Since he was appointed Minister of the Federal Supreme Court (STF) in June, Cristiano Zanin has been under the spotlight and receiving criticism – not always coming from the same people. After becoming the target of government opponents due to the appointment made by President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (PT), for whom he was a lawyer, he now also hears demands from progressive sectors for the mostly conservative positions taken in his first formal manifestations as minister of the Supreme Court, which may have surprised some people – some.
The criticisms gained momentum last Thursday (24th), when Zanin became the first among the STF justices to disagree in the vote on the decriminalization of drug possession. He was against it, while Alexandre de Moraes, Edson Fachin, Gilmar Mendes and Luís Roberto Barroso had already registered their votes in favor of the decriminalization of marijuana possession. Rosa Weber, who voted minutes after Zanin, took a position alongside most of her colleagues.
“I have no doubt that drug users are victims of trafficking and criminal organizations linked to the illicit exploitation of these substances. But if the State has the duty to ensure everyone’s health, as provided for in the Constitution, decriminalization, even if partial, may contribute even more to aggravate this health problem”, summarized the “youngest” minister of the Court when justifying his position – strongly criticized by people and entities linked to the left.
Upon being questioned in the Senate before taking office, Zanin said that he had been nominated by Lula for his work in law, and guaranteed not to have “any kind of subordination to anyone.” “In my view, and I believe it is President Lula’s view, a STF minister can only be subordinate to the Constitution”, he said during the sabbath. minister about the recent criticisms, but there was no response until the closing of this report. In case there is a manifestation, the text can be updated.
Lawyer Luciana Boiteux, professor of law at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), works on the decriminalization case as an amicus curiae (that is, a “friend of the court”, representing an entity that offers subsidies to the judges’ decision) in relation to the Supreme. To Brasil de Fato, she said that Zanin’s position contradicts an understanding that cannot even be called “leftist”, and rather goes against what she considers “a progressive minimum agenda”. Boiteux pointed out that jurists such as Alexandre de Moraes, who have a conservative position, manifested themselves in the opposite direction.
“He (Zanin) anticipated even the most conservative position, and may even be strengthening a conservative position. We are not even talking about legalization, we are talking about the mere decriminalization of the user, which is an absolutely constitutional issue. There is no possibility of If you imagine that the decriminalization of the user may have a negative impact in some way. We have international experiences mentioned in all the votes: Portugal has decriminalized the user since 2001; Spain, Germany, in several states of the United States, too. These countries are already very more advanced than that. He solemnly ignored it.”
Among other arguments, Zanin pointed out last Thursday that “the mere decriminalization for consumption, in my view, presents legal problems and can even aggravate the situation we face in this problem of the fight against drugs.” Boiteux acknowledges that Lula’s nominee, who took office at the Supreme Court less than a month ago, may still be “maturing” his position as minister. Still, he spared no criticism of the vote.
“It brought a poor vote, very fast, it showed ignorance, and on the other hand it brought almost fake news. An argument from a sociological point of view, with statements without any scientific basis that the decriminalization of the user would increase drug trafficking. In this context , he is much closer to right-wing positions. Despite the topic of drugs being a controversial issue, we have had a maturation of public opinion in recent years”, evaluated the specialist.
Also heard by Brasil de Fato, jurist Patrick Mariano, doctor in theory of the state and philosophy of law from the University of São Paulo (USP), was another specialist who made incisive criticisms of Zanin’s vote on decriminalization. For him, the minister’s manifestation is worthy of surprise, indignation and revolt.
“Surprise because there are numerous arguments of a social, political and historical nature, proven in practice by research, that the drug war policy – which we import from the USA – is a resounding failure and a social tragedy worldwide. even though he is not a criminalist, (Zanin) had the opportunity to act in a relevant case, Lula’s defense, and was able to learn a little about arbitrariness, illegalities and punitivism. which seems like it didn’t do much good either. From every angle, it was a regrettable decision “, summed up.
Last Thursday’s vote was not the first time that Zanin took a conservative stance. Last week, he was the only Supreme Minister to vote against recognizing offenses against LGBTQIAPN+ people as a racial slur. This Friday (25), Zanin cast the vote that broke the tie in the Supreme Court vote to authorize municipal guards to be recognized as a public security body. For Patrick Mariano, this decision will open space for corporations to carry more lethal weapons and have more structure, creating even more repressive, segregating and police-like urban spaces.
“What is most impressive is that, in a week or two of action, the minister always chose the conservative path, and see that in these cases there was not even a pressure environment as in other more noisy ones. They were calm cases to take a position, even than for a beginner on the Court. The question that remains in the air is: if he opted for conservative decisions in such a short time and in simple cases with less pressure like these, how will he behave in the big cases where the pressure and the lobby of the corporations and interest groups are much stronger?”, asked the expert.
Who will be the next person nominated?
The positions of the newest Supreme Minister, however, did not surprise everyone. Criminal lawyer José Carlos Portella Junior, a member of the Advogadas e Advogados pela Democracia collective, recalled that Zanin, as a lawyer, despite having stood out nationally when he dedicated himself to defending Lula, focused on business issues. Therefore, the conservative posture was imagined.
Read more: Zanin’s nomination for a vacancy in the STF: republicanism for whom?
“It is not a person from social movements, who understands the dramas of the working class, especially the peripheral, black. It is on this population that the power of penal agencies falls most incisively, especially in the issue of drugs. This fact was already a warning. what could come from these themes”, he said. “From the experience we have with other ministers coming from this white-collar advocacy, from businessmen, they generally take a very conservative path”.
For Portella, Zanin’s conservative stance may increase pressure to define the name that will replace Minister Rosa Weber. One of only two women in the current composition of the Supreme Court, alongside Carmen Lúcia, Weber will retire next October. Members of the government itself, such as the Minister of Women, Cida Gonçalves, have already said that Lula will consider gender issues when appointing him.
“From the point of view of civil society, there is already this pressure. There was already pressure to indicate, for example, a black woman, someone who was linked to social movements, who defended important causes for the working class. This pressure already existed. during the process in which president Lula ended up choosing Zanin, so now it intensifies. This nomination by Zanin ended up reinforcing that ‘more of the same’ thing. Another white man, from the middle, upper layers who ends up arriving at the STF and reproducing speech in defense of the status quo”, he evaluated.
Luciana Boiteux agrees, and believes that Lula will be confronted and charged. For her, there is a “selectivity” on the part of Justice, which does not take minorities into account. This is very clear in the STF, with its predominantly male and white composition.
“More than ever, it is necessary to analyze the resume of the person being nominated so that there is some possibility of acting on progressive agendas, in defense of human rights and minorities. What we have seen in recent years has been something very different” , he concluded.
Editing: Geisa Marques