Brazil’s Bolsonaro picks evangelical for supreme court seat

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — President Jair Bolsonaro on Tuesday named Attorney General Andre Mendonca, who is also an evangelical pastor, to fill a vacated seat on Brazil’s supreme court, the conservative president’s second appointment to the 11-member court.

The 48-year-old Mendonca, whose appointment still needs to be confirmed by the Senate, replaces retiring justice Marco Aurelio Mello. It has been 127 years since a nominee to Brazil’s top court was rejected by the Senate.

With mandatary retirement at 75, Mendonca will be able to hold the seat for 27 years.

Bolsonaro’s pick comes after he publicly criticized justice Luis Roberto Barroso, who also chairs the country’s top electoral body, and warned of fraud in Brazil’s 2022 elections, without offering evidence to support the claim. Recent polls show Bolsonaro trailing former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in voter preference, even among evangelicals.

At the start of 2019, Bolsonaro promised to appoint an evangelical justice to the top court, but his first selection was little-known moderate Kássio Marques, frustrating the president’s conservative base.

Mendonca is a Presbyterian pastor in the capital of Brasilia. Brazil’s president has said he wants his nominee, if approved, to start Supreme Court sessions with a prayer.

Mendonca was also justice minister between April 2020 and March 2021, and played a key role in reviving a dictatorship-era national security law that has been used by police against critics of the president

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