Brazil's top anti-corruption judge joins Bolsonaro government amid outcry
Judge SÃ©rgio Moro has agreed to be the justice and public security minister in Brazilâs new administration. (Mauro Pimentel/AFP/Getty Images) November 1 at 5:00 PM
SAO PAULO, Brazil â" SÃ©rgio Moro, a judge who presided over an ongoing corruption crackdown that decimated Brazilâs political establishment and paved the way for Jair Bolsonaroâs victory in last weekâs election, on Thursday accepted the post of justice and public security minister in the new administration.
âThe prospect of implementing strong policies against corruption and organized crime, while respecting the constitution, the law and rights, brought me to this decision,â Moro said in a statement.
But his appointment has sparked an outcry, with critics saying it taints the four-year-old corruption probe as politically motivated.
Moro, 46, became a household name in 2014 for holding Brazilâs rich and powerful accountable for corruption and racketeering. He was the main judge responsible for deciding cases in what has become the largest corruption probe in Brazilian history. Operation Car Wash uncovered a complex kickback scheme wherein large construction companies funneled bribes to top politicians in return for lucrative contracts and favorable legislation.
While politicians on both the right and the left were targeted in the investigation, prosecutors argued that former president Luiz InÃ¡cio Lula da Silvaand the then-ruling Workersâ Party were at the center of the scheme.
Last year, Moro found Lula guilty of corruption and money laundering as part of the investigation. In April, he sent Lula to jail to serve a 12-year sentence after his appeals were denied, a move that plucked him out of a presidential race in which he was the front-runner and cleared a path to the presidency for Bolsonaro, a fringe politician from a tiny party. Lula and many of his supporters called the investigation a politically motivated witch hunt to remove him from the race.
The scale of corruption uncovered by the investigation fueled public outrage. Thousands took to the streets denouncing the Workersâ Party and calling for a change in leadership. That anger lifted Bolsonaroâs campaign and doomed his rival, Lula stand-in Fernando Haddad.
Throughout the campaign, Bolsonaro had sought to associate himself with Moro, using the judgeâs name and image in political ads and vowing to continue his fight against corruption.
âWe agreed on 100 percent, everything. Itâs not the Bolsonaro campaign that wins, Brazil wins with a heavyweight on this issue,â Bolsonaro told reporters outside his home on Thursday.
[How far to the r ight could Brazilâs new leader take the country?]
As minister of justice and public security, Moro will be entrusted with fixing the two issues that Brazilians most care about: crime and corruption.
Yet observers worry that the appointment could undermine the ongoing and sprawling corruption investigation. Moro has stepped away from the probe and will no longer try cases, including the remaining ones involving Lula.
âItâs a risky move,â said Alexandre Bandeira, a political strategist in Brasilia. âIt can give ammunition to the rumors that Car Wash was a political arrangement to pull Lula from the election.â
For years, Moro said he would never enter politics and presented himself as being above the political fray. âI am a man of justice, and, no offense, I am not a man of politics,â he said in a 2016 interview. âI am of another reality, another career track, another profile. That risk will never exist.â
Lulaâs allies denounced Moroâs appointment as proof that the corruption investigation has unfairly targeted the former president.
âFraud of the century!â tweeted Gleisi Hoffmann, a senior member of the Workersâ Party. âJudge Sergio Moro will be Minister of Justice in Jair Bolsonaroâs Government, who has only got elected because Lula was unfairly convicted and prevented from participating in the elections .â.â. by judge Sergio Moro. Helped to elect, helping to govern.â
Still, others welcomed the news that Moro, an expert on corruption and money laundering, would be given a broader platform.
âSergio Moro is a moral asset to Brazil,â a Bolsonaro ally and the governor-elect of Sao Paulo, JoÃ£o Doria, said in a statement. âHaving Judge Moro as Minister of Justice and Public Security will make Bolsonaroâs government even more dignified and signal a new path of transparency and honesty in Brazilian politics.â
How Brazilâs political class came undone
Brazil shed a military dictatorship. Now it looks again toward iron-fisted rule.
The corruption scandal started in Brazil. Now itâs wreaking havoc in Peru.
Todayâs coverage from Post correspondents around the world
Like Washington Post World on Facebook and stay updated on foreign newsSource: Google News South Brazil | Netizen 24 Brazil