Joaquim Barbosa

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Joaquim Benedito Barbosa Gomes, more popularly known as Joaquim Barbosa, is the first Afro-Brazilian Chief Justice of his country’s supreme court (Supremo Tribunal Federal or STF). But more than being the highest court’s first black president, Joaquim Barbosa is hailed as a national hero by his people because of his fearless stand regarding the biggest corruption case ever heard in the country—the Mensalao (or Big Monthly Allowance). Without inhibitions, he faced the Chief of Staff of former Brazilian President, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, and convicted him and his cohorts for using the people’s money for their personal gain.

Achievements

Why Joaquim Barbosa is Extraordinary

Joaquim Barbosa is a well-loved figure in Brazil for his uncompromising stand in corruption. He is the first Afro-Brazilian president of the country’s Supreme Court. Poverty did not stop him from becoming a lawyer and being an agent of change. For his fellow black Brazilians, Joaquim is a hero and an inspiration. Known to them as the “Punisher,” Joaquim is also touted as “The Poor Boy Who Changed The World” by his fellow Brazilians.

To him,

"Justice by itself and for itself does not exist. It only exists in the shape and dimension that men want and conceive it. Justice is human, is historical. There is no justice without law or culture. Justice is the innate element of social behavior. That’s the reason why the idea of justice is inseparable from the idea of equality. That is to say: material equality of rights, whether they are legally established or morally required... the most sacred right of the rights, which is to be treated equally and receive the same consideration, the same one given to the every citizen, 'A', 'B' or 'C'." (Source: Supremo Tribunal Federal)

The celebrated Judge is a virtuoso violinist and pianist. A Portuguese, he is also fluent in German, Italian, French, and English. Joaquim was a son of a poor bricklayer who deserted his family of nine. He’s got eight siblings and a mother who had no means of sending them to school. On his own, he finished his high school studies working as a janitor. He also earned his way through college by way of scholarships and became a lawyer with a doctorate degree from a French university.

His name became internationally known after the Mensalao trial. Mensalao in English means “big monthly allowance.” Around 35 million dollars of Brazilians’ money were said to be used as bribe for legislators to vote in favor of decrees and laws initiated by Luis Inacio Lula da Silva’s government. The man behind these corruption was the co-founder of former President Lula da Silva’s party (The Partido dos Trabalhadores), José Dirceu de Oliveira e Silva. The trial was presided by Joaquim Barbosa, former President Lula da Silva’s appointee in the Supreme Court. Far from showing leniency, Joaquim lashed at the defendants and the Brazilian people rejoiced because for the first time in history, corrupt officials are made to pay for misappropriating funds.

Joaquim Barbosa grew up in an environment where corruption was ubiquitously present and has long become the norm. He is one of the few who chose not to keep quiet about the injustices happening around him. Since his appointment as Chief of Justice, he has made known his desire to speed up the hearing process in Brazilian courts. He is also hailed by the business sector for his independent approach when it comes to legislating laws. Known for his candidness, Joaquim has been regarded by the people as someone who would make an ideal president. To that, he has the following to say:

"Actually, I never thought of me being president of Brazil. First of all, I’m not a politician. I never have been and I think I’m a very unlikely person for this kind of job because of my frankness. I’ve never dealt with political parties. I have no connections with political parties. So, I don’t think so." (Source: Bloomberg)

We are one with the Brazilian people in hoping for a better judicial system and abolishment of racial discrimination. Joaquim Barbosa makes an effective catalyst.

Top Reasons why Joaquim Barbosa is Extraordinary

  1. He is the first Afro-Brazilian to become president of their Supreme Court.
  2. Despite being an appointee of former president of Brazil, he did not show impartiality when his allies were questioned about misappropriating funds.
  3. He keeps doing his duty despite having an illness called sacroiliitis, an inflammatory disease.
  4. He is called the Punisher and The Poor Boy Who Changed Brazil.
  5. He supported his own education by working as a janitor and a typesetter.
  6. He is a virtuoso violinist and pianist.
  7. He speaks Portuguese, Italian, German, French, and English.
  8. He is one of TIME magazine's 100 Most Influential People in the World of year 2013.
  9. He used to be a visiting scholar at the Human Rights Institute at Columbia Law School and the UCLA School of Law.
  10. He is a member of the board of directors of CARE Brazil and Global Justice.

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