A Judge Hero No More, Colltalers
Brazil has been rocked by a series of leaked conversations, suggesting a conspiracy of judge Sérgio Moro, law enforcement, and government officials, to prevent front-runner, two-term ex-president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva from winning the 2018 election.
A ‘gut punch.’ That’s how civil rights groups called the Trump administration’s plan to put asylum-seeking children in internment camps, used to detain Japanese-Americans during WWII. Brazilians took to the streets; reaction in the U.S. was more subdued.
To be sure, it’s been a time for political turmoil in both countries, at the forefront of a global struggle that pits progressive forces of society against the assault of a far-right neo-populism, managed behind the scenes by the likes of Steve Bannon and others.
Before probing further these two explosive headlines, let’s quickly review some of last week’s other events of note. Starting with Wikileaks’ founder Julian Assange, whose U.K. court hearing to decide on his extradition to the U.S. has been set for next February.
In a case that undermines one of the main tenets of democracy, that of a free press, Assange has been persecuted for publishing in 2010, classified documents on the war in Afghanistan and Iraq, leaked by court-marshaled Army Officer Chelsea Manning.
Between diplomatic cables and footage shot by Air Force pilots, the trove of material shows possible war crimes committed by the Americans, with potential to indict the entire U.S.
war effort in those two countries, and implications to the whole region.
Instead, the administration wants to use the 1917 Espionage Act to brand Assange an enemy of the state. For that, it counts on a compliant media, oblivious to its responsibility to inform and side up with whistleblowers who risk their lives, to tell the truth.
U.S. conservatives like to boast about patriotism, and how 911 defined a new America. But just as their ‘unwavering’ support to fetuses, and no regard to the living poor and non-white, such rhetoric won’t apply to those who actually sacrificed themselves.
The case of the first respondents, sicken while recovering bodies from New York City Ground Zero, the Pentagon, in D.C., and Shanksville, PA., is heartbreaking. 18 years after the attacks, Congress is still to provide a permanent cash stream for the Victims Compensation Fund, for survivors and families of those who perished from illnesses contracted while working at those sites.
‘You should be ashamed,’ lashed out comedian, and activist, Jon Stewart to a near empty room in Capitol Hill. It was his latest attempt to boost support for a bill with the potential to help more than 95 thousand survivors and responders enrolled in the plan. But it’s very likely that it won’t pass before the death toll from 911-related ailments outnumbers the attacks’ nearly 3,000 deaths.
Race has also brought Brazil and the U.S. somehow together in the past days. Former slave and abolitionist Harriet Tubman is poised to replace American slave-owner president Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill. Not soon, though, if it’s up to Treasury Sec. Steven Mnuchin. Whether Jackson-admirer Trump has anything to do with that is uncertain, but at least, a bill design is now out.
Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis, one of Brazil’s most celebrated writers, would be 180 next Friday. But in a country where over 60% of the population is non-white, many ignore that the son of slaves was black, unlike his official portraits. A project by Faculdade Zumbi dos Palmares, named after a former slave, is now trying to correct that and catching some flak in the process.
And another parallel in the week news is also worth mentioning: while a hung juror acquitted Scott Warren, for providing water and humanitarian aid to migrants in the American Southwest desert, Pia Klemp, a German boat captain, faces up to 20 years for rescuing an estimated 1,000 refugees. Let’s hope the Italian court system shows Arizona’s equanimity, and also acquit Klemp.
It was the now Justice Minister Moro, and its ‘Car Wash’ investigation, what assured Jair Bolsonaro as Brazil’s new president. He presided over persecution and imprisonment of double-digit polls leader Lula, on what many law experts called trumped-up charges. The Intercept’s disclosures that Moro was actually driving the proceedings all but demoralizes his public stature as fair.
Audios of his exchanges with Deltan Dallagnol, Lava Jato leading prosecutor, and other law enforcement agents, show that he clearly broke the law, and knew it. What will come next, with further revelations and mass rallies of protest, is anyone’s guess.
But slowly, a sharper picture of what happened to Brazil begins to emerge. From a global leadership position, in less than four years, it plummeted to a backwater nation, with a stagnant economy and paralyzed industry, and whose majority of its population is being haunted again by old demons, rampant hunger, and violence, with increasing social inequality, and a brutal lawless state.
The movement to free Lula has now a substantial legal backing. Even though Bolsonaro is likely to throw a still popular Moro under the bus any day now, the president himself may be sailing into troubled waters. As the universally derided coup that ousted president Dilma Rousseff showed in 2016, allegiances quickly change, and his support may be further eroded in the days ahead.
Some 120 thousand Japanese-Americans were held on four dozen facilities during WWII, due to a xenophobic, and ultimately unjustified, fear of U.S. betrayal by its own citizens. In another cruel double-down of its own stance on immigration, the Trump administration plans to send 1,400 asylum-seeking children to Fort Sill, OK, which hosted some 700 detainees during the 1940s.
That Army base choice represents the worst kind of symbolism, reaffirming the government’s views on immigration, refugees, and asylum-seeking, as a criminal, not social, issue. It’s truly sad to say, but concentration camps are indeed back, and here.
Ideologues of the ‘new’ Fascism have priorities well set. On top, are winning elections, which it’s been happening even if not as overwhelming as they claim. Related signposts to keep close watch: a new prime minister in the U.K., and president in the U.S.
But along that, there’s a core of issues that taken together, can redraw the world’s power balance. Women reproductive rights, race, immigration, wages, access to education, are key for would-be tyrants to manipulate and restrain societies under their fists.
Often, though, lack of vision, and/or a powerful theme threatening their own survival, derail them from that upper perch. These days, such an issue is climate emergency. It’s global, it’s existential, and above all, it’s coming at mankind real fast. That’s why the Green New Deal isn’t about planting trees, but changing social conditions, so we all have an equal shot at living and thriving.
It has to be inherent to any proposal to solve the climate challenge that the most powerful have greater responsibility to lead the charge and sponsor all material changes. But all efforts will be doomed if they merely reproduce the current social order. No one comes alive out of this world, but many will help build a better one. Open enrollment is now. Enjoy the midyear Solstice. WC