Brazil is a secular – and conservative – state where dozens of parliamentarians meet once a week to pray together in a room of Congress, in Brasilia. It was in one of those meetings, two years ago now, where President Jair Bolsonaro made a solemn promise to those present: “I will be able to propose two judges to the Supreme Court, one of them will be terribly evangelical,” the former deputy proclaimed. that right there he emphasized his faith that God placed him in the dome of power.
The announcement excited the most ultras of Christians, but frightened the supporters of the strict Church-State separation. Two years later, President Bolsonaro is about to fulfill the promise. The man anointed to enter the highest Brazilian court is André Mendonça, a 48-year-old jurist pastor of the Presbyterian Church of Hope who did a master’s degree and doctoral thesis at the University of Salamanca (Spain). When asked about the qualifier, Mendonça usually replies: “I don’t know what he means terribly. I am an evangelical ”.
The president entrusted this jurist and pastor with the Ministry of Justice when former judge Sergio Moro abruptly resigned in 2020 after accusing Bolsonaro of interfering with the federal police to protect his children.
If the Senate confirms his appointment in the coming weeks, he will leave the head of the State Bar to replace a magistrate who has just retired from the Supreme Court for reaching 75 years of age. Last April, when Brazil was around 4,000 daily deaths from covid-19, Mendonça vehemently defended and biblical quotes, in a court hearing in the Supreme Court to which he now wants to enter, the reopening of churches for services and face-to-face masses. The state attorney went so far as to say in his plea that “Christians are always ready to die to guarantee freedom of religion and worship.”
True to form, Bolsonaro – a Catholic who is the husband and father of evangelicals – wasted a minute in making clear what he expects of him. “I only ask you to start the session once a week [del Supremo] with a prayer. I’m sure the other 10 judges won’t object, if it passes [el nombramiento] in the Senate. They will feel with the lightest soul to make their judgments ”, declared the retired military man when making Mendonça’s candidacy official. Bolsonaro’s first public appearance after winning the election was a televised prayer, something unprecedented among his predecessors.
The president owes much of his victory at the polls to evangelicals, increasingly courted by candidates aware of their strength and growing political power in the face of the backward movement of Catholics. No other group supported Bolsonaro with such enthusiasm, seven out of ten voted for him in 2018. Lula da Silva is already winking at the evangelical bases, although he has not confirmed for now that he will stand in the next elections.
The influence of the jurist and pastor Mendonça would be enormous because he would spend 27 years in the Court that has exercised the most active counterweight against the authoritarian tics of the extreme right. It is also the court that laid the foundations for legalizing homosexual unions in 2013. His most controversial decision in recent times was to imprison and disqualify former President Lula da Silva and, later, to release and rehabilitate him.
The Spanish Nicolás Rodríguez-García, professor of Procedural Law, knows the Brazilian candidate for the Supreme Court well. He directed the doctoral thesis, entitled Information management and asset recovery from corruption, that Mendonça wrote in Spanish and with which he won an extraordinary award from the University of Salamanca in 2019.
“He is spectacularly brilliant, the best of his class, a worker like few others,” explains by telephone the vice-rector of postgraduate studies of the aforementioned center and director of a master’s degree on anti-corruption strategies and integrity policies that many other Latin Americans who hold positions in high magistracies. The professor says that the Brazilian’s work has given rise to books and articles, that his proposals “were always well founded.” What’s more, he adds, “in class nobody won a debate. When he came he was already a senior ”.
He remembers him as someone “calm, thoughtful, equanimous, who always valued the institutional framework of Brazil”. He details that his training also included stays in the United States, at the University of Stetson (Florida), and that in some of his seasons in the Spanish university city he was accompanied by his family.
Bolsonaro already appointed a first judge to the Supreme Court last year; Kassio Nunes is not yet 50, so even at 75 he has a long career on the court ahead of him.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.