As Rio military takeover intensifies, Lava Jato investigators harass prominent critic

On Friday, February 23, Federal Police raided the offices of Dr. Rafael Valim, a  prominent academic and author of 20 books on legal theory. Although he was not charged with any crime, Police seized documents related to his private law firm. Valim is one of the most vocal critics of Judge/Prosecutor Sergio Moro and his US-supported Lava Jato team. Author of 20 books, including “State of Exception: the judicial form of neoliberalism”,  Valim is a co-founder of the London-based Lawfare Institute which investigates the recent rise of US-backed anti-corruption investigations in Latin America and how they are being used to target center left politicians like Michelle Bachelet, Christina Kirchner and Luis Inacio “Lula” da Silva.  Over the past two years he has been one of the most vocal public critics of the Lava Jato investigation, publishing op ed pieces questioning its legality in the top newspapers in the country.  On the eve of Lula’s appeal hearing on January 23rd, 2018, in an op ed piece for UOL, Valim and Jesse Souza wrote, “What is being judged here is the recent process of incorporation, still just beginning and partial, of social classes that were excluded for centuries in our country, which the figure of Lula represented. Corruption is just as little the objective in this process as it was the cause of conservative sectors of the middle class coming to the streets in 2013 and 2016”. On January 29th, 2018, Valim coordinated an international seminar at Pontifica Universidade Catolica (Pontifical Catholic University/PUC) in Sao Paulo entitled The Lula Case, Analysis and Perspectives featuring members of Lula’s legal team and UN Human Rights Commission lawyer Geoffrey Robertson.

The case of Valim is exemplary of what appears to be a new climate of repression against  academic freedom in Brazil. On February 22, the  Public Prosecutors Office announced that, under orders from the Education Minister, they are investigating a Universidade de Brasilia professor for teaching a new course called “The 2016 Coup and the Future of Democracy in Brazil.” In December, 2017, hundreds of European and American university professors signed a manifesto repudiating the police and judicial raids on Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais (Minas Gerais Federal University/UFMG) as it tried to open a museum of human rights abuses and torture committed during the military dictatorship.

Worries that the recent wave of repression is connected to the military operations in Rio de Janeiro were recently exacerbated, on the eve of the occupation, General Eduardo Vilas Boas said, “we have to have a guarantee that there is no risk that a new Truth Commission will be created”. The Truth Commission was created by President Dilma Rousseff to investigate cases of torture and execution against union leaders and leftists during the US-backed Brazilian Military dictatorship (1964-1985).


By Brian Mier

Writer, geographer and former development professional who has lived in Brazil for 26 years. Former directorate member of the Fórum Nacional de Reforma Urbana (National Urban Reform Forum). Has lived in São Luis, Recife, Salvador, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. Author of “Os Megaeventos Esportivos na Cidade do Rio de Janeiro e o Direito á Cidade” (CEPR: Porto Alegre. 2016). Editor of "Voices of the Brazilian Left" (Sumare: São Paulo. 2018). Editor of "Year of Lead: Washington, Wall Street and the New Imperialism in Brazil" ((Sumare: São Paulo. 2019) Irregular correspondent for the Chicago radio show This is Hell.