Why Democracy Must Be Defended in Brazil

Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro. Photo: EFE / Andre Borges

People around the world who believe in democracy are watching the Brazilian elections amidst Bolsonaro’s threats.

By Paulo Abrao (Confidencial)

HAVANA TIMES – A real risk exists that President Jair Bolsonaro could prevent the holding of presidential elections in Brazil. The threat has been repeated, although is unknown whether there will be a challenge to the voting machines, if the orders of local judges will contest electoral procedures or if Bolsonaro will stop the completion of the vote count. It is also unknown whether or not he will invest in acts of violence or other means.

The important thing is to prevent this from happening and guarantee that the country has fair and transparent elections, crucial for the consolidation of democracy and peace, and is in the interests of the majority of the Brazilian population.

Respect for the electoral process is not only in the interests of the left or the right, of one candidate or another; it is in the interests of all, this is the absolute minimum for the country to continue operating and not become an international pariah.

The erosion of democracy in Brazil has been going on for a long time. It includes not only the dissemination of fake news and unfounded accusations about the ballot boxes and the judges in charge of supervising the electoral process.

Such erosion is manifested in 125 murders and attempted murders, 85 threats, 33 physical attacks, 59 violations of the law, 21 assaults and 4 cases of arrests or attempted detention of political agents, pre-candidates, candidates or elected officials, in data recorded between 2016 and 2020 by Terra de Direitos and Justica Global’s joint research.

It extends through the numerous attacks on indigenous peoples, human rights defenders, media, LGBTQIA+ community and many other groups with which the current Brazilian government maintains a violent, permanent, and unceasing antagonism.

There is no action that, by itself, can stop this. There must be joint and overwhelming actions. And they cannot be limited to Brazil alone. International support is essential since this election is important for the whole world.

The current Brazilian government has deliberately guided its campaign to discredit the electoral system itself. The culmination of this campaign was Jair Bolsonaro’s July 18 pronouncement to a skeptical audience of representatives of Brazil’s foreign diplomatic missions.

In response, a group of 18 Brazilian civil society organizations was in Washington until Friday, July 29, to meet with representatives of the US State Department, the House Foreign Relations Committee, the President of the US Senate and one of the members of the Congressional Committee investigating the invasion of the Capitol, which occurred on January 6, 2021. US civil society organizations also met with this important Brazilian delegation.

US officials have been traumatized by Donald Trump’s antidemocratic actions. Therefore, there is a mutual interest in exchanging experiences and strengthening democratic forces to prevent anyone in Brazil from trying to copy this American tragedy in the upcoming elections.

The United States has no role in interfering with Brazilian democracy, and that is not what Brazilian organizations are demanding. However, we cannot ignore how interconnected the world is.

All countries and international leaders know what will happen in the Brazilian elections. This event, undoubtedly, will cause echoes that will impact the fate of many other democracies.

The interest and interdependency are genuine. Those opposed to democracy know this. Democratic forces around the world now have the opportunity to show that together they can do much better.

The Brazilian delegation was made up of representatives from the following organizations: Washington Brazil Office, ComissãoArns, Pacto pela Democracia, Articulação dos Povos Indígenas do Brasil – APIB, Artigo 19, Instituto Marielle Franco, Geledés – Instituto da Mulher Negra, Greenpeace Brasil, Instituto Vladimir Herzog, Instituto de Referência Negra Peregum, ABGLT, Conectas, 342 Artes/342 Amazônia, Instituto Clima e Sociedade, Transparência Internacional Brasil, Uneafro, Nave and Conaq.

*Paulo Abrão is the executive director of the Washington Brazil Office organization. This article was originally published in Folha de São Paulo on July 26, 2022 and is available in Portuguese here.