Cleaning worker at the bus station in São Paulo

Political situation Internal political tensions

After a “golden decade” of growth (2003 to 2013) accompanied by success in reducing poverty, Brazil is currently going through a difficult phase in economic, political and social terms.

In the years leading up to 2018, far-reaching corruption scandals and poor economic development caused a surge in discontent among the population. The presidential elections in 2018 were won by Jair Bolsonaro, whose focus in the election campaign was on fighting corruption and crime, and on boosting the economy.

Since Bolsonaro took office, Brazil’s situation has been marked by internal political tensions. The protection and demarcation of indigenous territories, which is enshrined in the country’s constitution, has been increasingly called into question; legal requirements for environmental protection and forest conservation have been eased in favour of advancing the economic development of the Amazon region. The judiciary has been playing a crucial role in safeguarding democratic freedoms and in ensuring compliance with existing laws.

In October 2022, presidential elections took place. They were narrowly won by former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (50.9 per cent of votes), after a run-off with the incumbent, Jair Bolsonaro.

Criticism of COVID-19 policies

President Bolsonaro’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic has been criticised. A parliamentary commission of inquiry (CPI) has accused the government in its final report of “crimes against humanity”. It said that the government had knowingly downplayed the dangers, spread false information and boycotted measures that could have slowed down the spread of the virus. By doing that it tacitly accepted the deaths of thousands of people. According to figures compiled by the World Health Organization (WHO), up to February 2022, some 650,000 people in Brazil had died from COVID.

Human rights

The level of violence in Brazil and the country’s homicide rate are among the highest in the world. For many people, especially in the megacities of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, drug and gang crime is part of everyday life.

Human rights organisations regularly report about signs of police killings. They also say that environmental activists, and defenders of human rights and land rights are frequently the targets of attacks, threats and intimidation attempts by government authorities and criminal networks.

As at: 15/11/2022