Brazilian court council removes a barrier to same-sex marriage

May 16, 2013

Simon Romero – The New York Times, 05/14/2013

The council overseeing Brazil’s judiciary ruled on Tuesday that notary publics cannot refuse to performsame-sex marriage ceremonies, a decision that opens the way for gay couples across Latin America’s largest country to marry.

The move by the National Council of Justice, a 15-member panel led by Joaquim Barbosa, the chief justice of the nation’s high court, effectively legalizes gay marriage throughout Brazil, legal scholars here said. The decision follows legislation in twoneighboring countries, Argentina and Uruguay, where lawmakers have managed to pass bills authorizing same-sex marriage nationwide in recent years.

Still, there is some room for judicial appeals of the Brazilian decision, potentially within the high court, the Supreme Federal Tribunal, and resistance may emerge in Congress, where gay-marriage legislation has faced opposition from an influential bloc of evangelical Christian lawmakers. Even so, supporters of same-sex marriage described the council’s decision as pioneering.

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Brazil high court orders retrial for rancher convicted of killing US nun who aided Amazon poor

May 16, 2013

The Washington Post/AP, 05/15/2013

Brazil’s Supreme Court has annulled the trial and conviction of a rancher jailed for ordering the 2005 murder of U.S. nun and Amazon defender Dorothy Stang.

In a ruling posted Wednesday, the court said Vitalmiro Moura was not given enough time to prepare his defense in 2010 when he was sentenced to 30 years in prison. The court said Moura will remain behind bars until he his retried at a yet-to be scheduled date.

Also convicted of ordering Stang’s murder is Regivaldo Galvao. Last year, the Supreme Court ordered his release, saying he had the right to remain free pending the outcome of his appeal process. He was sentenced to a 30-year jail term in 2010.

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First black court chief confronts corruption in Brazil

December 21, 2012

Raymond Colit, Arnaldo Galvao – Bloomberg, 12/20/2012

Joaquim Barbosa once pored over law tomes while working nights as a typesetter to pay for college. Now he is rewriting them — and the history books as well — as the first black chief justice of Brazil’s Supreme Court and the presiding judge in a landmark corruption case.

Barbosa, 58, rocketed to celebrity for his role in a trial that convicted close aides of former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who appointed him to the top court in 2003. In a country where few politicians are ever tried for corruption and virtually none go to jail, Barbosa led the way in arguing that Lula’s aides stole public money, used it to bribe lawmakers and should be punished with lengthy prison terms.

The son of a brick-layer and a cleaning lady, Barbosa overcame racial prejudices to galvanize sentiment for cleaner politics. While non-whites make up more than half of Brazil’s population, they hold only 8 percent of seats in Congress and earn half as much as whites, according to the statistics agency.

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Brazil’s Lula knew about vote buying scheme – newspaper

December 11, 2012

Reuters, 12/11/2012

Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva knew about and used funds from a far-reaching vote-buying scheme to pay for personal expenses, according to testimony by a convicted former consultant to the ruling Workers’ Party.

The testimony, reported on Tuesday by the Estado de S.Paulo newspaper, was given in September to Brazil’s attorney general’s office by Marcos Valerio, an advertising executive recently convicted as a bagman in the scheme.

Valerio also testified that an aide to the former president made veiled threats when the scandal erupted in efforts to keep him quiet, the newspaper said.

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Brazil: an end to dirty politics as usual?

December 4, 2012

Lucy Jordan – Global Post, 12/04/2012

Over the past few months, strange things have been afoot in Brazil.

Ordinary Brazilians have been gripped nightly by complex corruption trials. Carnival masks have been fashioned in the likeness of a staid and somber judge, rather than the usual glossy celebrity.

And, most shockingly, elite politicians have been handed prison sentences for graft.

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Convictions in Brazil end high-profile corruption trial

November 30, 2012

The New York Times/AP, 11/26/2012

Brazil’s Supreme Court has sentenced the last 3 of 25 defendants convicted on charges involving a congressional cash-for-votes scheme, bringing to an end a high-profile corruption trial that has riveted Latin America’s largest country for nearly four months.

The court on Wednesday sentenced a former congressman, the former leader of the governing Workers Party and a former treasurer of the Brazilian Labor Party on charges of money laundering, passive corruption and embezzlement.

The corruption dates to the government of the previous president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, though he has not been charged.

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Brazil has its first ever black head of the Supreme Court

November 26, 2012

UTC – MercoPress, 11/23/2012

The son of a bricklayer and a cleaner Barbosa, 58, pledged in his swearing in “to fulfil the duties of the office of the President of the Federal Supreme Court and the National Council of Justice under the law.”

Barbosa’s elevation to the top judicial post in Brazil, the last country in the Americas to abolish slavery, in 1888, has been heralded as a breakthrough. Despite constituting a majority of the population (52%), Afro-Brazilians languish at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder. Only 2.2% of Afro descendants make it to university.

Barbosa shot to fame as the court’s most vocal critic of a congressional vote-buying scheme laid bare in an ongoing trial — dubbed “Mensalao” or “big monthly payments” — of former president Lula da Silva’s top aides.

The scandal nearly cost Lula re-election in 2006, but the 66-year-old founder and leader of the leftist Workers’ Party was cleared.

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