‘Throw Him Out’: Elon Musk Declares War on Brazil’s Most Powerful Judge

Elon Musk and Alexandre de Moraes
Grzegorz Wajda/SOPA Images/LightRocket, Arthur Menescal/Getty Images 2022

Tesla CEO and X owner Elon Musk accused Brazilian Supreme Federal Tribunal (STF) Minister Alexandre de Moraes of rigging the 2022 presidential election, allowing socialist convicted felon Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva to be elected president for a third term.

Musk also called the STF Minister, a title roughly equivalent to U.S. Supreme Court justice, the “brutal dictator” of Brazil in the latest episode of heightened tensions between the X social media platform and the Brazilian judiciary.

“Why does the parliament allow [Alexandre de Moraes] the power of a brutal dictator?” Musk wrote on Monday evening. “They were elected, he was not. Throw him out.”

“But since Alexandre pulled Lula out of prison and put his thumb on the scale to get Lula elected, Lula will obviously not take action against him,” he continued in a follow-up post. “The next election will be key.”

In a third, separate post, Musk asked, “How did Alexandre de Moraes become the dictator of Brazil?” The minister, he said, “has Lula on a leash.”

De Moraes, an “anti-fake news crusader” and the leader of Brazil’s Superior Electoral Tribunal (TSE), opened an investigation into Musk and his social media platform for alleged “obstruction of justice” and “incitement to crime” after the Tesla CEO announced that he would defy a Brazilian court order demanding the censorship of an undisclosed number of posts. The order imposed a daily fine of roughly $19,770 on the company per each account the platform failed to censor.

In addition to opening an investigation into Musk, de Moraes included the Tesla CEO in a separate inquiry that was opened in July 2021 that investigates alleged “anti-democratic digital militias” that spread “fake news.” De Moraes asserted that Musk’s inclusion in the inquiry is due to an alleged “intentional criminal exploitation” of the social network platform that he owns.

Musk announced on Sunday that the X platform will soon publish “everything” that de Moraes has requested, repeating his call for the minister’s impeachment and/or resignation. 

On Monday, Musk claimed X was being forced to relocate its Brazilian employees to a safe place before revealing the information, warning that the employees “have been told they will be arrested.”

During a live broadcast on Monday, Musk said de Moraes ordered him to suspend “accounts of sitting members of the parliament and major journalists.”

“We could not tell them that this was at the behest of Alexandre [de Moraes], we had to pretend that it was due to our rules,” Musk said.

Lula, whose third presidential term began in January 2023, narrowly defeated his predecessor, former conservative President Jair Bolsonaro, in a controversial October 2022 runoff election by a less than two percentage point difference.

Bolsonaro and his Liberal Party (PL) filed a lawsuit in November 2022 to formally challenge the election’s results. PL argued there were irregularities present in the functionality of 59 percent of the electronic voting machines used in the election that could have affected the final results.

Former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

De Moraes, as head of Brazil’s top electoral authority, rejected the lawsuit quickly and imposed a roughly $4.27-million fine on the Liberal Party for “bad faith litigation.”

During the presidential campaign, de Moraes launched a censorship campaign against Bolsonaro, prohibiting the Bolsonaro campaign from calling Lula a “thief” or “criminal” in reference to the Brazilian president’s past multiple convictions on corruption charges.

The TSE, under de Moraes, also banned Bolsonaro from running for office until 2030 for allegedly having spread “misinformation” about Brazil’s electoral voting machines in an official encounter with foreign ambassadors in July 2022. Bolsonaro is presently stranded in Brazil, unable to leave his country, after de Moraes ordered local police authorities to seize the former president’s passport as part of a broad probe into an alleged “coup” plot following Bolsonaro’s defeat in the 2022 presidential election.

The controversial election and its narrow results led thousands of Brazilians to carry out peaceful nationwide protests in the weeks that followed, which culminated in thousands of Lula opponents storming the premises of the nation’s Congress, Supreme Federal Tribunal, and the Planalto presidential palace, causing damages to the facilities, furniture, and priceless historical artifacts housed therein.

Supporters of Brazilian former President Jair Bolsonaro clash with security forces during an invasion to Planalto Presidential Palace in Brazil on January 8, 2023. (TON MOLINA/AFP via Getty Images)

Lula, who had previously served as president of Brazil between 2003 and 2010, was sentenced to 25 years in prison prior to running for office again for having received bribes during his presidency used to renovate a million-dollar luxury beachfront property.

In 2021, the Brazilian top court overturned Lula’s conviction on procedural grounds, allowing Lula to once again run for office in 2022. While the ruling overturned the conviction, it did not challenge any of the evidence against Lula that led to the original sentence.

Brazilian news outlet UOL interviewed local experts on Monday who asserted that Musk’s social media platform could be banned in Brazil as a result of his defiance of de Moraes’s court order.

The experts mentioned the messaging platforms WhatsApp and Telegram as examples of platforms previously banned. Both messaging platforms have had their bans lifted.

“This type of decision has always been overturned because it is considered censorious,” André Marsiglia, a constitutional lawyer specializing in freedom of speech, told UOL. “Stopping the service punishes the user who makes good use of the network, not the platform.”

Christian K. Caruzo is a Venezuelan writer and documents life under socialism. You can follow him on Twitter here.


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