Editorial: In Defense of Brazilian Democracy


During the last few months in 2018, the political crisis in Brazil has developed in alarming and dramatic events. As a group of scholars deeply committed to democracy and the rule of law in Latin America, we feel compelled to denounce these events and express our concerns about their consequences in Brazil and in the region as a whole.

Two months ago, Marielle Franco, a socialist and black feminist city councillor was assassinated in Rio de Janeiro, in a shocking politically-motivated crime. She was a human rights activist and denounced crimes against black and poor people committed by paramilitary militias and state forces. In particular, she was against the recent federal military intervention promoted by the government of Michel Temer in Rio de Janeiro, a policy criticised for promoting human rights violations.

A month ago, former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was arbitrarily arrested, in one of the final moments of a controversial judgement that lacked incriminating evidence. Lula was a candidate for the presidential elections in October this year and even now is ranking first in the polls.

While we recognise that corruption has historically fuelled the relationship between governments and private companies in Latin America, particularly in the infrastructure and extractivist sector, the Brazilian judicial system has showed a worrying partiality in its fight against corruption. While cases that lacked crucial evidence—such as Lula’s—have been processed with unprecedented speed, important leaders of the right-wing party, PSDB, and president Temer himself, against whom evidence of bribery is accumulating, enjoy slow-motion investigations that are likely to expire.

Besides the judiciary, the Armed Forces in Brazil are also demonstrating their lack of compromise with democracy, combined with a renewed protagonism. After Marielle Franco’s brutal murder, their response was to increase their intervention in Rio. During the trial of Lula’s habeas corpus in the Supreme Court, the commander of the Army tweeted his compromise to “end impunity”, in a statement that was read as a threat of military intervention (and received no further clarification).

The combined reading of these events lead us to conclude that Brazilian institutions—particularly the judiciary and the Army—are failing to act impartially and are having a significant impact on the country’s democracy. These events can only be understood as the unfolding of the illegal impeachment process that put Temer in the presidency in 2016.

These alarming events are inscribed into an ongoing militarization, as well as surveillance and securitization of land, territories, (historically excluded) populations and politics in Latin America, which had already initiated at least a decade earlier but have now reached unprecedented levels of open violence and disregard for the law.

As an academic blog engaged in understanding and exploring Latin American politics and development, the Alternautas Editorial Board feels a strong commitment to denouncing these dangerous trends and calling upon our community of readers to continue pursuing the critical task of strengthening democracy and human rights in the region.


The Alternautas Editorial Board
From a virtual Abya Yala, May 2018.-


Below, we would like to share some resources analysing the current Brazilian situation: