photo by Sergio Andrade
Cláudio Lembo - Photo by Sérgio Andrade

Claudio Lembo is a man of short, incisive answers. And he doesn't seem to have any doubts: “Brazil is a reactionary, conservative, extremely retrograde country”. According to his analysis, after the Constitution was enacted, in October 1988, the country experienced “an exercise” in democracy, which worked while the economy was doing well, but entered a dark period when the numbers started to be negative. One of the obstacles to democracy, says Lembo, is the fact that the three powers – Executive, Legislative and Judiciary – are intertwined in Brasília, frequenting the same spaces, exchanging ideas day and night: “Juscelino’s biggest mistake (former president Juscelino Kubitschek) went to transfer the capital. It destroyed Rio de Janeiro and built a cloaca”.

Another aspect that influences the crystallization of this scenario is, for Lembo, the control of political power, of communication, by hegemonic groups that act exclusively in defense of their interests. At 82, the former governor, professor of Constitutional Law at Mackenzie University, in São Paulo, and president of the Center for Political and Social Studies (Cepes) says he has no hope of changes in the short term, but believes in the possibility of reversing in the distant future: “It is clear that in the long term the country will recover and effectively overcome this great obstacle”.

As for the arm wrestling between the Legislature and the Judiciary, he believes that the trend is cooling: “Public opinion, and particularly the Internet, will make everyone get real, realize the ridiculous way they are acting.” Lembo has been touted as a conservative politician since the time he debuted in politics, in the second half of the 1970s, as secretary of Extraordinary Business to the mayor of São Paulo Olavo Setubal. When this reporter entered his law firm, in the vicinity of Avenida Paulista, in São Paulo, he had just heard, on his cell phone, an audio of former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. And he insisted on restarting the cell phone file.

Claudio Lembo – I don't know if you heard it here. Lulu is right. Listen to the recording: “You have in Curitiba a special group of people anointed by God to save the world. Do they have any idea how much the Lava Jato Operation has already caused damage to this country's economy? Do they have any idea how much unemployment it has already caused?”. He is right. This operation stopped Brazil.

Brazilian - So do you agree with former President Lula?

Yes. And Lava Jato is committing excesses, particularly when the Federal Police, with the authorization of the Judiciary, carry out coercive conducts of people. It is an aggression against human rights.

Before Operation Car Wash began, how did the instrument of coercive conduct work in Brazil?

It was very, very rare, because you shouldn't use coercive driving. A witness cannot be led under a rod. It's an absurd. If the witness has an address, has a profession, a family structure, he will appear for the deposition. She won't run away, so much so that no one ran. Therefore, driving coercively is unnecessary. There is violence in Brazil.

Does the witness actually need to be called to testify?

To be summoned, summoned. And she will testify spontaneously. Only if she does not appear, then yes, she can be coerced. But coercively making a first subpoena is aggression.

Is that what the law says?

That's what the law says. It's also common sense. It is the fifth article of the Constitution, which is being violated all the time.

What happens that higher instances do not interfere?

It is the fear of public opinion. Public opinion is totally caught up in an idea of ​​absolute revenge. This is complex because it will lead to a total paralysis of society, as is already happening.

You can already detect this in the economy, right?

The economy stopped. The country is at a standstill. Anyone visiting the city of São Paulo will see that the entire city is either for sale or for rent, which is dramatic. It's a pathetic situation. Brazil has never experienced anything like it. And, as I said, there is no hope, because there are no institutions that deserve the respect of society.

How do you assess this situation?

With much bitterness. I confess that, when I was 82 years old, I never saw Brazil so badly. There is no hope. And the worst thing that can happen to a society is to live without hope.

What is the origin of this picture?

A series of elements. First, the wear and tear of politicians, who have become demoralized. Second, the excesses of the Public Ministry, which also involves the Federal Police. All of this brought an air of depression and fragility to the whole society.

In your opinion, isn't there also a person who can lead a change?

Right now, I don't see anyone. It will inevitably arise, but right now we don't have anyone.

And is there a risk that the extreme right, from a politician like Jair Bolsonaro, will grow even more?

It may grow, but I don't think it will get there. I believe, however, that space on the right is inevitable. Conservatism will be a future path.

In tune with the rest of the world?

Yesterday Italy, the day before yesterday the United States, previously other countries, and so on. There was only a little air in Austria, where the right didn't win.

With the recent victory of a progressive over the ultranationalist candidate in the presidential race?

Exactly, but the rest of the world is moving towards conservatism. Perhaps the excess of political correctness has created the antagonism. There was an excess of disrespect to some institutions in favor of human rights. With that, there was the counterpart. A balance will emerge, but it will still take time.

How so?

It's very simple. There was, for example, an immense waste of the police forces. They were attacked in every way. Perhaps they acted excessively, and this caused them to lose control of society. So now the balance is being set, knowing that there must be police instruments, so that society can live in balance and with the capacity to dialogue. After redemocratization, Brazil went through a search for the ideal. As the ideal does not exist, it fell into what we are living today.

With regard to the police forces, they act in a dubious way. When the demonstration is from the right, they take a selfie with the protesters. When it's from the left, they hit.

What is wrong. There is an imbalance. The police are pulling themselves together for life in a democratic society, which is difficult. Brazil has never been democratic. Brazil is a reactionary, conservative, extremely retrograde country. So he suffers a lot when he has a long period of democracy.

The period from 1988?

From the Constitution onwards, it was an exercise in democracy. As long as the economy was doing well, democracy worked. Now that the economy is doing poorly, there are questions about democracy around the world and in Brazil.

So there's no way out?

I have no hope in the short term. It is clear that in the long term the country will recover and will effectively overcome this great obstacle. But at the moment there is no hope, because there are no personalities. Congress worn out. The judiciary discredited. The police object of censorship. What's left of Brazil? It has no institutions.

And the arm wrestling between the Legislature and the Judiciary?

Both are wrong. The Legislature should have composure and examine legislation with balance and common sense. And the judiciary should speak less. What the ministers of the Supreme Court say today is an inconsistency. It is absurd that the minister talks so much. He should speak in the case file or when in judicial debate, inside the court. Today they talk about everything. They weren't chosen for that. In fact, they were chosen politically. They are, therefore, political instruments of other forces.

And it doesn't look like the dispute is going to cool down.

Cool down, because everyone will get hit a lot. Public opinion, and particularly the Internet, will make everyone come to their senses, realize how ridiculous they are acting.

Can the same social networks that help to sharpen conflicts also calm?

Yes, because they show with such clarity the inconsequences and the weakness of the powers that they will have to compose themselves.

Have you already seen in Brazil manifestations of hatred similar to the ones we have seen in recent times?

They are individual. It belongs to people, not to the collective. They are people who revolt and go for very stupid aggressions.

But today in all environments, even in the family, there are conflicts because of political, ideological issues.

What is good. In the past, everyone was silent. Brazil has always lived under the aegis of the Council of Trent (meeting convened by Pope Paul III in the mid-XNUMXth century, which reaffirmed the dogmas of the Catholic faith, in reaction to Martin Luther's Protestant Reformation). So no one could speak. It had a single religion, a single will, a complete absolutism. Brazil is being recomposed. It's going to be tough, but we have to suffer through it.

To recompose, will you have it before it collapses?

Oh yes. You will have to remake structures and institutions. What's there will have to change. It's inevitable. Nobody else accepts. Nobody accepts this Parliament as it is, the ways of electing, the choice of ministers of the Supreme Court and other federal courts. It has to change.

What should the choice of a high court minister look like?

There should be a public contest, a public exhibition of personalities. The minister could never be chosen by the Executive. Because he is bound to the Executive, whether he likes it or not, if not in his votes, at least morally. He has to think in new ways. There is a country in Latin America that is adopting a televised public contest for minister of the superior courts.


Ecuador. There, candidates compete. It's not like in Brazil, where the king's friends become ministers of the Supreme Court and later find themselves the owners of Brazil.

In fact, the Supreme Court has gained so much prominence that there is a judicialization of politics.

Exactly, which is a big mistake, a big problem. The Supreme is going outside its parameters, its limits and invading other areas. He has violated the Constitution. Now it leads to imprisonment without a conviction as a last resort, non-appealable. The Constitution is clear. Or has the presumption of innocence gone to space? If so, change the Constitution. The same with abortion. You have to ask society. The Supreme cannot decide on its own. I am for the decriminalization of abortion, but I don't know if society wants it. I have my doubts.

Issues that affect life…

You have to ask society.

By referendum?

Obvious. Society responds. She knows what she wants. She is not banned. The Supreme thinks that we are all interdicted. They decide like gods. They are not gods. They are ordinary people, who have perhaps a little intellectual level.

And how is the plea bargain being used?

People in prison are suffering psychological torture. And making the denunciation leads to an extremely serious situation. It can be said that without arresting there is no denunciation, but with that it also creates a great embarrassment.

Without it, construction companies wouldn't open the game, so to speak.

But it wouldn't be necessary, because everyone knows that construction companies are responsible for corruption in Brazil. Only the naive do not know. Or the imbeciles. Anyone who goes through public life knows that construction companies have always been immoral in Brazil.

The path that Lava Jato has been choosing seems to have no return, but there are measures that are unconstitutional and many do not realize it.

They do not realize the risk they are taking, because deep down everyone wants to violate human rights and forget that they are also holders of these same human rights, which could be violated. It's an interesting problem. There is an almost naive revolt in society. She is not realizing the risks she is taking. And nobody speaks. So, everyone continues to take risks.

Do you believe that the media is at fault in the notary's office?

A very big fault. The mainstream media should clarify the situation. She has interests, she is not exempt. No one who has an instrument of communication is absolutely exempt, he has a position, a subjective position that objectively passes through the means of communication. Dilma's fall was a media work. It had no legal basis.

Now the impeachment requests have started in relation to Temer.

He runs the risk, because the climate demands an almost primitive justice. And that could make him and his group fall into a new impeachment, because from January 1st the election will be direct by Congress. They are preparing candidates.

Even the PSDB?

Just look at what President Fernando Henrique does, all the time giving candidate interviews. And it was already released by one of his co-religionists (ex-deputy Xico Graziano, who was chief of staff of the Presidency in the FHC administration), in an extremely strange newspaper article.

What about the spending ceiling PEC, which covers a period of 20 years?

I worry about the deadline. Even without hope at the moment, I hope that 20 years from now, Brazil will be different. I will be far away, but Brazil must be different. Twenty years is a very long period. No country in the world has done this. It is a vision of Cassandra (prophetess from greek mythology, cursed by the god Apollo so that no one would believe her predictions).

There is a lot of concern with the areas of health and education.

With health, which is already so bad, we're going to have problems. Education is not so bad, it is reasonable, from the perspective of a Third World country. Now the health situation is extremely serious, mainly because the instruments for health preservation are increasingly technological and, therefore, more expensive.

After the PEC is approved, is there a way to go back?

Of course it does. It's doing another PEC. In Brazil, everything is resolved.

In promoting this type of change, isn't the Temer government going to the pot with great thirst?

I believe he was extremely led by financial interests. Italy has just held a referendum. The “no” won. The Italian people said that it was Italian banks and economic interests who drew up this project. Temer's PEC is on the same Italian path. It was prepared by the big financial interests. she falls. Fall into the near future. Other instruments will have to be imagined.

Could this PEC weaken his government even more?

I think so. It may be useful in the short term, but in the medium term it does not prevail. The people revolt. Delfim Netto, who is very sarcastic, said it very well. With this PEC, Temer is preparing his own impeachment. He will not comply with the PEC. And he falls.

You mentioned Italy when talking about the PEC. What about Operation Car Wash?

Also in Italy it was a failure. Berlusconi was born (former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who rose in Italian politics and later played a leading role in several corruption cases). Sign of how the people are very complex. He is very sensitive, changes according to circumstances. That everything you see on the streets can change.

In Italy, at the end of Operation Clean Hands, the political system was dismantled.

Destroyed everything. And now there's Beppe Grillo (leader of the 5 Star Movement), who is a demagogue, a populist.

What's the way out?

The way out is to listen to the people. They don't listen to the people. In Brasília, they want to do everything themselves. Brasília became the sewer of Brazil. It's a shame, an embarrassment. It is a city of lobbying, of political and economic prostitution. A tragedy. Juscelino's biggest mistake (former president Juscelino Kubitschek) was to transfer the capital. He destroyed Rio de Janeiro and built a cloaca.


Because the Judiciary, the Executive and the Legislative are intertwined among them. Everyone exchanges ideas day and night, in the same bars, in the same restaurants, in the same salons. Can not.

If the capital remained in Rio, the situation would be the same.

But Rio was the court. It was always cut. Courts have more experience. There was a much more structured society. And it destroyed Rio because it slumped the city. There, society was much more qualified, with a good cultural level. Rio has always had good minds. Brasilia has nothing. Brasilia is a deserted city. The weekend is a tragedy. An escape city. They go to spend hours and run away. Parliament has no life in Brasilia.

How did you see the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff?

A tragedy for Brazilian democracy.

And there is another impeachment on the horizon.

It will become a Latin American fashion. The new form of coup in Latin America is impeachment.

What is your perspective for the country in 2017?


Faced with the bad news of 2016, many are referring to him as “annus horribilis”, an expression used by Queen Elizabeth in 1992. Do you agree?

It's not the year. It's the decade.

When did this decade start?

In the second government Dilma Rousseff, but the roots come from before. It started in Dilma's second government and goes far.

In reference to your previous comment, about Brazil not being a democratic country?

It was not democratic. You are trying to be and you find difficulties. It is difficult because there are hegemonic groups that dominate the forms of communication, political power. It's difficult to get it all back together.

Because of a minority, which you defined in 2006 as the “white elite”?

It is the one that dominates. It dominates and only thinks about its own interests. It does not think about the State, the nation, the society. And I see no prospect of change. It's all wrong. Brazil will suffer for ten, 20 years. Of that I have no doubt.

A part of the left criticizes former president Lula, arguing that he should have promoted profound reforms when he had great popular approval.

Of course I should have. Lula became enraptured with the bourgeoisie. He was delighted. He was friends with all the contractors. Can not. I went through the government and never wanted to receive a contractor. It's sinful. Lula got intimate, poor thing. He was involved.

Do you believe then that he should have carried out the media and political reforms?

Logical. He accepted everything the bourgeoisie wanted. He gave what is there. It is neither left nor right nor center. Is nothing. I was nice to Lula and Dilma, but he was wrong. Lula accepted all the salamales from the bourgeoisie. And since he is not bourgeois, they use it and do not accept it. They use it and then throw it in the trash. It's painful, but this is the truth. Everyone took advantage. Only he doesn't.

We spoke before annus horribilis. It's the opposite? What does Brazil need to do to conquer an annus mirabilis?

Find a good quality psychiatrist who is not a charlatan. 

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