What is the impeachment in Brazil about? Author of request explains

Yesterday, lawyer and law professor Janaína Paschoal testified before the Brazilian Senate’s Special Impeachment Commission to explain the request that she filed, along with Helio Bicudo and Miguel Reale Jr., for the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff. Below is a translated and annotated transcript of her remarks. A video of the session can be viewed here.

I would like to begin by saluting my co-denouncers, the one who is not here with us but is in our thoughts and hearts, Dr. Helio Bicudo[1], with whom I started all of this, and also Professor Miguel, even though he left. He was my doctoral advisor, and I thank him for all the support that he gave us in our request, because we started this alone, Helio Bicudo and me. Well, not alone, where is Maria Lúcia[2]? Stand up Maria Lúcia, so that people can see you. When we started, it was Janaina Paschoal, Helio Bicudo and Maria Lúcia. It was Maria Lúcia who came with me here to the Chamber of Deputies and had to wait a long time in the green room. We did the protocol for the request on the first of September with Doctor Silvio, and we didn’t have an appointment with the President of the Chamber [Eduardo Cunha] so we waited for at least 8 hours. There were some people from “Vem Pra Rua[3]” here in Brasília that were with us, waiting for an audience with the President of the Chamber. This clarification is important because people have asked me what is my relation to Cunha. I said I’m going to start joking that he’s my dad and that I’m just doing this to get his attention, because it’s incredible the questions that I’ve had to answer recently.

I would like to begin by clarifying on behalf of Dr. Helio Bicudo, that there is nothing partisan about this impeachment process. It was only later that the opposition parties formed a pro-impeachment movement and embraced our request. It was later, this is important. It is true that I worked at the Justice Ministry for four months, but I did not work with Fernando Henrique Cardoso. I never even shook the hand of Fernando Henrique Cardoso[4]. I came to the Justice Ministry – these clarifications are important because the nation is watching this session, and I have been accused of many things recently, including of plotting a coup, so in addition to making my case here, I have to defend myself – so it is not true that I worked with Fernando Henrique Cardoso. I’ve never even spoken to Fernando Henrique Cardoso. I accepted a job at the Justice Ministry because my advisor, Professor Miguel Reale Jr., who for sure did not become Justice Minister just because he belonged to the PSDB (Brazilian Social Democratic Party), because nobody can doubt his judicial quality, but because he was promoted to minister and he invited me to assist him, and incidentally he asked to leave when Fernando Henrique did not want to intervene in Espirito Santo[5], and I already had my letter of resignation ready when Fernando Henrique relieved me of my post before I could present the letter. And whether you believe me or not, you can go ahead and ask about this at the Justice Ministry, because I don’t know if I saved the letter. They sent me a letter asking me to give back the salary from the last month that I worked there, and I was scared so I gave the salary back. So this is the Fernando Henrique that you say is my friend. In fact, it took Fernando Henrique Cardoso a very long time to support this [the impeachment], and I resent him for that. Geraldo Alckmin[6], the governor of São Paulo, it’s true that I worked for him in 2002, during the transition from Covas, may he rest in peace, to Alckmin, but I have never even shaken the hand of Geraldo Alckmin in my life. I’m not saying this because I would never shake it, but just to clarify, because it looks like I’m friends with the man. I’ve never spoken to this man in my life. I was the assistant to Professor Ana Sofia Schmid Oliveira, who is one of the greatest specialists in public security in this country. Professor Ana Sofia is not affiliated with any party. It was with her that I learned almost everything I know about public security. So it was not Geraldo Alckmin who invited me, it was Ana Sofia, and it is important for this to be clear. Then, I presided for three or four years over the State Council on Narcotics, which is an honorary, non-remunerated post, and in this post, I became good friends with the people from SENAD (National Secretariat for Drug Policy) during the Lula administration. I was invited to participate in SENAD projects by the Lula government. Sirs, you can go ahead and look into meetings that I participated in at the Cabinet of the Presidency of the Republic on Paulista Avenue[7], where I would be summoned on the same day of the meetings, when the presidency called me. The presidency would literally call me and say “the presidency is summoning you today, doctor.” For three years, without earning a cent, I worked on this SENAD project because of my passion for the cause. I have proof because I went to present the project at the USP (University of São Paulo) medical school, at a meeting presided over by Doctor Ricardo Chimenti, who was at the time the president of the CNJ (National Council of Justice). I don’t know if Doctor Chimenti is in favor of or against the impeachment, but if called to testify, he will tell the truth, that I went there to present a project of the Lula government. Why did I leave the project? Because they wanted me to sign a report that I didn’t agree with. I went to the United States to study the relationship between drugs and crime, I came back and I wrote a report supporting the existence of such a relationship between drugs and violence, not stigmatizing that all drug users are violent, but showing technically that this relationship does exist, and the SENAD did not accept it. Then, see, they could have just not published it. But they wanted me to sign off on what they wanted to say, and I do not prostitute myself, so I abandoned the project. I have the documents and all the emails if you’d like them. I’m not lying. So I no longer want to hear that I’m a toucan[8], I no longer want to hear that I belong to a party, because I don’t belong to any party. I don’t have criticisms specific to what the toucans say with regard to the administration, but I think that we are in this situation because they are a weak opposition. Look at my personality and see if I am a toucan. So I just want to clarify this to the nation, because it was the nation that paid for my flight here. I am a guest of the Senate, the Senate paid for my flight. It was the Brazilian people who paid for my flight. So I have to offer this clarification to the nation. Even Dr. Helio Bicudo, when he was going to be the president of the Senate, at the request of Paulo Evaristo, chose not to run to give his place to Fernando Henrique. I don’t know if Fernando Henrique knows this, but to this day he has not called to thank him. If he is just finding out now, it would be good to make this phone call.” 

[interruption by Senators asking her to speak about her impeachment request]

I want to speak to you, I just want to explain the origin of this request, following the example of a philosopher that I really admire, David Hume, who likes to explain to his readers the origins of his ideas, so I would like to explain to you the origins of all this. This all originated with a headline that I saw way back when, that I read and found strange. It said, “President Dilma Rousseff, via the BNDES (the Brazilian Development Bank), sends money to Cuba, Venezuela and Angola.”

[interruption by Senators asking her to speak about her impeachment request – commotion and shouting ensue for a few minutes]        

Ok, so let’s go. Let me just explain. When I saw this news story, of money being sent to Cuba, Venezuela, and Angola, I thought it was strange. And then I began, as a citizen, to look into this transaction. Because a little light turned on in my mind in relation to the fact that the money was being sent under bank secrecy, because the federal constitution determines that public funds must be invested with transparency.

[More commotion and interruptions, pleas for Senators to listen]

So, I have heard you here, I have heard [Justice] Minister [José Eduardo] Cardozo speaking to the press, I know that there are university professors making videos saying that Lava Jato (Car Wash)[9], this sending of money abroad, that this is not in the impeachment request. It is. On page 7 of the request, I will have to read it out loud, because the people have to know what is in the request: “Independently of any anticipation of judgment regarding guilt, given the facts that the president of Odebrecht[10] is incarcerated and it is known that president Lula assisted him with contracts that were signed and maintained using public power, would it not be the case that, at minimum, President Dilma Rousseff should distance herself, at least institutionally, from her predecessor?” Then, and listen carefully because this is serious and grave, “It is necessary to point out that, despite changes to the law of access to information, the amounts sent to Cuba and Angola were allowed to proceed under banking secrecy. Strangely, the [construction] companies, which are well represented by the former president, who is undoubtedly associated with the current president, as stated, have projects in these countries.”

[more commotion and interruptions as some Senators protest]

I want it to be clear to the Brazilian people that the impeachment request against President Dilma is 65 pages long, and of these 65 pages, 15 pages address Lava Jato and the Petrolão[11]. I counted them last night.

[more commotion and interruptions]

Before I enter into the technical details, which I will have to explain, I would like to include just one parallel fact. This is the only fact that is not in the request. While there are people signing letters against Sergio Moro[12], I have been reading his sentences, independently of whether I agree or disagree. In one of the latest sentences that he issued against the president of Odebrecht – I also don’t want to enter into the merits of whether the sentence is correct or not – but it’s written there, in item 167 of the sentence, that the bank accounts from which the bribes were paid in the context of the Petrolão, are in Angola. Do you understand? Our money went, under banking secrecy, to Angola. The companies represented by the ex-president, who is undoubtedly associated with the current president, went to conduct projects in Angola. Their campaign strategist[13], who has been arrested, also went to conduct projects in Angola, and the money for the bribes, a lot of it came from bank accounts that are in Angola. This is to close the first pillar of my request. If you don’t want to take this into account, you have sovereignty, the Senate is sovereign, so don’t take it into consideration. But I need the people to know that this is in the request, because I’m being called a liar. There are people making videos out there telling people that there is nothing about Lava Jato in the request, and people send me emails, members of the public who want to understand. As a matter of fact, I would like to thank the people who are emailing asking for clarification, and sending prayers, you understand? People want to understand. And then they send me these videos and say, “are you lying?” So it is important for me to provide this clarification. The first pillar of our request is Lava Jato and Petrolão. The second pillar is the “pedaladas[14] and the third pillar are the decrees. I am the accusation. I bring the allegations and the defense brings its allegations. You, the magistrates of this cause, will provide the decision, taking into account my perspective, or that of the defense, or both. You are the authority.

So, following the work of Paulo Brossard, who is the greatest authority, may he rest in peace, who has the most authority about impeachment in this country, the inclusion of facts unrelated to the impeachment request, in a process of impeachment, which is judicial and political, can be taken into consideration by the Federal Senate at the time of judgment. And this is cited in our request, on pages 11 and 42. I am just saying what the doctrine is. The doctrine says this, and it is in my request, but I am not asking you to consider anything beyond what is in the request, despite the fact that Paulo Brossard would allow me to do this.

I would like to read to you a small part of the constitution. Article 86 says – please, this is very important – “After the admission of accusations against the President of the Republic by two-thirds of the Chamber of Deputies, they will be subject to judgment by the Supreme Federal Tribunal with regard to common penal infractions or the Federal Senate in the case of crimes of responsibility. The president will be suspended of his/her functions in the case of common infractions if a request is received by the Supreme Federal Tribunal. In the case of crimes of responsibility, this will occur after the institution of the process by the Federal Senate.”

Why was it important for me to read this? Because of ADPF[15] number 378, which was presented to the Supreme Federal Tribunal at the end of last year by the PC do B (the Communist Party of Brazil), that, as far as I know, is a party that is against impeachment. The PC do B went to the Supreme Federal Tribunal to allege that Law 1079/50 was not totally constitutional. If you recall, many people chose to speak. One of the people who spoke there was the Attorney General at the time, who also defended President Dilma, doctor Adams – I can’t remember his entire name – yes, that’s right, doctor Luiz Inacio Adams. What did he say at that moment? I remember it well because I watched the whole thing and took notes. He said that according to the constitution, it is no longer the Chamber of Deputies that can initiate the process of removing the President of the Republic, that according to the constitution, this is the role of the Federal Senate, that is, you. To recall this recent history is important because we have to understand the competences here. Up until that judgment of the Supreme Federal Tribunal, what was the predominant understanding in this regard? It was that the Chamber of Deputies should receive the request and remove the president, and that you would then adjudicate. That was the predominant understanding. However, because at that moment, the PC do B believed that the Chamber of Deputies was in favor of impeachment, but not the Senate, they took this ADPF to the Supreme Court. It is important to remember this. They also questioned the election of the impeachment commission[16] that was formed in the Chamber of Deputies and said that this commission should not be elected, because they understood that this commission was pro-impeachment, so the Supreme Federal Tribunal came in and issued a judgment that was extremely favorable to President Dilma Rousseff, because it cancelled the first commission, that was thought to be pro-impeachment. It determined that the vote should be open, it determined that the leaders should nominate members, and this is what was done. And even so, it [impeachment][17] passed in the Chamber. But, in relation to the point, it is important to remember what the Supreme Federal Tribunal said, several justices said this, that when the constitution refers to crimes of responsibility, after the establishment of the process by the Federal Senate, they said very clearly that the Chamber was a type of police inquiry, whereas the trial is here. It is here that you begin the trial process by receiving the request.  It is here that you adjudicate. Why is this important? Because this means that you have total liberty, total liberty, to pore over the 65 pages of the request that was signed by the three “denouncers” and supported by the movements “Vem Pra Rua,” “MBL,”[18] and on the streets with all the anti-corruption movements.

So, what I am saying is that you should have peace of mind and a clear conscience in having total sovereignty, even to reject it, but also to pore over the entire request. If we continue the comparison between the police inquiry and a criminal trial, then the president of the Chamber of Deputies, Eduardo Cunha, would be the police captain, and you would be the judges. Those who are familiar with the law know that the judicial capitulation of the police captain never compromises the judge. The judicial capitulation is just a guideline, it doesn’t compromise the judge. So even if Eduardo Cunha had written anything else, you would have the authority and the obligation to pore over the entirety of the request. I will go further: although the president of the Chamber made his considerations, at the end, he wrote “I receive the request.[19]” So I don’t even need to get into that, because the Justices of the Supreme Court said, many times I noticed, all of them, they said that it is not credible for the Senate to be subject to the judgment of the Chamber. This is an inversion. Am I lying? The Justices said, it is not credible. Now it seems funny, if the Supreme Federal Tribunal decided that you are not subject to the Chamber, not even to the two-thirds plenary, how are you subject to the first manifestation of the president [Cunha] way back when? It’s something worth investigating for whoever wants to ask the AGU (Attorney General of the Union) tomorrow and see what he thinks. I will go further. I think it’s funny, with all due respect, when I hear the government call into question my process, well our process since we are more than just three, we are many. When I spoke at Largo São Francisco (the University of São Paulo Law School), that we are many Helios, Miguels and Janainas, they said I seemed drunk. I wasn’t, I was very sober, and I think it’s funny that the opposition keeps saying that our process is a coup, that our request is not for a trial, it’s a coup, because it was received by Eduardo Cunha, who I mentioned earlier kept me waiting for a huge amount of time. They say it is a coup because he received it. Now they are clinging desperately to the man’s first manifestation. So I ask the government: so does he have legitimacy here or not? Because if he couldn’t receive it, because that would make it a coup, then how can you say that his first manifestation limits your judgment? So I want to say to you and to the Brazilian people, that according to the constitution that I read you, law 1079/50 which is the law that addresses impeachment, which the Supreme Court said was constitutional, the decision of the Supreme Court from December, the doctrine, you have all the power here, but you also have the duty to analyze our request in its entirety, and our request is established based on three pillars. This is why at the Chamber[20], I made an allusion to a tripod. It’s Petrolão and Lava Jato, the fact that people who are very close to President Dilma are or have been arrested, the fact that the president has not distanced herself from these people, the fact that the president sent money to the countries where the construction companies represented by Luiz Inacio (Lula) did their projects, and the fact that this money came back, that is our first pillar. If you don’t want to consider this in determining whether to remove the president, then I ask you to consider the other pillars.

Let’s go to the other pillars. The fiscal pedaladas were the greatest fraud that I have ever seen in my life. I have worked in criminal law for 20 years. I’ve never seen anything like it. Read the documents that are attached to the request, there with the request, it is nothing new, these are documents from the technical experts who presented the technical evaluation along with the TCU (Union Accounting Tribunal, or federal accountability office), by Dr. Julio Marcelo, a technical expert who is beyond suspicion, whom we called as a witness, I know that you have also called him to testify. We also called two fiscal auditors who did the evaluations, because technical experts have to explain to the nation the coup that we were a victim of. Intelligently, the Attorney General, from the perspective of the defense but not of the nation, only talks about the pedaladas related to Bolsa Familia[21] and Minha Casa, Minha Vida[22], saying that the pedaladas were done to help the poor. He never talks about the “Bolsa Empresario[23],” which was not just observed by the TCU and us “denouncers”. The Folha de São Paulo[24], based on the law of access to information, challenged the BNDES, which citing banking secrecy did not want to reveal who were the main beneficiaries of two programs, the Safra (Harvest) program of Banco do Brasil, and especially the PSI (Program to Sustain Investment) of the BNDES. The Safra Plan is Banco do Brasil’s, and it’s supposed to help, in theory, small farmers. And the PSI of the BNDES is a project that began in 2009 and lasted until the end of 2015, in theory to help small businesses to buy equipment. In theory, because the AGU has to explain to the nation, why this PSI filled the coffers of large, millionaire (or billionaire) businesses. Why, in the report by the Folha de São Paulo itself, which is in the request, the report itself is not there because the Folha did it later, but the plan is all there. Why was Petrobras the second-largest beneficiary of the PSI? Strange, isn’t it? Strange... Look at how strange this is, the money that was sent to the non-transparent dictatorships that are our friends came back through the Petrolão. All the money from the PSI, we have a debt of R$ 204 billion because of the PSI, which benefited Petrobras, to help with the graft. Have you noticed that the three pillars are all linked? They “king of soy[25]” received I don’t know how many millions – I have nothing against him, it could even be that his contracts were adequate – but he received it. The airline – please, I don’t know Senator, I just know that he received it – the airline – please, please, look I’m not here to make nice with any political party, I’m here to explain what is in the request – the airline Azul[26] received money from the PSI. Please. Look, there is a study conducted by the BNDES itself, published in Magazine 44, in 2015, which shows that the PSI only benefited, or primarily benefited, large and medium companies and people who were already millionaires. So I ask you, am I the capitalist here? Am I the imperialist elitist? Then, then technical experts use technical terms that the public needs to understand. It is said that these “pedaladas” were made to pay for the “equalization of interest,” the “equalization,” and the public does not understand what this is. So I have to explain what this means. The government told the BNDES to loan out our money at ridiculous interest rates. But the BNDES, when holding these funds, had to pay highly elevated interest rates. When the BNDES went to the Treasury and said, “look, this is not going to balance out, we’re paying these expensive rates for this money but are loaning it out for cheap,” the Treasury said, “Do it because we’ll guarantee the difference.” So this is, Senators and the Brazilian people, what “equalization of interest” means. It’s the payment of the difference between the interest rates on the money that was taken and the money that was loaned out. And then, this money was sent to financial institutions, because these large companies have more resources to serve as collateral or guarantees to the banks. The small companies do not. The small companies were actually supposed to receive help, theoretically, from the leftist government – that’s what they say but it’s all lies – but the small companies were not able to get funds. The big companies did, because they had collateral. Then I have to ask you, did this create jobs? Did this generate wealth for the country? No. Because the banks said, “I will give you a loan with this interest, of, I don’t know, 8%, you leave it invested here because you will get a much higher return.” So, we paid rich people and billionaires to make more money at our expense. This is the government that is worried about social issues. This is all described right here in the request, I’m not inventing anything. Maybe this is why the AGU, who should be worried about what I’m saying because he is, after all, the Attorney General of the union, maybe this is why the AGU is desperate to restrict my request. Because he has no way of explaining this. I haven’t met with him, and I would ask you, I’m speaking now as a citizen, to ask him tomorrow, “Why did your government, from 2010 to 2015, why did you invest so much of our money in this PSI, that only benefited the rich?” And I’m not accusing the people at the BNDES, because the people at the BNDES do technical analyses, and if the Treasury tells them “we’ll cover it, we’ll guarantee it,” then they free up the funds. Not to mention the fear of the persecutions that we know happen. Well, whether in the case of the social programs conducted with the Caixa Economica Federal, whether in the case of this Safra Plan conducted with Banco do Brasil, or whether in the case of the PSI conducted with the BNDES, the truth, according to the law, according to the federal constitution, article 85, law 1079/50, article 10, according to the fiscal responsibility law, which is the complementary law 101/2000, articles 36 and 38, the government cannot take loans from these institutions. And the government not only permitted, but ordered these institutions to anticipate these payments for many months in a row, especially in 2014, which was an election year, and into the beginning of 2015, until Minister Levy[27] tried to fix it and was kicked out of the government. When the president ordered the banks to pay her bills, she got a loan in the form of a transaction known as “anticipatory credit.” The technical experts will come here and explain to you that I am not lying. The Fiscal Responsibility Law completely prohibits the occurrence of these types of transactions with public banks. This is what Professor Miguel said, because the Treasury is the controller. If it is the controller, it cannot instrumentalize. And the law goes beyond this. In article 36, it prohibits this in relation to public banks. In article 38, it refers to private banks. And do you know what it says? It says that these types of transactions are not permitted even with private banks during election years. These types of transactions are also not allowed even with private banks when previous such transactions have not been repaid. This government was able to disrespect the Fiscal Responsibility Law in three ways, only when referring to this pillar of the BNDES, of the fiscal “pedaladas,” because they conducted anticipatory credit transactions with public banks, they did it in particular during an election year, but also during 2015, to the tune of billions, and they conducted these transactions one after the other, without repaying previous ones. And the Law of Fiscal Responsibility is crystal clear. But they went beyond this. And there, Senators is the intentional misconduct. They didn’t account for any of this. For the technical experts at the TCU to understand this, they had to fight, like ex-president Lula likes to say.

The Central Bank had to do an audit of all of this, and it took a long time. Because they didn’t put any of this in writing. If they didn’t put it in writing, it’s because they knew it was illicit, that it would prove the intentional misconduct. If they thought they were doing something regular, why not leave everything nicely on paper? They hid it because they knew it was illicit. And here is where we also see the lack of probity and decorum. So we have damage to the budget, to fiscal responsibility and to decorum. Those who are familiar with penal justice know that any poor little guy can be the subject of an inquiry, can be reported because they signed something without understanding what they were signing. One signature and they suffer serious consequences. But years of ideological falsity thrown in our faces, and she [the president] is innocent? I could have seen all of this and remained quiet, but how does that leave my conscience? Because I studied, I understood what I was reading.

How does that leave my conscience, if I witnessed a coup of this magnitude? From studying omission so much, I reached the conclusion that I am the type of person who is terrified of omitting something. I had a moral obligation to make sure you were aware of this, since you are the judges of this cause. How was I supposed to sleep at night, knowing that there are lots of humble people being condemned over small things? I want you to understand me. People ask me, what do you want? Do you want to run for office? Do you want attention? I just want to have a clear conscience, for the love of God. How could I remain silent? I have the duty to honesty and transparency in my work. I want to make it clear that when I entered this request with Doctor Helio, I spoke only about the Petrolão, Lava Jato and pedaladas. When Professor Miguel came in to support us, and I am immensely grateful to him for his judicial knowledge that he brings, he brought in the question of the decrees. And then I pored over these decrees. And these decrees are totally linked to the other two pillars. Because President Dilma already had the knowledge that we did not have any surplus. Although there was a forecast of a goal for a surplus, she knew that we did not have any savings. She knew because of the savings, she knew because of the hemorrhaging of funds at Petrobras, she knew because of the out of control spending. What does the law of fiscal responsibility say, the very powerful ninth article? It dictates that the president, under these circumstances, when she knows that there will be no surplus, that is, that there will be no money, the surplus is the savings of the country, that she must use as contingencies discretionary expenses, that is, those that are not already legally committed. But she didn’t want to stop spending during an election year, or at the beginning of her second term, because how could she stop spending? She could have diminished the ministries, fired a bunch of people, closed down TV Brasil, which only produces institutional propaganda and has nothing to do with a free press, stopped spending money on travel, staying at millionaire hotels, canceling at the last minute, but she didn’t want to stop spending. So what did she do? She disrespects this chamber, does not make contingencies, does not cut costs, and she issues these unauthorized decrees to take out credit. These decrees are expressly prohibited by article 167 of the Federal Constitution of 1988. They are expressly prohibited in article 10 of law 1079/50, that even though it’s from 1950, it was altered in 2000 just to mandate this prohibition. The fourth article, which the Senator keeps mentioning, it allows decrees to be issued based on the conditions of the surplus, so she can issue decrees, as long as she knows that conditions will allow it. But she already knew that they wouldn’t, because she had already put into place a project to adapt the surplus goal based on untrue information; she wrote that it was because of the international crisis, but we all know that it was because of the graft that happened here in our country. So I will say to you, that you have absolute tranquility in receiving this request. Of course as the denouncer I ask you to evaluate it in its entirety, because it forms the whole picture that illustrates the coup that my country was a victim of. I ask you to do the work, I know it’s still in the preliminary stages, that you evaluate the request in its entirety. But if you don’t want to look at it in its entirety, then consider the three pillars, because in each of these pillars there is an excess of criminality. There is an excess of crimes of responsibility and an excess of common crimes. Do you think that I am happy to come here? Do you think that I wouldn’t love to see a woman be a successful president, regardless of the political party? I am Brazilian. I love this land, more than anything. I’m here because I’m Brazilian, that’s my party. I never voted for the PT, but when President Dilma was interviewed on Fantástico[28] and said that she dreamed of being a dancer, I cried, because I thought, my God, what if this woman surprises me? She is a strong woman, with a sensitive soul. I had huge expectations. When the protests of 2013[29] took place, I wrote a letter that I wanted to send her but I didn’t know anyone that could get it to her. I wanted to say, “don’t listen to your marketing strategists anymore, Madam President, because you are not a product, you are a human being.” The dancer lost herself. The dancer lost herself and left me no choice. As a Brazilian, as a lawyer, as a law professor, as a lover of the constitution, I had no choice. After my speech at Largo São Francisco, I’ve been receiving phone calls from journalists, even from abroad, asking me if I am a preacher or “mãe de santo,”[30] and I answer them, “I am not illuminated enough to be a preacher or a mãe de santo, and I understand that in a secular state, if I were a preacher or mãe de santo, I wouldn’t have any less judicial work, because a secular state is not an atheist state, a secular state is a state that allows all religions to coexist, so if I were a preacher or mãe de santo or catechism teacher, I would be honored to say so, but I’m not, I’m just a law professor. And in a republic, this is the holy book (holds constitution) that allows all the other holy books to be respected and to coexist. What I want, is for the little children, the little Brazilians that are hearing me, that they believe that it’s worth it to fight for this sacred book, that the PT didn’t sign. That’s why they talk about a coup: they never recognized the federal constitution. But I will fight until my last day to respect the constitution. That is why [our national anthem] ends with the words “you will see that your son will not run away from a fight,” but our fight is not the armed fight that they are preaching at universities, our fight is a fight for the law, for the word, for freedom of assembly and freedom of the press, because it is thanks to the press that we started to understand what was going on. Thank you.                  


[1] Helio Bicudo is a 93-year-old lawyer and human rights advocate. He is a founding member of the Workers’ Party, to which the president belongs. He left the party in 2005, after the Mensalão scandal, in which the chief of staff of then-president Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva was found to have been behind a scheme to buy congressional votes. Dozens of high-ranking officials went to jail as a result of the scandal, although Lula managed to survive and was subsequently reelected.

[2] Maria Lúcia Bicudo, daughter of Helio Bicudo.

[3] A pro-impeachment, anti-corruption opposition protest movement. “Vem Pra Rua” means “come to the street.”

[4] Fernando Henrique Cardoso, known as FHC, was president from 1994-2002, prior to the Workers’ Party presidents Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva, who was president from 2002-2010, and Dilma Rousseff, who has been president since 2010 and won reelection in 2014. Cardoso is a member of the Brazilian Social Democratic Party, or PSDB, which is currently one of the biggest opposition parties.

[5] Reale had written a report recommending intervention of the Federal Government in the state of Espírito Santo over organized crime and human rights abuses in the state. Upon consulting with the government’s Prosecutor General, who described it as “not politically viable,” FHC decided not to authorize the intervention, at which point Reale resigned.

[6] Geraldo Alckmin is another prominent PSDB politician. He was vice-governor of the state of São Paulo under Mario Covas from 1994 until the death of Covas in 2001, when Alckmin took over for him. He served as governor until 2006, when he resigned his post to run for president. He lost to Lula.

[7] A prominent street in the city of São Paulo. The presidency maintains an office in a building on this street.

[8] The symbol of the PSDB is a toucan and party members are commonly referred to as toucans.

[9] Lava Jato is the name of a massive investigation into corruption at state-owned oil company Petrobras, in which large construction companies colluded to form a cartel that would set inflated prices for contracts with Petrobras, then use the funds to pay bribes or kickbacks. It is estimated that over 2 billion dollars were stolen from the company in this way. The name of the investigation means “car wash,” and it was thus named because initial investigations looked into illicit funds that were allegedly being laundered at a car wash.

[10] Odebrecht is the largest construction company in Brazil and Latin America as a whole. It has been widely implicated in the corruption scandal at Petrobras and the company’s CEO, Marcelo Odebrecht, was recently sentenced to 19 years in prison for his role in the scandal.

[11] The name commonly used to describe the Petrobras scandal, it roughly translates as “the big oil.”

[12] The Federal Judge responsible for the Lava Jato investigation. Although he has received a lot of praise for his efforts to fight corruption, his aggressive tactics, including the use of plea bargains to extract information from suspects in exchange for lighter sentences, and his release of wire-taps involving the president, have generated controversy.

[13] João Santana was the campaign strategist for Lula’s 2006 reelection campaign and both of Dilma’s presidential campaigns, and has also advised Angolan president José Eduardo dos Santos, among other international politicians, including Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro. He has been arrested for keeping dirty money diverted from Petrobras by Odebrecht in undeclared offshore accounts and has recently been charged in the investigation.

[14] The “pedaladas fiscais” or “fiscal pedaling,” are the primary charges against the president. She is accused of purposefully delaying payments for government obligations to the public financial institutions that disburse them, thereby extracting de facto loans from them. A thorough explanation of the pedaladas can be found here.

[15] “Arguição de Descumprimento de Preceito Fundamental,” it is a type of request that can only be made to the Supreme Federal Tribunal with the aim of addressing or preventing the lack of compliance with fundamental legal precepts.

[16] A commission for impeachment had been formed in the Chamber of Deputies, which is the lower house of congress, through an election. However, after hearing these arguments, the Supreme Court dissolved the commission at the end of 2015 and the impeachment process remained stalled until the Speaker of the House, Eduardo Cunha, reopened it in March of 2016. A subsequent commission was created through nominations.

[17] On April 17, members of the Chamber of Deputies voted 367-137 to move forward with the impeachment process.

[18] These are pro-impeachment, anti-corruption opposition protest movements. “Vem Pra Rua” means “come to the street” and “MBL” stands for “Movimento Brasil Livre” or “Free Brazil Movement.”

[19] Cunha only accepted to hear the impeachment requests based on the pedaladas, not the accusations related to Lava Jato, presumably because he has himself been implicated in the investigation after it was discovered that he was keeping millions in dirty money in Swiss bank accounts. It has also recently been alleged that he has taken millions more in bribes. Throughout his tenure as President of the Chamber, he has been an ardent political rival and antagonist of the President, who declined to help him when he became the subject of a congressional ethics committee investigation over the Swiss bank accounts, which could run him out of office. So many defenders of the President claim that he, as the President of the Chamber, accepted the impeachment request as an act of political revenge and that therefore it has no merit.

[20] Janaína Paschoal also spoke to the Special Impeachment Commission of the Chamber of Deputies to explain her impeachment request, prior to the Chamber’s vote.

[21] Bolsa Familia is a welfare program in which low-income families are provided with stipends. Created by FHC, it was expanded by the Lula administration and is widely credited for helping to lift millions out of poverty.

[22] Minha Casa, Minha Vida is another social program that helps low-income Brazilians obtain housing.

[23] A play on “Bolsa Familia,” which roughly means “Family Stipend,” “Bolsa Empresário” can be translated as “Wealthy Businessman Stipend”.

[24] Brazil’s biggest newspaper.

[25] Agribusiness billionaire Olacyr de Moraes, a pioneer in turning Brazil into an exporter of soybeans and who was once the greatest single producer of soybeans in the world. He died in June of 2015 at the age of 84.

[26] A low-cost Brazilian carrier founded in 2008 by the Brazilian-born founder of JetBlue, David Neeleman. By December of 2015, it was the third-largest airline in Brazil.

[27] Joaquin Levy was the Finance Minister for about a year, until he resigned in December of 2015. He did not have wide support from the government or congress to enact the budget cuts necessary to close the deficit and restore Brazil’s investment grade.

[28] A weekly television news program on Rede Globo, Brazil’s biggest broadcaster.

[29] Protests broke out in the run-up to the 2014 World Cup. Although protests were initially triggered by an increase in bus fare, protesters were really protesting the poor quality of the country’s infrastructure in general and the fact that as they were being asked to pay more for inferior services, public funds were being used to build lavish new stadiums.

[30] Priestess in the Afro-Brazilian religions that draw from African traditions, such as Candomblé or Umbanda.