.
Jamil Bittar/Reuters
José Dirceu, a top ally of former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, was convicted of conspiracy and bribery.


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Justices in the Supreme Federal Tribunal, or Supreme Court, announced that José Dirceu de Oliveira e Silva, a top ally of and chief of staff to Brazil’s popular former president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, was sentenced to 10 years and 10 months in prison after being found guilty of charges that are roughly the equivalent of unlawful conspiracy and bribery.
The length of the sentence for such an influential political operative, who is commonly called José Dirceu in Brazil, and the mere possibility that he could spend some time in prison before being paroled, stood as precedent-setting shifts in a political culture in which impunity in corruption cases has traditionally prevailed, legal scholars said.
“This is a watershed moment,” said Thiago Bottino, a law professor at Fundação Getúlio Vargas, a top Brazilian university. “The court is sending a message that this concrete case is very serious.”
The sentencing of José Dirceu, 66, who spent part of Brazil’s long military dictatorship exiled in Cuba, came amid a flurry of other sentences the court handed down in the trial.
José Genoino Guimarães Neto, the former president of the Workers Party at the time the scandal emerged in 2005, received a sentence on Monday of almost seven years. In October, Marcos Valério de Souza, a businessman who was found to have operated much of the embezzlement scheme, got a 40-year sentence and was ordered to pay a fine of about $1.3 million.
It remained to be seen how much time those convicted would actually spend in prison, and when their terms would begin, raising concerns that defendants would find ways to wiggle out of time behind bars. Brazil’s judicial system allows for certain procedural appeals, even at this seemingly defining stage in a high court trial.
In addition, some Brazilian legal scholars, including former justices on the court, say the defendants cannot go to prison until the high court formally publishes its decision in the case, which it is expected to do in early 2013. But Prosecutor General Roberto Gurgel publicly argued this month that defendants should start serving sentences almost immediately after they are announced.
In the case of José Dirceu, the sentence for his role in the sprawling scheme — called the mensalão, or big monthly allowance, in a nod to the regular payments some lawmakers received — almost ensures that he will spend time behind bars.
Legal experts calculated on Monday that he might have to serve almost two years in prison before becoming eligible for a so-called semi-open arrangement in which he could leave prison each day to work, and return to sleep. It is very rare in Brazil for senior political figures to spend much time in prison for corruption and other offenses.