- Nathalia Birdie
- From BBC News Brazil in London
Two days after making threats to the Federal Supreme Court and calling minister Alexandre de Moraes a “scoundrel”, Bolsonaro released a letter in a “pacifying tone”, declaring that he never “had the intention of attacking any Powers”.
The president’s retreat surprised STF ministers, but not convinced, according to BBC News Brasil. For a group of Supreme Court members, Bolsonaro’s “stop on the brakes” is probably temporary, to reduce pressure.
The letter was written by former president Michel Temer, who flew from São Paulo to Brasília to mediate the conflict between the president and the other powers, after threats made by Bolsonaro in speeches at the popular demonstrations on September 7th.
He even said that Moraes was no longer able to remain in the Supreme Court, he stated that he would not respect the minister’s decisions and demanded that the president of the STF, Luiz Fux, “frame” his colleague, which would be unconstitutional.
Faced with the negative repercussion of the speeches both in the political world, which resumed discussions about the impeachment of the president, and in the market, which reacted with a rise in the dollar and the collapse of the stock market, Bolsonaro took a step back:
“I want to declare that my words, at times blunt, were the result of the heat of the moment and the clashes that always aimed at the common good”, he said, in a “letter to the nation”, released this Thursday (9/9).
Phone call to Fux
Responsible for appointing Alexandre de Moraes to the Supreme Court, former president Michel Temer made a phone call between the minister and Bolsonaro possible, after writing the letter for the president to sign. The conversation would have been short and protocol.
Soon after, according to BBC News Brasil, Temer telephoned the president of the STF, Luiz Fux, to tell him that there would be the release of a note in which Bolsonaro would make a nod of respect to democratic institutions.
Fux is reported to have responded by saying the letter is a “good sign” and that he appreciated Temer’s efforts, but stressed that it is necessary to “wait and see” whether the president is, in fact, committed to its content.
Other Supreme Ministers also reacted with disbelief. Two commented that Bolsonaro’s repertoire so far leaves no room to rely on change. One of them joked that, if the attacks were the result of “the heat of the moment”, nothing prevented the president from threatening the institutions in the face of a “new heat”.
Reaction in Congress
At the National Congress, reactions were mixed. The president of the Chamber, Arthur Lira, who is an ally of Bolsonaro, said he wanted “the president’s letter to be an opportunity to restart conversations for the stabilization of politics in the life of the Brazilian people.”
Covid’s CPI president, senator Omar Aziz (PSD-AM), said the letter is commendable, if it is “genuine”. He cast a suspicion that she might be a play by Bolsonaro, which, in his words, would be “pitying”.
The most suspicious assessments in the STF and in Congress are in line with what experts think that the president is momentarily stepping back.
Political scientist Claudio Couto, from the Getúlio Vargas Foundation, believes that Bolsonaro’s letter is part of a tactic frequently used by the president throughout his career: attack, retreat to gain space and reduce pressure, and then attack again.
“It’s a repeated pattern. He’s always acted like that, since he was a federal deputy. He attacks, suffers a reaction, simulates a certain restraint, even a relative mea-culpa, and returns to attack with even more advantage. He is gradually gaining ground. Always two steps ahead, two steps back,” he told BBC News Brasil.
According to the professor, Bolsonaro is momentarily retreating from attacks on the Supreme Court because of three factors:
First, to reduce pressures for opening impeachment proceedings. Second, avoid rulings against his children in STF investigations. The court will soon assess, for example, whether senator Flavio Bolsonaro will have the right to privileged jurisdiction in the case of alleged appropriation of advisors’ salaries, known as the cracks scheme – a practice the senator denies.
The third reason, according to Couto, is to reduce the great negative impact of September 7 on the economy. The dollar rose and the stock market fell sharply after the president’s speech. In addition, the economy suffers from energy rationing and high inflation.
“When he backs off, he somehow gives the impression to a series of actors that there was a moderation and, therefore, the attacks he had been suffering would not be justified. Then he gains space and can, later, resume the previous actions”, said the professor at FGV.
“It is not likely that someone who had such a violent speech on September 7 would write a sincere letter with that content,” he says.
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