[Editor’s Note: I-CONnect is pleased to feature a four-part symposium on the role of the Brazilian Supreme Court and the protection of democracy in the age of populism. This is the third entry of the symposium, which was kindly organized by Professors Conrado Hübner Mendes and Juliano Zaiden Benvindo. Their introduction is available here.]
—Debora Diniz, University of Brasilia
I would describe Brazil as an ongoing experiment in the effects of the post-truth wave on public institutions and spaces. If post-truth is a global phenomenon, with president Mr. Donald Trump as one of its leading voices, Latin America is a particularly fertile region for observing the effects of the phenomenon on politics due to the weakness of the region’s democratic institutions. The election of Mr. Jair Bolsonaro as the president of Brazil is one of the most recent milestones of the post-truth wave, which is characterized by the persecution of academics and science, the distrust of journalists, and the dissemination of fake news via social media channels.
Mr. Bolsonaro has not changed the composition of the Brazilian Supreme Court, yet. During his tenure, it is expected that he will have the opportunity to nominate at least two new Justices to the Court, which could significantly shift the power balance on sensitive issues, particularly those involving the rights of minority groups. Recently, Mr. Bolsonaro announced his wish to have an “evangelical Justice” as a potential candidate, even though the current Minister of Justice, Sergio Moro, the former judge who sentenced former president Mr. Lula to jail, had been considered the top candidate. Bolsonaro’s comments provoked a strong reaction among the legal community about the meaning of a secular state.
Given the recent radical change in the political scenario, the Brazilian Supreme Court now has a particularly crucial role in protecting fundamental rights for women, LGBTQI, and racial minorities. However, to honor its mandate of protecting the Constitution, the Court has to strengthen its capacity to resist the post-truth mindset that dominates politics in Brazil. I would argue that there is a particular entry point that can facilitate such a role for the Court: the “empirical turn” of legal studies. The “empirical turn” has started at the legal schools with a demand for more rigor in the use of science in legal argumentation and is slowly migrating to the everyday legal work in Brazil. As a professor of methodology to Law students, I have been following a path in changing the legal mindset in country.Read the rest of this entry…