By Madeline Asta
Two years ago, I sat in a classroom in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and listened as Brazilian university students analyzed the election of US President Donald Trump on an international scale. It was the day after Trump was elected and I was still trying to wrap my brain around the outcome. I felt isolated from my country both physically and emotionally. The students spoke about a right-wing shift the world was undergoing, basing their arguments on their own political atmosphere – which had just seen their leftist president impeached – and the trends they were studying in England, France, and their own region. They predicted that their own country would again shift to the right in their next election, foreshadowing the results of Brazil’s presidential election on October 28.
Jair Bolsonaro won Brazil’s presidential election last weekend with 55.1% of votes against the leftist Workers’ Party candidate Fernando Haddad’s 44.8%. Bolsonaro garnered attention during his campaign for his firm stance on combating the nation’s violence and ridding the government of corruption, which has indicted many high-level politicians since 2014. However, Bolsonaro is also known for his blunt, homophobic, racist, and sexist statements and is referred to as the “Trump of the Tropics” for the similarities in the two politicians’ rhetoric and campaign tactics. Bolsonaro’s election represents the most dramatic political shift in Brazil since it restored democracy in 1988, but the nation is not alone in its turn away from the left. Argentina, Chile, Colombia, and the United States have all recently elected conservative leaders, and this trend sparks questions as to why this shift is occurring and what it could mean for the Western Hemisphere.
By Veronica Hildenbrand and Madeline Asta
The creation of order through military suppression—what critical theorist Mark Neocleous calls, “war as peace [and] peace as pacification”—is designed to provide security for bourgeois social order. Pacification in Rio de Janeiro can thus be viewed as a militaristic, politically-crafted response to social insecurity felt by Rio’s upper classes, magnified by forthcoming mega event preparations that occurred from 2008 to 2016. Nonetheless, social inequality and public insecurity have long inhibited the effective governance of Rio de Janeiro. Following Brazil’s belated abolition of slavery in 1888, informal housing settlements—known as favelas—began to form. These communities, which now accommodate about a quarter of Rio’s population, have endured a history of state abandonment and marginalization of the poor. This, coupled with the consequences of being the territorial domain of armed criminal groups, has led to nearly complete disenfranchisement of more than 1.5 million favela residents. In 2008, to curb notoriously high levels of violence and to rebrand the city for its bid to host upcoming mega events, Rio de Janeiro launched the “Unidade de Polícia Pacificadora” (UPP) program. This program aimed to increase security in the favelas by reinstating state control, and to finally integrate their residents into the formal city. Although the UPP program initially decreased homicide rates, its success has been dismantled by increasing frequency of police perpetrated violence, the persistence of drug trafficking and unmet promises of social benefits, thus facilitating the UPP’s post-Olympic fall.
By Madeline Asta
On Tuesday August 8, Brazilian President Michel Temer asked the Supreme Court (STF) to remove the country’s Attorney General, Rodrigo Janot from power. The decision to remove Janot comes after an August 2 congressional vote to drop passive corruption charges filed by Janot against Temer in June. As Attorney General, Janot established a precedent of convicting high-level politicians for corruption throughout Operação Lava Jato, a set of investigations aimed to fight organized crime within Brazilian politics. Since Operação Lava Jato began in 2014, the investigations have uncovered sweeping political corruption across both political parties and neighboring countries in the Latin American region. However, Temer sees Janot’s charges against him to be attacks founded on personal motivation. Temer claims that Janot is acting “beyond his constitutional limits”, as the attorney general pursues obstruction of justice charges against Temer. Fearing that pending charges will unearth more concrete evidence of corruption, Temer moves to dismiss Janot from the investigations and ensure himself immunity. Riding a wave of confidence following the congressional vote, Temer hopes to solidify his political power by launching a counterattack against the nation’s top prosecutor to destroy his reputation.
By Madeline Asta
During the week of July 17, Brazil’s Attorney General Rodrigo Janot visited Washington D.C. to discuss Brazil’s current fight against corruption. While in Washington D.C., Janot gave two presentations, one at the Wilson Center’s Brazil Institute titled “The Role of Plea Bargains in the Fight Against Corruption,” and a second at the Atlantic Council titled “Lessons from Brazil: Crisis, Corruption, and Cooperation.” At these events, Janot highlighted the evolution of Brazil’s judicial system to where it is today – convicting high-level officials of corruption, both nationally and internationally with transnational cooperation. The following case study of Brazil’s judicial system takes information from these two events, as well as from past presentations of Brazilian judicial officials hosted by the Wilson Center’s Brazil Institute.
The Evolution of Brazil’s Judicial System
Brazil’s judicial system has evolved from a system that only persecuted black people, poor people, and prostitutes to one determined to conquer the “white-collar” corruption that plagues Brazilian politics. Historically, high-society citizens were immune to the judiciary, but now the system has changed to include investigations into more influential people, specifically high-ranking government officials. The basic structure of Brazil’s judiciary was first established by the 1988 Constitution, which created a high court for federal legislation – the Superior Court of Justice, or TSJ. In addition, the constitution modified the Public Prosecutor’s Office to be an autonomous institution meant to preside over criminal proceedings.
By Madeline Asta
Venezuela began exporting oil in the beginning of the 20th century, and since then has built its economy on the revenue from its oil exports. Supported by its vast oil reserves, Venezuela rose to the position of the richest country in Latin America in 1970, but its economy was vulnerable to fluctuating oil prices. In the 1980s and 1990s, Venezuela sat on 60 billion barrels of oil. By 2010, it had 297 billion barrels in reserve, making it the country with the world’s largest crude oil reserves. However, when oil prices fell in the 1980s, Venezuela’s economy suffered greatly, due to 90 percent of its export revenue consisting of oil exports. When Hugo Chavez came into power in 1991, he brought with him a socialist revolution. To restore economic development, Chavez nationalized the country’s oil, healthcare, and food industries. He used oil export revenue to fund social programs as well as food subsidies for the poor, and supplied essential goods at low prices by importing them. Combined with high international oil prices during that period, Chavez’s economic system functioned well.