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June 18, 2019

By Leonel González Postigo
Director of Training, JSCA

The election of Brazil’s next prosecutor general is an extremely important decision for the country’s democratic system. He or she will be responsible for managing an institution that plays a central role in fighting impunity in Brazil.

As such, we believe that it is necessary to clarify the responsibilities of the Prosecutor General of the Republic (PGR) in the context of his or her work in the Brazilian criminal justice system, particularly on the 30th anniversary of the Constitution of 1988, which regulates it.

The main responsibility of the PGR is to promote criminal procedure, which means setting the political-criminal criteria that govern the work of the entire institution.

This means addressing its main traditions of overseeing the law and its enforcement, which were abandoned in nearly every Latin American country. The Public Prosecutor’s Office is the accusing party in the process, and it plays this role in the context of a policy that prioritizes the use of available resources given that it cannot investigate every single case filed.

This allows the PGR to focus on more complex cases or those that impact the democratic system, such as money laundering, the drug trade and human trafficking. This is the only way that plans for fighting corruption can be said to be formal and constitute specific political decisions.

A Public Prosecutor’s Office that works in this way will facilitate the necessary application of the adversarial model of criminal justice provided for in the Constitution and international instruments that ceased to be a historical divide and became a national emergency in Brazil.

On the other hand, we believe that it is necessary to sustain a practice that has been consolidated over the past few decades in Brazil: choosing the candidate with the most votes in the internal election conducted by the National Prosecutors’ Association (Associação Nacional dos Procuradores da República, ANPR) by a direct vote of all members of the Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office.

This is a practice that is not widespread in Latin American countries, and that makes the selection of this official more democratic.

We at the Justice Studies Center of the Americas (JSCA) hope that these expectations are present when selecting a candidate to lead the PGR. He or she will play a key role in meeting the entity’s main objectives, which will undoubtedly contribute to the transparency and improvement of the criminal justice system.

The experience of Latin American countries such as Guatemala and Argentina has shown that PGRs who are committed to those values can transform institutions, breaking up criminal networks and reducing social conflicts.

The decision regarding the future PGR is a historic opportunity at the local level and sets a very important precedent at the regional level.

In every country in Latin America, the Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office continues to face a choice between being an institution that abstractly defends legality and becoming a real representative of social interests and victims.

It is time for Brazil to leave that historical discussion behind once and for all and position itself in defense of the people and their interests. 


Opinion piece published in Consultor Juridico de Brasil



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