Home Brazil Democracy Is Dying in Brazil: Project Syndicate

Democracy Is Dying in Brazil: Project Syndicate

Democracy Is Dying in Brazil: Project Syndicate

Ever since Jair Bolsonaro came to power in Brazil, observers have warned that the former army captain posed a serious risk to the world’s fifth-largest democracy. Those fears have proved well founded. Since taking office, the president has joined demonstrators calling for military intervention in Brazil’s politics and the closure of Congress and the Supreme Court, promoted the large-scale militarization of his government, and systematically undermined public trust in the country’s voting system. Last month, Bolsonaro promised supporters that he would no longer accept decisions by a particular Supreme Court justice he frequently demonizes. 

Developments in the United States have only added fuel to Bolsonaro’s fires. After supporters of then President Donald Trump invaded the U.S. Capitol on January 6, Bolsonaro’s son Eduardo publicly stated that with better planning, the invaders might have succeeded—“killing all the police inside or the congressmen they all hate.” Bolsonaro himself insists that the 2020 U.S. election was rigged, an idea he apparently repeated during a recent visit to Brasília by Jake Sullivan, the U.S. national security adviser.

With Bolsonaro taking his cues from Trump, it is difficult to imagine the Brazilian president accepting an electoral defeat when he runs for reelection in 2022—raising the possibility that something resembling the January 6 riot could take place in Brazil. Yet even if the country is lucky enough to avoid that outcome, its democracy will still be in grave danger. A Venezuelan-style collapse, where democracy slowly erodes and eventually succumbs to pressure from an authoritarian-minded leader, is not out of the question. And even if a democratic-minded candidate succeeds Bolsonaro, reversing the decline of the Western Hemisphere’s second-largest democracy will be a long and uphill battle.

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