Brazil: Minister Proposes Tougher Laws to Curb Violent Crime

In an effort to clampdown on political corruption and organized crime, Brazil’s new right-wing government unveiled a proposal Monday that would lengthen prison sentences and protect police who use deadly force.

sergio moroBrazilian Justice Minister Sergio Moro (Source: Senado Federal, CC BY 2.0)Acting on President Jair Bolsonaro’s law-and-order agenda, Justice Minister Sergio Moro told reporters he would send Congress proposed changes to 14 laws as part of the administration’s first major anti-crime plan, according to Reuters.

Bolsonaro, a far-right former paratrooper, won the presidency in 2018 promising to end years of sprawling corruption and violent crime in the South American country.

Brazil has one of the highest murder rates in the world. In 2017, a record-breaking 63,880 people were murdered across the country, according to data from the independent research organization Brazilian Public Security Forum, a 3 percent increase over the previous year.

“Why did I set out to tackle corruption, organized crime and violent crime in this package? Because these three problems are related,” Moro said at a news conference, according to Reuters.

Moro had been a judge best known for jailing dozens of powerful business leaders and politicians, including ex-President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, as part of an anti-graft probe called “Operation Car Wash.”

Among the most controversial of his proposals is a measure that would grant more protection to police officers who kill criminals in the course of duty, according to the Charlotte Observer. During the presidential campaign, Bolsonaro argued that such officers should be decorated rather than criminally tried.

Another key measure of the bill would require convicts to be jailed after their conviction is upheld on first appeal, according to Reuters. This would prevent well-connected and wealthy criminals from walking free while their cases move through the courts.

The proposed measures would also increase punishments for illegal campaign financing, as well as toughen jail terms for habitual criminals and mandate that gang leaders serve their sentences in high security prisons.

Moros said Bolsonaro has already approved the proposals, according to the Charlotte Observer, and the president told congress this week that fighting organized crime remains one of this top priorities.