President Lula, who lost a little finger when he was a turner, greets the public at the Independence Day parade, this Thursday, in Brasilia.UESLEI MARCELINO (REUTERS)
It was known that the current president of Brazil would appoint two judges to the Supreme Court during his term because judges are forced to retire when they turn 75 years old. Three months ago, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva already placed in court a man of his utmost confidence, the lawyer who got him out of prison, Cristiano Zanin, 47 years old. Now, fearing that he will appoint another white man, movements of black activists, women, jurists, and even the Minister of Racial Equality, Anielle Franco, and even Xuxa, a former television presenter, have joined forces in a campaign of pressure for Lula to choose a black professional. The message has arrived in the form of an advertising poster as far as New Delhi, where the Brazilian is participating in the G20 this weekend.
The process to replace the current president of the Supreme Court, Rosa Weber, who turns 75 on October 2, has sparked an unusual campaign in which disparate voices have joined. And she gains followers every day. They demand that President Lula make the highest court more like the real Brazil, where women and Afro-Brazilians are the majority. Two groups that, as the promoters of this campaign have now recalled, were crucial for the leader of the Brazilian left to win over the far-right Jair Bolsonaro at the polls.
The Brazilian Supreme Court has never had a black female judge in its 132-year history. Right now only two of the 11 robes are women and all of them are white. Since 1891, among the top interpreters of the Constitution there have only been three female judges (and only since 2000) and three black magistrates (the first more than a century ago), according to one of the information websites launched for the campaign. .
The Minister of Racial Equality outlined her arguments for demanding the entry of a black woman into the Supreme Court in a recent press article: “We need to take a firm step towards the democratic development of our country,” Franco wrote. In her opinion, the appointment of a black legal professional “strengthens, practically and symbolically, the safeguarding of the Federal Constitution and the complex last resort decisions in the exercise of justice by the Brazilian State.”
The campaign has gained traction given the data that illustrates the historical underrepresentation and because it has coincided with two events that have raised blisters among Brazilian progressives: two women have been the main victims of the first ministerial changes and the first steps of the new Supreme Court judge. , Zanin, the man who managed to get the judges to annul the convictions against Lula, has shown a more conservative position than expected by the progressive social movements that support the leftist president.
The highest court is considered a crucial battleground at a time when Brazil has elected the most conservative Congress in its history. Jair Bolsonaro made sure to place two like-minded people on the Supreme Court, including a “terribly evangelical” jurist.
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On the table, the eleven most well-known and powerful judges in the country have issues on drugs, the right to abortion or indigenous rights. All issues at the center of polarized debates whose resolution could have enormous social and economic consequences in the coming years.
In terms of gender representation, Brazil is light years ahead of the entire region. The comparison with Mexico is embarrassing for this country that already had a president, Dilma Rousseff. Two women are the favorites there in the 2024 dispute for the presidency, but the fact is that Mexican parliamentarians represent 50% compared to 18% of their Brazilian counterparts. And the Supreme Court of Mexico, which also has eleven members, includes four judges, three of them appointed by the current president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador. At the other extreme, Argentina, where all four members of the court are men and the fifth position is vacant.
The promoters of the Brazilian campaign have demonstrated their means and ingenuity. Given that press reports claim that Lula is looking for someone he can trust and that among the most popular names there are no black women, although there are some white women, Greg News, a program directed by one of the most followed comedians in the country, Gregorio Duvivier has created a website from which anyone can write to the president of the republic to introduce him and “invite him to have a coffee” with three renowned black jurists selected by the group Black Women Decide. They are judge Adriana Cruz, prosecutor Lívia Sant’Anna Vaz and lawyer Soraia Mendes.
Tens of thousands of Internet users have written to Lula through that and another website, entitled Why we need a progressive black woman in the Supreme Court. The latter is the one that Xuxa has adhered to in recent days, who for decades reigned on television as a great symbol of a white and blonde Brazil, and spread the campaign to his millions of followers on social networks.
Activists warn that if retired Judge Weber is replaced by a white man, the court will continue to be monochromatic and there will be only one woman, that is, a throwback to the early years of this century.
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