Brazil’s Former Justice Minister Accuses President of Abandoning Anticorruption Fight
05 Jun 2020

A former judge who became the face of Brazil’s anticorruption campaign said he felt forced to step down as justice minister because President Jair Bolsonaro had abandoned the fight on graft that had helped get him elected.

“To fight corruption, you need to have a very strong program, including in Congress, and I didn’t see support from the president for those reforms,” Sergio Moro said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. “I started to feel as if I were in the government as an anticorruption symbol, but without the government in fact implementing consistent public policies in that area.”

The 47-year-old Mr. Moro, who was lauded by Brazilians as the face of the Operation Car Wash investigation that sent prominent politicians and corporate executives to jail, resigned in April after accusing Mr. Bolsonaro of trying to interfere in federal criminal investigations. Days before Mr. Moro’s departure, the president fired his health minister after the two clashed repeatedly over the handling of the coronavirus pandemic that is now ravaging Brazil.

The president’s office declined to comment on Mr. Moro’s allegations.

Mr. Bolsonaro, a far-right former congressman who ran on a law-and-order platform, promised Mr. Moro a strengthened justice ministry, carte blanche to name key officials and support for an overhaul of Brazil’s criminal justice system to better fight government graft and organized crime.

But on April 24, after 16 months in Mr. Bolsonaro’s government, Mr. Moro stepped down. He said at the time he couldn’t remain in the administration after Mr. Bolsonaro fired the head of the Federal Police, Mauricio Valeixo. Mr. Moro said the dismissal was made against his wishes and without his knowledge after the president complained at a cabinet meeting about harassment of his family and friends.

“I didn’t choose to leave, I was forced to resign by an act by the president,” he told the Journal.

Mr. Moro declined to discuss the continuing investigations of Mr. Bolsonaro’s three sons, which have received widespread media attention in Brazil. But according to testimony given by Mr. Moro and made public in early May, the president wanted control of the federal police in Rio de Janeiro. Brazilian authorities have been investigating Mr. Moro’s allegations that the president tried to interfere with Federal Police operations.

The three sons, all of whom are public officials, are under investigation for suspected malfeasance, including allegations of skimming from office budgets and other questionable transactions. The investigations of two of them are taking place in Rio de Janeiro. They deny the allegations.

By Luciana Magalhães and Jeffrey T. Lewis, The Wall Street Journal, 2 June 2020

Read more at The Wall Street Journal

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