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40 Giornale di Storia Costituzionale 215 (2020)
Abuse of Rhetorical Power and Presidential Impeachment in Brazil: Reflections from Legal History

handle is hein.journals/giordi40 and id is 215 raw text is: 

Abuse of Rhetorical Power and Presidential

Impeachment in Brazil: Reflections from Legal


                                                    RAFAEL MAFEI RARELO QUEIROZ

i. Is there a limit to what presidents may say?

In recent years, literature on contempo-
rary threats to liberal democracy has gained
ground'. Although  books on  the subject
vary in their specific objects and diagnoses,
they often converge in pointing out a cer-
tain degree of affinity in the discourses of
leaders, parties, and social movements that
pose risks to democracies in present days.
   Family resemblances  in the discourse
of adversaries of liberal democracies are
identifiable right and left of the political
spectrum. The political language of these
antagonists of democracy is investigated
by political scientists dedicated to the top-
ic of populism2. Hawkins3 points out that
populism, as a discourse, has identifiable
elements that allow us to empirically meas-
ure the use of populist rhetoric by political
leaders. They include a simplified charac-
terization of society, divided into the real
people and  the usurping elite; and a
moralistic and Manichean plot, which por-

trays the former as permanent victims of
the latter. As a consequence, populists will
often sustain that breaking the system
is a necessity that must be achieved by any
available means, in order to place the gov-
ernment  back in the hands of the sole le-
gitimate sovereign- the real people (who
are of course exclusively represented by the
populist leader).
   The inauguration of Jair Bolsonaro in
2019 inscribed Brazil in the group of new
defective democracies4. Like other fel-
lows in this selected (but expanding) club,
his  presidential pronouncements   have
unique traits: they are often made through
informal  channels  (Facebook  lives or
tweets in his personal account) and flash
media statements where he, not the jour-
nalists, sets the topics of conversation. Mr.
Bolsonaro often issues claims and opinions
with no factual basis, or which contradict
prevailing scientific and academic con-
sensus - his wild claims as to the cause of
fires in the Amazon Forest in August 20195
or the coronavirus pandemic in gogo6 are

ISSN 1593-0793 / ISBN 978-88-6056-673-7 /© eum 2o2o


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