The Challenges of Brazil

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The largest state in the South American continent and the Latin American region – Brazil has started to develop democratically since the end of the military rule in 70’s and over the last 30 years it has undergone fundamental changes.

After the Cold War, the so-called third wave of democratization initially led Brazil to success. In 1994, an intellectual and a thoroughgoing leftist Fernando Henrique Cardoso entered the race for the presidency and with the support of the nation’s business community  won a decisive victory. During his presidency he carried out further economic reform, including privatization and increased foreign investment, funding for education and social services.

Despite the above-mentioned Economic Policy Reforms, the president could not manage to prevent the country from financial crisis and was forced to pursue a new plan, which included the increase of taxes and international loans, reduction of government expenditure and inflation. He was able to manage the crisis situation effectively and gain international recognition, but the Brazil’s democratic course has been radically changed by the new left-wing leader – Luiz InacioLula da Silva, and the state has faced a difficult choice.

After taking office in 2003, Lula sought to improve the economy, enact social reforms, and end government corruption. Moreover, president’s politics had come into question, when his party’s members were accused of bribery and illegal campaign financing.

In response to undemocratic policies by the implementing ruler, the Brazilian people have made a democratic decision and properly punished the traitors. At the same time, Lula’s position as the front-runner was taken over by Jair Bolsonaro, a far-right populist, whose anti-corruption rhetoric seemed to resonate with much of a Brazilian electorate that was fearful of rising crime and violence, widespread political corruption and still-struggling economy. Bolsonaro was elected as Brazil’s president in 2018, but his rule began and continues with serious obstacles.

In 2019 an unprecedented number of Amazon fires raged throughout Brazil. It caused great damage to the natural landscape, as well as the economy, healthcare and security. Politicians and environmental activists were taking a stand against Bolsonaro, blaming the fires on his policies. Brazil felt international support and attention. Though the whole world responded to this catastrophe the crisis was obvious.

The situation in Brazil has been exacerbated by the global pandemic. This country has become the second in the world to confirm more than one million cases of COVID-19, as the disease continues to spread. Far-right President Jair Bolsonaro has been heavily criticized for his response to the crisis. Mr Bolsonaro argues that the economic impact of the measures will be much bigger than the virus  itself.

The disease has become a highly political issue in Brazil. President has clashed with state governors and mayors who have adopted strict restrictions to curb the spread of the pandemic. Bolsonaro was angry that they were imposing tough quarantine measures that would damage the economy.

The health system and infrastructure are unable to cope in some places, and the disease is spreading faster in indigenous communities, where access to adequate care is difficult. Moreover, Bolsonaro is hostile to Aborigines. In recent years, the large-scale deforestation has taken place in the Amazon area.

The local population does not have the antibodies needed to fight against virus, which causes the disease to spread rapidly. This can lead to genocide of Aborigines.

In June, Mr. Bolsonaro’s government stopped publishing data about the virus. It was forced to reverse the decision after being accused of trying to manipulate the numbers. This may be related to new allegations against Jair Bolsonaro.

The Supreme Court is already investigating allegations that President tried to interfere in the work of the federal police and the Congress, because there is a reasonable suspicion that he is involved in corruption. According to the latest information, a former aide to Brazilian President’s eldest son has been arrested as part of an investigation into alleged corruption. Bolsonaro argues that the justices are politically biased and denies the allegations.

At a time when Brazil needs to put all its efforts into fighting against the virus, the President has been doing nothing. He’s been wrapped up in his own political battles. Bolsonaro’s government decided not to take responsibility, they have turned against the media, but people are against them.

With an optimistic forecast, Brazil will make a new choice and continue to develop democratically, but according to today’s situation, the main problems are – economic and political crisis, and these issues need to be resolved as soon as possible. This is not “The end of Brazilian history”, Brazil will once again choose democratic values.  

Ana Mikaia
Junior Researcher Fellow at Foreign Policy Council

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