Brazil’s highway police carry out massive voter suppression in Northeast region, PT lawmaker claims

The president of the TSE says the actions of police officers are making it difficult for Lula voters to cast their vote

October 30, 2022 by Brasil de Fato
Brazil's Highway Police have organized checkpoints in major Lula-supporting areas in the Northeast, going against a court order. Photo: Polícia Rodoviária Federal

The president of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE), Minister Alexandre de Moraes, ordered the Federal Highway Police (PRF) to urgently explain their operations that have prevented the movement of voters in different parts of Brazil’s Northeast this Sunday during the second round of voting in the elections.

The TSE’s response comes in response to a request made by federal deputy Paulo Teixeira of the Workers’ Party representing São Paulo, who said that the PRF and the Federal Police (PF) are being used to interfere in the electoral process. Reports say that as many as 500 checkpoints have been set up.

The day before the vote, the general director of the PRF, Silvinei Marques, posted an image on social networks in which he asked people to vote for Jair Bolsonaro (PL). On the same day, a TSE decision had ordered the suspension of operations this Sunday.

In the order, Moraes said that Marques can be held criminally liable for disobedience and electoral crime. The minister pointed out that “these are serious facts that justify the rapid action and adoption of appropriate measures in order to preserve the freedom of the right to vote.

In the request to the Court, the deputy Teixeira specifically cited a complaint of an episode registered in the city of Cuité, Paraiba. According to the complaint, a PRF checkpoint was scaring away the population of the rural area of the city who were on their way to vote.

The mayor of Cuité, Charles Camaraense of the Citizenship party, reiterated the complaint. On social media, he expressed indignation at the operation conducted by the PRF in the city. “If they think that this way they will inhibit the people from voting for Lula, they are mistaken,” he said in a post.

Voters and political leaders made similar complaints in other cities. Senator Humberto Costa of the PT in Pernambuco received and shared some of the complaints.

Senator-elect and former governor of Maranhão Flávio Dino (PSB) said that there were police checkpoints and vehicles were being seized in the rural area of the city of Caxias, Maranhão. The complaint was taken to the Electoral Justice.

In some cases, those who raised complaints said that stickers from the campaign of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (PT) were removed from vehicles.

There were also complaints in other states such as Rio Grande do Norte.

PT responds

The Workers’ Party (PT) filed a request for the arrest of the director general of the Federal Highway Police and Regional Superintendents for failing to comply with the decision of the Supreme Electoral Court (TSE) that prohibits the police from setting checkpoints or any operation that would hinder the transit of voters. The director-general of the PRF sent a circular letter, this S October 30, stating that he would not comply with the Court’s guidance.

Vasques had argued in the document that the TSE “was hasty” by prohibiting road operations and that the decision would have the “scope to change the distribution of powers” of the institutions.

After the publication of a series of videos denouncing irregular operations by the Highway Police, mostly in cities of the Northeast, the general director of the PRF, Silvinei Vasques, also published a video declaring his vote for Bolsonaro.

“I ask the members of our coalition to go to the sites of the operations in their states and order the arrest of the police officers, including Military Police officers like in Rio de Janeiro,” said Gleisi Hoffmann, the president of the PT.

In the first round of elections on October 2, the Northeast, where the majority of the PRF operations are taking place, was the region with the highest level of support for the PT candidate. Lula won the region composed of the States of Alagoas, Bahia, Ceará, Maranhão, Paraíba, Pernambuco, Piauí, and Rio Grande do Norte, by 66.7% compared to Bolsonaro’s 27%. In the State of Piauí, Lula won an overwhelming 74.3% of the votes.

This piece is based on articles published in Portuguese on Brasil de Fato.