On the night of March 11, 1996, Buriti Palace, headquarters of the Federal District government, was attacked. Two shots were fired into the governor’s cabinet. Windows were shattered as the bullets struck them and the walls, but no one was injured. This serious incident was never solved conclusively by the police, but several suspects had their names considered, all opposed to my government at that time.
Almost 20 years later, in a telephone interview with the newspaper Correio Braziliense about local politics, I said that people were saying at the time that the attack had been perpetrated by well-known personalities of the city, against whom other suspicions were weighing. Because of this interview, one of those gentlemen filed a lawsuit against me for moral damages, asking for a compensation of R$ 500 K for moral damages. I argued at court that, in the interview, I had not made any accusations, and that I only said that people were talking about suspected perpetrators of the attack. I showed the judge names of some witnesses who might have heard the rumors that suggested who the people were who may have been implicated and who were cited as participants.
The judge in charge of the case did not hear any witnesses and by the simple reading of the records concluded that he had sufficient reasons to condemn me for moral damages. Some of my friends and my lawyer advised me to pay the value stipulated by the judge and close the case, or to appeal to the highest court because, as a senator of the Republic, I was entitled to what is called “privileged forum”. Instead, I preferred to appeal to the higher instance of justice, where the case is now being prosecuted.
I fully believe in my innocence, in the same way that I think the judge was wrong not to hear the witnesses. Having said that, now as a senator, I still would not vote in favor of the “Abuse of Authority Act,” which may be used in the future to criminalize judges, prosecutors and police officers for mistakes they may have made in the performance of their duties.
At the moment, despite the amendments that softened the initial bill, the approval of this law last Wednesday means an attempt to hinder the work of Operation Lava Jato. In the future, it may serve to inhibit the work of the police, the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the judiciary against murderers, traffickers and rapists, and not only against public agents suspected or convicted of corruption or, as in my case, for moral damages that I do not I think I committed.
In addition to the danger of approving a law that will have serious consequences in the fight against crime by leaving judicial authorities subject to processes inhibiting their actions, this law will have a negative effect on democracy. Besides hampering the fight against corruption, it will give people the idea that we are voting in Parliament to protect ourselves.
None of us who were elected in the last election is free from the suspicion of having used resources not accounted for. Voting for this law leaves us under the suspicion of a self-protection vote, muzzling and tying up justice so as not to allow it to carry on and to continue the Brazilian fight against corruption, trafficking, violence and the crimes that are devastating our country.