Democracy and rights

Abbreviated as BRA by Abbreviationfinder, Brazil has a functioning electoral system and an active civil society. Freedom of the press and speech is guaranteed in the constitution and the media landscape is versatile. However, corruption is a serious problem, as is the crime of violence.

Democracy is relatively healthy in Brazil in terms of political diversity, electoral processes and civil rights. But the problems are major with regard to corruption, which in recent years has been shown to have strong attachment at the highest level in both politics and business (see Current policy).

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In Transparency International’s (TI) ranking of corruption in the world, Brazil is ranked 101 out of 180 countries (see ranking list here). TI points to problems throughout the region with political leaders acting in self-interest at the expense of citizens of the country. The bribery scandal surrounding Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht is described as one of the biggest corruption scandals in world history (see Current Policy). Odebrecht has acknowledged that the company has paid $ 1 billion in bribes over 15 years in more than ten Latin American countries.

In terms of the rule of law, Brazil is roughly in the middle, both globally and regionally, and in comparison with other countries that are also classified as “upper middle income countries”. Factors that drag down Brazil’s ranking are security and criminal justice deficiencies – areas where organized crime, violent crime and police brutality work together.

Voters’ anger over corruption and violence – as well as poverty and inequality – were, according to analysts, contributing to the radical right-wing populist Jair Bolsonaro winning the 2018 presidential election. and advocates hard to maintain law and order (see further Current Policy). It is in line with a trend of growing anti-liberal movement in both Europe and the US.

Violent crime is a difficult problem. Nearly 64,000 people were murdered in 2017 (see also Social conditions). The victims are largely young and around two-thirds are Afro-Brazilians.

Freedom of expression and media

Freedom of the press in Brazil was strengthened under the Labor Party’s rule of 2003. Hard punishment for slander was abolished. As late as 2009, the press law introduced in 1967 was completely withdrawn during the military dictatorship (see Modern History). In the media there is a lively debate on political and social issues.

However, courts can still censor corruption watchers or power-critical bloggers. In addition, violence or threat of violence affects journalists who write about corruption, organized crime or death patrols. Murders of journalists also occur. Local politicians or local police have been behind some of the killings, but several are unresolved. Brazil is one of the more violent countries in Latin America for journalists. There are no mechanisms for protection and the impunity is widespread. Journalists are subjected to great pressure to reveal their sources and many obscure reporters have ended up in legal proceedings.

In 2020, Brazil ranked 107th out of 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders index of press freedom in the world (see ranking list here).

Media ownership is highly concentrated, including to large industrial families who often have close ties to the political class. For example, the dominant and influential Globo conglomerate has run political campaigns and sponsored presidential candidates. In connection with the change of power in January 2019, concerns about media freedom increased. Both Human Rights Watch and Reporters Without Borders reported that threats and physical attacks on journalists have increased following the election of Jair Bolsonaro as president. During the election campaign, he explicitly threatened to include state advertising in media that dislikes him, and pointed out, among other things, the country’s largest newspaper Fôlha de São Paulo. Among other things, the newspaper had reported an illegal social media campaign against Bolsonaro’s opponents in the election. The campaign was valued at over $ 3 million, but the money was never reported to the electoral authorities.

Judicial system and legal security

The judiciary is largely independent, although there are problems with external influences and harassment, not least in the countryside. Many times the legal system works poorly with long waiting times when the legal cases are often high. There is a lack of judges and low wages pave the way for corruption. The death penalty has been abolished.

The police are badly corrupt and according to Amnesty International, there is routine torture of detainees, prisoners and prisoners at youth institutions. Despite laws against torture, perpetrators are rarely punished. Conditions are miserable in many overcrowded prisons. The number of inmates is twice as large as what the prisons are built for. The authorities often have limited control inside prisons where extreme violence occurs, often linked to gang conflicts. Prison riots are common, sometimes with dozens of deaths as a result. Both on arrest and in custody, suspected criminals die, often without investigating the deaths.

Police have also been hired by businessmen to “clean in the slums” and thousands of street children have been murdered. Few such massacres or other murders performed by death patrols with ties to security forces have been cleared. Environmental activists, peasants and indigenous peoples in the fight for land rights have been beaten by police and, in some cases, killed by military police or hired killers. Villages have been burned and women raped.

Death threats and murders are used against human rights activists and persons who reported abuse or testified against police officers. Demonstrations against the abuse are not infrequently beaten down by police or military police.

Truth Commission after military rule

There is a national secretariat for human rights, and the government is trying to prevent torture. In the fall of 2011, a Truth Commission was appointed which was commissioned to investigate human rights violations from 1946 to 1988, which includes the period of military rule from 1964 to 1985. The Commission, which submitted its final report in December 2014, concluded that torture, executions and “disappearances” were systematically used under military rule. Over 400 people lost their lives and thousands were tortured, the commission said, calling on the military to recognize its responsibility for the “serious abuses” committed.

The report identified 377 people who were guilty of human rights violations, of which around 100 were estimated to be alive. According to the Commission, they should be brought to trial, despite a 1979 amnesty which means that neither military nor former guerrillas can be prosecuted for acts of violence during the dictatorship. The Commission considered that the crimes were so serious that they should nevertheless be tried in court.

President Bolsonaro has seriously questioned the Truth Commission’s conclusions, and in August 2019 he appointed a new commission to investigate abuses during the dictatorship. The new Commission consists of two military officers as well as two members of Congress who belong to his own party PSL.

Brazil Crime Rate & Statistics



Rousseff wins the presidential election

October 31st

In the second round of the presidential election, the Labor Party’s Dilma Rousseff wins by 54 percent against 44 for José Serra of the PSDB.

Congressional elections and the first round of presidential elections

October 10

In the congressional elections, the eleven parties in the government coalition secure a majority in both chambers. The Labor Party (PT) is taking the place as the largest single party in the Chamber of Deputies from the allied PMDB, which is now the second largest. The Lulatrogne parties receive a total of 359 of 513 seats in the Chamber of Deputies. In the first round of the presidential election, the Labor Party’s Dilma Rousseff gets 47 percent of the vote, PSDB’s José Serra 33 percent and environmentalist Marina Silva 19 percent. The election had long seemed to be a walking victory already in the first round of elections for Dilma Rousseff. However, a week before the election, a political scandal began to roll up within the Labor Party. In addition, the defunct former Minister of the Environment, Marina Silva, received surprisingly large support.


Lula among the world’s most influential

The American magazine Time appoints Brazil’s President Lula da Silva, former US President Bill Clinton and American singer Lady Gaga as the world’s most influential people. Lula is praised for her efforts in social justice and inequality inequality.

HD stops amnesia

The Supreme Court votes with the numbers 7–2 against a proposal to amend the Amnesty Act of 1979 that prevents prosecution for acts of violence and abuse during the 1964–1985 dictatorship.

Brazil Democracy and Rights
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