A bouncer-jurist is one who lends a vocabulary, a black tie and a pompous biography to the exercise of violence. He does not lack a desire to serve and to get his hands dirty. Autocratic regimes usually rent this gang to organize, under the varnish of the law, repression and mutual protection. The place of the legal profession in the universal history of political infamy varies between servitude and complacency. Except for the usual exceptions.
Augusto Aras (the Brazilian Attorney General) is part of this servile band. While government's colleagues trigger confidential inquiries against critics, Aras is at the rear: he omits what matters; he shows off in insignificant causes; he authorizes the boss, under the legal sign of freedom, to speak gibberish even if it feeds the spiral of death.
In Aras' state theory, the president is free to infect, to incite violence and to practice curative charlatanism. When prosecutors, in the beginning of the crisis, asked Aras to recommend to the president to refrain from spreading lies and misinformation about the pandemics, he shelved the petition. He claimed the president's freedom of expression and cited a Supreme Court's random precedent.
Aras also established that Bolsonaro's Twitter account is private, a free zone for presidential delinquency where he may offend China, celebrate chloroquine and block inconvenient followers; he defined that the president cannot be investigated for threatening journalists; and that the president has the right to oppose health policy measures.
Aras does not skimp on shelving criminal investigations: against Damares (the Human Rights Minister) for assaulting governors; against General Heleno (the Institutional Security Minister) for threatening the Supreme Court; against Zambelli (a vocal bolsonarist member of Congress) for influence peddling; against Eduardo Bolsonaro (the president's son) for subversion of the political order by suggesting a coup.
The Attorney General does not only fail by ommission. When he acts, he has a north: against the law, he made it impossible for prosecutors to send usual recommendations to the Ministry of Health; against the law, he recommended the members of Ministerio Público not to charge health officials in case of “scientific uncertainty”. And I am not going to talk about how Aras himself dismantled anti-corruption task forces in order to concentrate in his own office an arsenal of private information with infinite potential for intimidation.
Aras also armors Bolsonaro from a legal-procedural point of view: he obstructed an investigation against the porter of Bolsonaro's gated community, which prompted a potential link between the Bolsonaro family and the murder of Marielle; he produced a legal opinion against the evidences collected in the fake news inquiry at the Supreme Court; he penned another legal brief benefiting Flavio Bolsonaro (another son of the president) in a criminal investigation, departing from another precedent of the Supreme Court.
He did not stop: he asked for the rejection of the criminal complaint that he himself had offered against Artur Lira (Bolsonaro's candidate for House Speaker), after he allied himself with Bolsonaro; he made enabled speedy proceedings against the Bolsonaro's enemy Wilson Witzel, governor of Rio; he offered a legal opinion against the setting of a deadline for the House Speaker to take a stand on impeachment requests.
I could go on, but I close the list with the obstruction that Aras promotes against criminal complaints presented against Bolsonaro. Under pressure, Aras wrote that we are staying in the "anteroom of the state of defense", a constitutional state of emergency which allows for concentration of power and rights' restrictions. He did not explain the threat.
Faced with the reaction of other prosecutors and the criminal representation filed against himself to the Superior Council of the Ministerio Público, he decided to "act". He opened an investigation against the mayor of the city of Manaus and the governor of the Amazonas State. He opened another investigation against Pazuello (the Health Minister), openly declared his sheer obedience to the president's commands. He did not include Bolsonaro himself in this investigation, and ensured that Pazuello would be investigated only for the crime of malfeasance, no other more serious crime against public health that the public sphere has been pointing out.
Aras is himself the anteroom of the end of the Ministério Público as designed by the 1988 Constitution. "The Constitution is my guide, the Attorney General's Office does not move by party interests." Aras' guide has been the 1967 dictatorial Constitution. There, the Attorney General was a subordinate officer.
The repertoire of omissions is so holistic that it surprisingly harms President Bolsonaro where it is least expected: it meets the legal condition required by the International Criminal Court to open an international criminal case.