Where to look for hope in Brazil

Brazil’s new president, far-right Jair Bolsonaro, was sworn into office just a couple of months ago, and he’s made it clear from the start that he intends to act upon campaign promises to weaken social protections and dismantle human rights policies. His government has already taken actions that include reducing projected minimum wage growthweakening the land rights of indigenous people and traditional communities, pulling out from the UN Migration Accord, and considering pension reform proposals that would hit the poorest the hardest while keeping the privileges of the military and government officials.

Brazil is already a famously unequal country, and Bolsonaro threatens to reverse the feeble achievements in reducing inequalities made by previous governments. Bolsonaro is not alone. Brazil’s new Congress is its most conservative since the country’s re-democratization in the 1980s, and the far-right also notably expanded in state-level elections for governors and legislative assemblies. Considering the recent growth of the far-right across the world, as well as Brazil’s weight in global geopolitics, the relevance of these domestic trends certainly goes beyond national boundaries.

Despite this hostile setting, and in part because of it, a new generation of progressive politicians and political movements is also emerging in Brazil. Its main representatives are closely connected to grassroots groups, savvy in their use of new technologies – something the emerging far-right has already mastered – and willing to explore political innovations online and offline to reverse the current crisis of confidence in institutions.

Áurea Carolina, for example, who was recently elected to Congress by the state of Minas Gerais, emerged from black and feminist grassroots activism to become a political phenomenon. She is a member of Muitas, a movement bringing together representatives of various causes that range from right to housing, health and education to the promotion of culture and diversity, which has gotten four parliamentarians elected for legislative houses at the city, state and federal levels since 2016. Despite operating at different levels of government, all four unified their staff in a joint team to coordinate action and maximize impact.

Read Pedro Telles’ full blog post on reasons for hope in Brazil at Inequality.org


Pedro Telles a 2018-19 Atlantic Fellow for Social and Economic Equity at the International Inequalities Institute, London School of Economics. He tweets at @pedrotelles.

The views expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Atlantic Fellows for Social and Economic Equity programme, the International Inequalities Institute, or the London School of Economics and Political Science.