Again, as was foreseeable, recent criticisms of Lava Jato, such as those made by the Attorney General, Augusto Aras, provoked harsh reactions from certain circles, who see in these repairs an attempt to end the operation and, thus, undermine the fight against corruption in Brazil.
In its more than six years of operation, Operation Lava Jato certainly heaped many enemies, especially when it found evidence that led to the chain of powerful people, accustomed to impunity. For this reason, it is likely that there are many corrupt people who, whipped by the Curitiba-based task force, are counting the hours until the end of the operation.
But it is certainly exaggerated to consider that the eventual extinction of Operation Lava Jato represents a death blow to the fight against corruption. In these terms, it seems that the 15 prosecutors of Lava Jato are the only ones capable of guaranteeing the continuity of the fight against the wrongdoing of corrupt people in general – as if there were not, within the Public Ministry itself, hundreds of other prosecutors interested in the subject and equally competent.
A long time ago, Lava Jato went beyond its initial scope, both in relation to the object that motivated it and regarding the methods used in its work. If it had ended when it should have, after achieving tremendous success in putting those responsible for the oil scandal in jail and recovering billions diverted from Petrobras, Lava Jato would have earned a deserved place in history as a symbol of Brazilians’ willingness to face the wound of corruption with courage. . Having passed the reasonable limits of duration, scope and pretension, the operation is in danger of occupying another place in history, this much darker one: that of responsible for the demoralization of politics, transforming all politicians into potential corrupt ones.
In doing so, Lava Jato presented itself in practice as a party whose platform was to promote the sanitation of politics in general. She was not alone in this mission: she joined magistrates who saw themselves and still see themselves as responsible for acting not according to the law itself, but according to their view of the country – in a judicial activism that generates all sorts of aberrations. Without having popular votes to justify their eminently political performance, these civil servants nevertheless considered themselves elected to do what they understood to be an almost religious – messianic mission.
Such a combination – generically called “lava-jetting” – created the atmosphere of scorched earth that gave rise to the election of Jair Bolsonaro to the Presidency and hundreds of other politicians who promised to openly practice anti-politics. Fortunately, democratic institutions, with their checks and balances, have been effective so far in preventing these by-products of Jacobin Jacobeanism from permanently making democracy unfeasible. This is exactly what is happening with Operation Lava Jato itself, which had been considered an institution independent of the State – outside, therefore, of institutional controls – and whose continuity at this point has no support except in the messianic presumption that it is the only one capable to fight corruption.
It is not. Brazil has matured a lot in the last two decades in preventing corruption, either by empowering investigative and control bodies, or by creating ample legislation to curb deviations. We are still far from ideal – the State’s gigantism remains an invitation to opportunists and the political system gives rise to little republican behavior in the Legislative Houses throughout the country – but it is undeniable that progress has been made. Not everyone depended on Lava Jato – which did not yet exist, for example, when those involved in the Mensalão scandal, which broke out in 2005, were investigated, tried and punished.
In other words, Brazil has already given more than sufficient evidence that it is competent to fight its corrupt people without the need to resort to national saviors – who, in this condition, claim an infinite mandate and consider themselves released from accountability for their actions.