Brazil unveils tougher measures against crime, corruption

President Jair Bolsonaro has taken a hard line on crime in Brazil, where more than 64,000 murders a year are committed.

Brazil' President Jair Bolsonaro poses with the pen used during the swearing-in ceremony for the ministers at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia on 1 January 2019, after his own inauguration at the national Congress. Picture: AFP.

BRASÍLIA, Brazil - Brazilian Justice Minister Sergio Moro unveiled on Monday a series of measures designed to battle crime, corruption and violence in Latin America's biggest country, acting on President Jair Bolsonaro's law-and-order agenda.

The measures include a bill allowing police to use their weapons in "legitimate defence" if facing a risk of "armed conflict" that puts lives in danger.

Bolsonaro, a right-wing former paratrooper, has taken a hard line on crime in Brazil, where more than 64,000 murders a year are committed.

Moro, a former star anti-corruption judge, also called for more severe punishment for illegal campaign financing.

He also proposes to make the law state explicitly that anyone convicted of a crime must be incarcerated after they have lost their first appeal. Currently, the decision of when to begin serving a sentence is left to the judge.

That was an issue in the case of former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who was sentenced to 12 years in prison on corruption charges but sought unsuccessfully to stay out of jail while appeals were pending so he could run for president.

Brazilian courts ruled against him but the Supreme Court is expected to take up the issue in April, and give a definitive ruling that could impact thousands of inmates, including Lula.

Moro said crime and corruption were often inter-linked and needed to be tackled together.

"Organized crime uses corruption to obtain impunity and is linked to a good number of murders," he told a news conference in Brasilia.

He added that the "legitimate defence" bill for police did not broaden the criteria for protecting officers from prosecution over the use deadly force.

"We are only making clear in what daily situations legitimate defence applies ... This is something that is already done in practice," he said.