The Brazilian lawmaker that dedicated his pro-impeachment vote to the dictatorship-era war criminal that oversaw President Dilma Rousseff’s torture should be kicked out of public office, say tens of thousands of Brazilians expressing disgust over the far-right Congress member’s affront to human rights and democracy.
An online petition, launched the day after Sunday’s congressional vote to approve impeachment proceedings against Rousseff, has garnered over 146,500 signatures calling for Congress member Jair Bolsonaro to be removed from office for breaking the law by praising criminal activity.
Bolsonaro, a staunch conservative representing Rio de Janeiro, used his time to justify his vote during Sunday’s marathon congressional session to dedicate his support for impeachment to Carlos Brilhante Ustra, the colonel who headed the dictatorship’s notorious torture program in the 1970’s.
Bolsonaro called the torturer-in-chief “the source of Dilma Rousseff’s dread,” referring to the fact the president was jailed for being a leftist guerrilla and suffered torture, including electrocution, under Brilhante Ustra’s watch.
When asked about Bolsonaro’s statement in a press conference earlier this week, Rousseff responded with composure, saying the comments were “regrettable.”
“It is terrible to see someone voting in tribute to the greatest torturer that this country has known,” she said, adding without mentioning names that she came to know the man in question after her arrest in the 1970’s and that she withstood torture and “very dark times.”
Lawyers of the Rio de Janeiro chapter of the Bar Association of Brazil have moved to push for Bolsonaro’s removal, with plans to submit a request to the Supreme Court and lower house Ethics Committee. The head of the Bar Association in Rio de Janeiro, Fernando Santa Cruz, is the son of a political figure disappeared under the dictatorship.
Public apologies and praise for criminal acts are punishable under Brazil’s constitution.
But while many Brazilians are outraged over Bolsonaro’s comments, among the wealthiest 5 percent of society he is favored as the next president, according to a recent Datafolha poll.
Bolsonaro’s son Eduardo is also a member of Congress and dedicated his pro-impeachment vote to the forces that carried out the 1964 coup.
Pro-democracy movements in Brazil, which have taken to the streets by the tens of thousands to counter pro-impeachment rallies, have slammed the impeachment process against Rousseff as an assault on the country’s still-fragile democracy.
While impeachment is valid under Brazil’s constitution, the process against Rousseff lacks the necessary legal basis due to the fact that she is not accused of any crimes.
Meanwhile, the man who will take over from Rousseff if she is suspended, Vice President Michel Temer, faces corruption charges and possible impeachment over his involvement in the Petrobras state oil corruption scandal, including receiving over one million dollars in bribes.
The Senate vote on whether to approve the impeachment proceeding against Rousseff is expected to take place next month.