Bolsonaro names anti-graft judge as justice minister

Brazilian federal judge Sergio Moro said in 2016 said he would never enter politics, keeping the focus on his graft-fighting crusade in the courts.
Brazilian federal judge Sergio Moro said in 2016 said he would never enter politics, keeping the focus on his graft-fighting crusade in the courts.PHOTO: REUTERS

Brazil judge oversaw probe that sent President-elect's rival to jail

RIO DE JANEIRO • Brazilian far-right President-elect Jair Bolsonaro has convinced crusading anti-graft judge Sergio Moro to become his justice minister, the two said, delighting supporters and enraging critics.

Mr Moro oversaw the "Operation Car Wash" probe that sent former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva - Mr Bolsonaro's chief political rival - to prison for corruption. The 12-year jail sentence blocked Lula from running against Mr Bolsonaro.

A telegenic 46-year-old who has previously denied any political ambitions, Mr Moro flew to Mr Bolsonaro's beachside Rio de Janeiro home on Thursday, where the two met before announcing the decision.

"His anti-corruption and anti-organised crime agenda, as well as his respect for the laws and the constitution, will be our guide," Mr Bolsonaro tweeted.

The President-elect scored a clear political victory with the appointment of Mr Moro, who gained cult following in Brazil after he locked up a string of politicians and businessmen.

But his appointment also gives ammunition to Mr Bolsonaro's opponents, who have long argued that the Car Wash probe was a politicised purge aimed at sidelining Lula and his leftist Workers Party (PT).

"Moro will be Bolsonaro's minister after his decisive role in his election, by blocking Lula from running," tweeted PT president Gleisi Hoffmann. "Fraud of the century!"

The president-elect scored a clear political victory with the appointment of Mr Moro, who gained cult following in Brazil after he locked up a string of politicians and businessmen.

Mr Moro's decision to work with Mr Bolsonaro brings risks.

 
 
 
 

The President-elect has a history of making racist, misogynist and homophobic comments, as well as remarks dismissive of democratic institutions, although he has pledged repeatedly in recent days to respect the Constitution.

As justice minister, Mr Moro will have oversight of the federal police and federal public security. He said he would hand over the reins of the Car Wash investigation to other judges.

In 2016, Mr Moro said he would never enter politics, keeping the focus on his graft-fighting crusade in the courts. But the rise of Mr Bolsonaro, a seven-term congressman who has cast himself as a political maverick, appears to have changed the judge's mind.

Some on Mr Bolsonaro's team would even like Mr Moro to run for the presidency in 2022, according to a report by a Folha de S. Paulo newspaper columnist on Thursday.

Mr Moro was floated as a possible presidential candidate in the run-up to this year's election. Early last year, he enjoyed the support of nearly two-thirds of Brazilians in opinion polls. That figure dropped sharply after he sentenced Lula, who is still remembered fondly for reducing inequality during his 2003-2011 presidency. Mr Bolsonaro is expected to announce a full Cabinet this month, ahead of his Jan 1 inauguration.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 03, 2018, with the headline 'Bolsonaro names anti-graft judge as justice minister'. Print Edition | Subscribe