Daniel Silveira: A Bolsonaro deputy, sentenced to nine years in prison for attacking democracy | International

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The Bolsonarist deputy Daniel Silveira, sentenced this Wednesday for attacking democracy, in a file image.EVARISTO SA (AFP)

The Supreme Court of Brazil sentenced this Wednesday night to eight years and nine months in prison the Bolsonarista deputy Daniel Silveira, an undisciplined former police officer, for continuously attacking democratic institutions. The mere conviction, which was adopted by a majority of 10 magistrates to one, is a setback for President Jair Bolsonaro, who has frequently clashed with the highest court. The magistrates made it clear during the session that the case went far beyond the parliamentarian sitting on the bench and stressed that the ruling concerns the defense of democracy and institutions, according to the newspaper Folha de S.Paulo. Brazil holds presidential and parliamentary elections in six months as the president casts doubt on the voting system.

Silveira is a former military police officer who accumulated dozens of sanctions during his years of service in the force and who managed to be elected as a deputy for Rio de Janeiro on the back of the wave that brought Bolsonaro to the presidency.

The parliamentarian was accused of publicly inciting violence, the closure of Congress and the Supreme Court through a military intervention through the dissemination of a video last year. He spent a few months in prison and recently barricaded himself in the headquarters of the Chamber of Deputies so that the police would not put an electronic anklet on him. His defense has maintained throughout the process that Silveira's words were protected by parliamentary immunity. In fact, the hard core of Bolsonarista supporters considers him a martyr for freedom of expression. And the president himself considers that the case against him is an example of the authoritarianism of the court.

In recent months, the president has lowered his tone, but previously on several occasions he has encouraged anti-democratic demonstrations by his followers. Bolsonaro is also a defender of the military regime that held the reins of Brazil between 1964 and 1985.

There are six months left for elections that are shaping up to be the most polarized and hard-fought in recent Brazilian history. An epic duel is expected between two old acquaintances, Bolsonaro and former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. In 2018 they could not be measured at the polls because the founder of the Workers' Party (PT) was removed from the presidential race for convictions that have ultimately been annulled or archived.

Before the hearing, it was already expected that nine of the 11 judges of the highest court would vote in favor of convicting his lordship. The doubt was in the two magistrates appointed by Bolsonaro. Analysts believed that they would request a postponement of the hearing or vote against it, but this has not been exactly the case. One of them, the jurist André Mendonça, gave the surprise by joining the majority decision, although he requested a lesser sentence. Mendonça was chosen by Bolsonaro to fulfill his electoral promise to appoint a terrifyingly evangelical judge to the court. The second judge appointed by Bolsonaro voted in favor of acquittal on the grounds that, although there were offenses, they do not constitute a crime.

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Silveira, who will lose his seat and will not be able to run in the October elections, has maintained a defiant attitude until the last minute. Shortly before the start of the trial at the headquarters of the Supreme Court, in Brasilia, the deputy took the floor in the plenary session of Congress —located on the other side of the square—. From the rostrum he proclaimed that the judge who has directed the case against him "believes himself to be a wren from Brazil" and is "a frustrated boy who only has courage behind a table." That said, he headed to the Supreme Court accompanied by one of the president's sons, deputy Eduardo Bolsonaro, who was unable to enter the session due to the restrictions stemming from the pandemic.

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