Brazil’s Sergio Moro looks to overhaul crime fighting
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Justice Minister Sergio Moro presented an anti-crime bill Monday that seeks to toughen Brazil’s approach to organized crime, corruption and violence.
Key measures include obligating convicts to begin serving their sentences after a first appeal is denied, categorizing militias and drug trafficking gangs as organized criminal groups and cracking down on illegal campaign finance.
“We want to be more rigorous with more serious crimes,” Moro told reporters after presenting his bill to state governors and key public security officials in Brasilia.
Passing the measure will be Moro’s first big test since he was named justice minister.
The former judge surprised many of his supporters last year when he abandoned the vast “Car Wash” anti-graft probe he helped create and led for years to join the ranks of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro’s administration.
The investigation has put dozens of politicians and business leaders behind bars, including ex-President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, a fact that somewhat paved the way for Bolsonaro’s victory.
Now the justice and public security minister, Moro has the task of helping Bolsonaro meet his ambitious campaign promises: fight corruption and put an end to a cycle of violence. In 2017, nearly 64,000 people were killed in Brazil, a record for the country that has long been the world leader in annual homicides.
In the 34-page document, which will soon be submitted to congress, Moro targets specific gangs, classifying the Sao Paulo-based Primeiro Comando da Capital, the country’s most powerful gang, Rio de Janeiro’s Comando Vermelho and militias as organized crime groups.
The bill, aligning itself with one of Bolsonaro’s most criticized proposals, would grant more protection to police officers who kill during operations, adopting a more lenient definition of self-defense.
During the presidential campaign, Bolsonaro praised police officers who killed criminals during operations and argued they should be decorated, not criminally tried.
Another key measure, one likely to stir a heated debate in congress, is campaign funding and electoral fraud. As cases of under-the-table election funding have multiplied in recent years, Moro proposes to crack down on the use of illegal slush funds, also known in Brazil as “Caixa Dois.”
Before submitting the bill to Congress, Moro presented the text to state governors, who he said will be key in implementing his security agenda. In Brazil, public security is largely a state-level responsibility.
Moro also said the bill had already been approved by Bolsonaro. In a message to congress backing up the proposal, the president wrote Monday that the fight against organized crime remained one of his mandate’s top priorities.