In South America, a continent that has been plagued by a history of colonialism and exploitation, democratic institutions are once again unstable. Throughout history, Brazil has set the economic and political agenda for many Latin American nations. Brazil has the largest economy in the continent and the second-largest in the Americas, trailing only behind the United States. The democratic successes throughout the region in recent history can be attributed largely to Brazil’s transition to democracy in 1985 after twenty-one years of military rule. Today, however, Brazilian democratic institutions are at risk once again, setting a trend that should make the entire world fearful for the future of Latin America.
On October 28th, 2018, Jair Bolsonaro was elected to the presidency of Brazil with over 55% of the vote. Bolsonaro, of the conservative Social Liberal Party, has an extremely controversial political history. Throughout his twenty-seven years in Brazil’s Congress, Bolsonaro has defined himself as a far-right conservative politician who sympathizes with the previous military rule of Brazil, disrespects Congress and other democratic institutions, and has openly stated that he is in favor of a dictatorship. Recently, Jair Bolsonaro’s son, Carlos, a Brazilian politician himself, tweeted that “The transformation Brazil wants will not happen at the speed we yearn for through democratic means.” Both Jair and Carlos Bolsonaro view democratic institutions as obstacles in pushing their radical agenda on the people of Brazil. The Bolsonaro family is hungry for power and are a threat to the democracies that have given citizens a voice for generations.
Bolsonaro’s presidential campaign capitalized on the growing distrust among Brazilians in the Worker’s Party, which, although having achieved economic successes in the new decade, failed to deliver economic gains for the working people of Brazil. His victory came as a shock to the world and a wake-up call for all international organizations, which Bolsonaro strongly opposes. Bolsonaro’s track-record of being anti-democratic, misogynistic, xenophobic, and openly homophobic comes as a major threat to marginalized communities in Brazil. The newly-elected president believes strongly in majority rule and has no sympathy for minority rights. He encourages his law enforcement agents to use brutal tactics against citizens and supports torture as a just punishment for crimes. Bolsonaro also shows no respect for environmental causes. He blamed nongovernmental organizations for the recent wildfires tearing through the Amazon rainforest, making baseless claims that these NGOs wanted the fires to happen because of their frustration with his conservative administration. Bolsonaro also opposes any protected lands for indigenous people. The Amazon is the only place in the world that still has indigenous tribes that have not made contact with the outside world. Instead of recognizing the grueling history of indigenous people during the colonial period and protecting these groups in the common day, the Bolsonaro administration has vowed to repeal restrictions on protected lands and has promoted deforestation for economic purposes such as cattle ranching. The environmental policies that the Bolsonaro administration are in direct contrast to the international policies that need to be implemented in order to combat the growing pressures of climate change. The Bolsonaro administration’s disregard for environmental crises is yet another example of Brazil’s movement away from democracy and the democratic institutions that have maintained order in our globalized world for decades.