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The Ato Institucional Número Cinco – AI-5 (English: Institutional Act Number Five) was the fifth of seventeen major decrees issued by the military dictatorship in the years following the 1964 coup d'état in Brazil. Institutional Acts were the highest form of legislation during the military regime, given that, issued on behalf of the "Supreme Command of the Revolution" (the regime's leadership) they overruled even the Nation's Constitution, and were enforced without the possibility of judicial review.
AI-5, the most infamous of all Institutional Acts, was issued by President Artur da Costa e Silva on December 13, 1968. It resulted in the forfeiture of mandates, interventions ordered by the President in municipalities and states and also in the suspension of any constitutional guarantees which eventually resulted in the institutionalization of the torture commonly used as a tool by the State.
Written by then Minister of Justice, Luís Antônio da Gama e Silva, it came as a response to earlier events such as a march of over fifty thousand people in Rio de Janeiro to protest against the murder of student Edson Luís de Lima Souto by a member of the Military Police of Rio de Janeiro, the March of the Hundred Thousand, and the decision of the Chamber of Deputies denying authorization to prosecute Congressman Márcio Moreira Alves, which called Brazilians to boycott the celebrations of September 7 (Independence of Brazil). It also aimed to consolidate the ambitions of a group inside the military, known as "hardline", unwilling to give the power back to the civilians anytime soon.
The immediate consequences of the Institutional Act Number Five were:
- the President of the Republic was given authority to order the National Congress and the State Legislative Assemblies into forced recess; this power was used as soon as AI-5 was signed, resulting in the closure of the National Congress and all the Legislative Assemblies of the Brazilian States (with the exception of São Paulo) for almost a year; the power to order the National Congress into recess would be used again in 1977.;
- The assumption by the President of the Republic and the Governors of the States, during the periods of forced recess of the federal and state Legislatures, respectively, of the fulness of the legislative power, enabiling the President and the Governors to legislate by means of decree-laws, that had the same force and effect as statutes passed by the legislative Chambers. This power included the power to legislate constitutional amendments. A global constitutional amendment of Brazil's 1967 Constitution (already adopted under the Military Regime) was promulgated in 1969 (Constitutional Amendment number 1, also known as the 1969 Constitution, because the entire altered and consolidated text of the Constitution was re-published as part of the Amendment), under the authority transferred to the Executive Branch by the AI-5.
- the permission for the federal government, under the pretext of "national security", to intervene in states and municipalities, suspending the local authorities and appointing federal interventors to run the states and the municipalities;
- the preliminary censorship of music, films, theater and television (a work could be censored if it was understood as subverting the political and moral values) and the censorship of the press and of other means of mass communication;
- the illegality of political meetings not authorized by the police;
- the suspension of habeas corpus for crimes of political motivation.
- the assumption by the President of the Republic of the power of sacking summarily any public servant, including elected political officers and judges, if they were found to be subversive or un-cooperative with the regime. This power was widely used to vacate the seats of Opposition members in the Legislative branch, so that elections would be held as usual, but the composition of the Legislature resulting from the elections would be dramatically changed by the deprivation of office of Opposition legislators, effectively transforming the Federal, State and even municipal legislatures in rubber-stamp bodies.
- the assumption by the President of the power to decree the suspension of political rights of citizens deemed subversive, depriving them for up to ten years of the capacity of voting or of standing for election;
- the instant legitimacy of certain types of decrees issued by the President, that were made not liable to judicial review. Under those provisions, the Institutional Acts themselves, and any action based on an Institutional Act (such as a decree suspending political rights or removing someone from office), were not subject to judicial review.
The AI-5 did not silence a group of Senators from ARENA, the political party created to give support for the dictatorship. Under the leadership of Daniel Krieger, the following Senators signed a disagreement message addressed to the president: Gilberto Marinho, Miltom Campos, Carvalho Pinto, Eurico Resende, Manoel Villaça, Wilson Gonçalves, Aloisio de Carvalho Filho, Antonio Carlos Konder Reis, Ney Braga, Mem de Sá, Rui Palmeira, Teotônio Vilela, José Cândido Ferraz, Leandro Maciel, Vitorino Freire, Arnon de Melo, Clodomir Milet, José Guiomard, Valdemar Alcântara and Júlio Leite.
The end of AI-5
In 2004, the celebrated television documentary titled AI-5 – O Dia Que Não Existiu (AI-5 – The Day That Never Existed), was released. The documentary analyzes the events prior to the decree and its consequences.
- "Governo Baixa Novo Ato", Folha de S. Paulo, December 14, 1968.
- "AI-5, o mais cruel dos Atos Institucionais" (in Portuguese). Archived from the original on 18 December 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-10.
- Sem acesso ao presidente, senadores deixam mensagem de protesto no portão do Palácio das Laranjeiras.