Premium Moro goes from super-minister to mini-minister

Sérgio Moro

Sérgio Moro

  |  © Reuters/Adriano Machado

Within two months, the former judge loses strength in the public opinion over Operation Car Wash leak, suffers defeat in Congress, is run over by the Supreme Court, and sees his plans suppressed by Bolsonaro himself

Newsreports from all televisions and radios and headlines from all newspapers announced last Thursday that the House of Representatives had approved, early in the morning, a bill against "abuse of authority" that punishes with detention, from one to four years, the judges who decide to order pre-trial detention without legal grounds or who carry out unauthorized phone tapping. A PT deputy suggested calling him Cancellier law, in honor of the Rector Luiz Cancellier, who committed suicide after being arrested without evidence in the Operation Car Wash. But it could also be called law Sergio Moro, since it seemed drafted in a way that would counteract the former judge of the operation, who from super-minister of justice at the beginning of Jair Bolsonaro's term looks more and more like a mini-minister.

According to the majority if the observers, the deputies would have taken advantage of the leak of a set of reports from The Intercept Brazil website that revealed the compromising messages between Moro and the prosecutors to retaliate the judiciary in general and the Operation Car Wash in particular. A perception that the president of the Chamber of Deputies hastened to deny: "There is no rematch: this text is a text that democratically affects all those who, in public office, may commit a crime of abuse of authority, including myself," said Rodrigo Maia.

The project against "abuse of authority" is even more relevant because it joins other recent legislative initiatives that have weakened Moro. The "anti-crime package," his largest workhorse over ten months in office, has already been emptied and should be rejected in a House vote soon.

In this regard, the President Jair Bolsonaro, who was expected to be the minister's greatest protector, instead of defending him, recommended "patience." "Minister Moro is from Justice but he doesn't judge anyone now, I understand his anguish, he wants his package to go forward, but we have to fight unemployment, make Brazil walk, open our trade," he said, justifying his government's priorities in Congress. The defeats that the anti-crime package has been suffering are, according to the President, "part of the game, you have to know how to play."

On another occasion, after a meeting between both of them that the press reported as "tense," he stressed that he is "the coach of the football team" and that the minister is just "a player, a player who gives suggestions." According to CBN radio, Moro had advised the appointment of Deltan Dallagnol, chief of the Operation Car Wash prosecutors, to the post of attorney general, but the answer was "no."

The main focus of conflict between them, however, is the transfer of COAF, the body that investigates financial transfers, under the Justice to the Economy - COAF was at the base of the discovery of the corruption case involving the Senator Flávio Bolsonaro, the oldest son of the president, and his aide Fabrício Queiroz, linked to the Escritório do Crime militia, the most dangerous in Rio de Janeiro. Bolsonaro has also ordered the head of the body, Roberto Leonel, appointed by Moro, to be replaced.

Another profile for the Supreme

After revealing that he had promised Moro a seat in the Federal Supreme Court (STF), the president, however, sends signs of prioritizing another profile for now. According to Bolsonaro, "the next Supreme Judge will be terribly evangelical," a definition that does not fit the current justice minister. André Mendonça, attorney general of the Union, a position with ministerial status, or even Marcelo Bretas, the judge of the Operation Car Wash in Rio de Janeiro, are evangelical. The President will have the possibility, in this mandate, to exchange, by age limit, two of the 11 judges of the Supreme Court.

Speaking of STF, the decision of the board to reject, by ten votes to one, the transfer of Lula da Silva from Curitiba to a common prison in Sao Paulo, was considered a personal defeat for Moro, the judge who condemned the former president. As well as the Supreme Court's ruling, days earlier, to preserve the content of the messages from authorities hacked by hackers involved in the Operation Car Wash leak, that the minister intended to destroy.

The Operation Car Wash leak, now not only published by The Intercept Brasil, but also by Folha de S. Paulo newspaper, the Brazilian edition of El País newspaper and by Veja magazine, has been detailing the collusion between Moro and the prosecution in Lula's conviction and in other cases in the context of the Operation Car Wash. These reports resulted in a decline in the percentage of people who approve of the Minister of Justice, which fell by about seven points. In April, 59 rated it "great or good"; on July, 52. The percentage of those who consider him "bad or very bad" has risen from 15 to 20. Still, he is the best-known government minister, ahead of Paulo Guedes (Economy) and Damares Alves (Human Rights), and with the best image.

This image, scratched and discredited but still with a strong capital, was not lost on João Doria, governor of São Paulo, an intermittent ally of Bolsonaro and likely presidential candidate in 2022. According to the newspaper Folha de S. Paulo, the governor has already invited Moro to join his team if defeats in the House and Supreme and Bolsonaro's denials become unsustainable.