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Montevideo, September 20th 2018 - 07:06 UTC

Brazil's leading anti-corruption Justice announces he is stepping down

Friday, May 30th 2014 - 03:41 UTC
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Joaquim Barbosa was the first black to lead Brazil's Supreme Court Joaquim Barbosa was the first black to lead Brazil's Supreme Court
Named to the Supreme Court by Lula da Silva, the former president later accused him of being bias in the 'mensalao' trial Named to the Supreme Court by Lula da Silva, the former president later accused him of being bias in the 'mensalao' trial

Supreme Court Chief Justice Joaquim Barbosa, who with an iron hand presided over a well-known corruption trial that resulted in important politicians going to jail, will step down from the bench this year, Brazil's Senate leader said Thursday.

 “He came to say goodbye, given that he will retire next month,” Renan Calheiros told reporters after a private meeting with the jurist. “It was a surprise and we're very sorry, since he's one of the best models the country has,” the senator added.

The chief justice met earlier Thursday with President Dilma Rousseff to inform her of his decision.

Barbosa, 59, was the first black jurist to head Brazil's Supreme Court, elected by his 10 fellow justices in October 2012.

He earned unprecedented renown among Brazilians for his inflexible character during the so-called “trial of the century” or 'Mensalao' centering on a 2005 corruption scandal that rocked the administration of then-President Lula da Silva.

Twenty-five of the 37 defendants were found guilty, in large measure due to the extensive work done by Barbosa, who handed down very harsh sentences to those convicted, including Lula da Silva's one-time presidential chief of staff, Jose Dirceu.

Also convicted and sentenced to prison was Jose Genoino, a former chairman of Lula da Silva and Rousseff's center-left Workers Party.

The trial garnered Barbosa enormous popularity in a country where it is often said that corruption is never punished and it made the majority of Brazilians see him as a champion in the struggle to clean up public management.

Announcing his retirement, Barbosa told the court in Brasilia: “I was fortunate and privileged to be a member of this court in the its most prolific, its most important moment in the history of our country.”

Brazilians took to the streets to protest in Brasilia last year against an attempt to grant the politicians convicted a retrial.

However, it also made him the target for Lula da Silva's continuous criticism, since the former president felt that the trial was “80 percent political and just 20 percent legal.”

Several opposition parties toyed with the idea of proposing Barbosa for a Senate candidacy or even the presidency in the October elections, but he has always denied having politics as part of his near-term plans.

However, he said last year that he would not rule out running for office in 2018.

Judge Joaquim Barbosa was born into a poor family in the remote town of Paracatu in the state of Minas Gerais. He was educated in Brazil's much criticized state school system. He later moved to the capital, Brasilia, where he studied for a law degree at the city's best university.

To support himself through university, he worked as a typist and a cleaner in one of the city's courts, and later began a successful career as a public prosecutor.

In 2003, he became a household name when he was appointed by President Lula da Silva to the Supreme Court. Black people rarely achieve high office in Brazil, despite the country having the world's largest black population after Nigeria.

Categories: Politics, Brazil.

Top Comments

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  • Escoses Doido

    Thanks for your efforts Mr Barbosa.

    Loved you I POTC.

    May 30th, 2014 - 11:55 am 0
  • Mr Ed

    I suppose the backlog of possible corruption cases from the World Cup would drive anyone into retirement. Well done sir, a life that is a testament to work, truth and honour, sadly lacking in public life the world over.

    May 30th, 2014 - 03:26 pm 0
  • GeoffWard2

    A great man to have pushed through these public trials - when most of those powerful people around him in Brasil were, to a greater or lesser extent, tainted by the all-pervading stench of Lula's country-wide corruption.

    But don't expect that this is the last Brasil will see of Barbosa.
    If he manages to dodge the 'lost bullets' I hope to see him standing successfully for President in 2018.

    We need a 'White Knight'.

    May 30th, 2014 - 04:34 pm 0
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