The tides have turned against Brazilian Justice Minister Sergio Moro, formerly idolized by much of the population as an anti-corruption crusader, as scandals revealed by the Intercept are increasingly corroborated by the nation’s leading conservative news outlets and former allies of the beleaguered public official.
Last month, the Intercept published internal messages showing Moro, who served as a judge in the massive Lava Jato corruption scandal, colluded with prosecutors to incriminate former Brazilian president Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva. Lula was the frontrunner in the 2018 presidential race before being convicted and imprisoned by Judge Moro, paving the way for far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro’s victory.
Shortly after victory, Bolsonaro appointed Moro to serve as Justice Minister, giving the former judge expansive powers over the country’s legal, surveillance, and law enforcement systems.
Because the leaks undermine the legitimacy of the entire judicial process that culminated in Lula’s imprisonment, Bolsonaro’s presidential victory, and Moro’s political ascension, the revelations were not immediately accepted by some of Brazil’s leading publications. But on Friday, Veja, the country’s most widely-read conservative magazine, announced a new partnership with the Intercept in a scathing cover story condemning the justice minister for his corruption.
Veja was formerly one of Moro’s strongest supporters, making their new position especially damaging to the justice minister.
“The communications analyzed by the Veja reporting team are true and the story shows that the case is even more grave than previously known,” wrote the magazine. “There are those who applaud and defend this kind of behavior, but as a responsible media outlet we cannot support such attitudes.”
Additionally, the Intercept has partnered with Folha de São Paulo, Brazil’s biggest newspaper. The country’s rightwing Senate president, expected to be a loyal ally to Bolsonaro, condemned Moro’s actions as so unethical he would “be imprisoned” if he did not hold such a high position of power.
“The report is devastating for Moro’s reputation. Devastating for the reputation of Brazil’s legal system. And this is only just the beginning,” wrote prominent conservative journalist Reinaldo Azevedo.
The justice minister’s testimony in the House ended in turmoil last Tuesday, as Moro dismissed the revelations of impropriety as “a political party issue,” triggering one lawmaker to condemn Moro as a “thieving judge.”
“The Brazilian population will not accept as a fait accompli a corrupt and thieving judge who has won a reward for making Brazilian democracy suffer. That is what you are: a judge who has corrupted himself a thieving judge,” said congressman Glauber Braga, sparking an uproar in the chamber.
President Jair Bolsonaro has so far stood by Moro, and the justice minister maintains his innocence against what he described as “the distorted and sensationalist diffusion of supposed messages obtained by criminal means.”
However, reports that the justice minister is using his authority to investigate the finances of Glenn Greenwald, the Intercept journalist at the forefront of the leaks, have triggered outcry from Brazil’s Bar Association and other members of the country’s civil society for suppression of the free press.
“Criminally investigating journalist Glenn Greenwald for reporting on corruption within the Bolsonaro government is a shocking violation of his rights as a reporter,” said Trevor Timm, executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation. “Worse, the same person who is the primary subject of The Intercept’s reporting—Minister of Justice Sergio Moro—would also have ultimate authority over any Federal Police investigation.”
Greenwald and his husband David Miranda, a congressman in the leftwing Socialism and Freedom party, have faced death threats in addition to the reports of retaliatory measures by the Bolsonaro administration. The couple’s close friend, prominent human rights activist and city council member Marielle Franco, was murdered under mysterious circumstances in Rio de Janeiro last year.
“This is what Bolsonaro and Moro are now doing: using the Federal Police they control to investigate me in retaliation for my reporting,” Greenwald tweeted.
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