“I have always dreamed about freeing Brazil from the nefarious left-wing ideology (…). Brazil is not an open land where we plan to build things for our people. We have a lot to deconstruct. We have a lot to undo,” the president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, declared during a dinner with conservative leaders in Washington in March last year, accurately foreshadowing the dismantling process he would promote in his first year in office.
His political campaign in 2018 was more vigorously conducted on social media – and is currently under investigation for allegedly financing illicit mass messaging through WhatsApp. That year, his presidential bid was supported by police officers, Evangelical Christians – receiving the biggest endorsement among different Christian denominations in the country’s history–, the powerful agricultural lobby, some segments of business, members of a neofascist far-right that has been growing in Brazil, and also by people who were unhappy with the country’s political institutions, and who bought into the idea that all the bad things that happened in the inner workings of the political game were caused by one group: the Workers’ Party. With no clear government platform, Bolsonaro presented himself as someone who was “apolitical” and “against everything that is out there.”
Andrea Dip is a special reporter and editor at the Investigative News Agency Pública. She has been covering human rights-related issues since 2001, and has received seven human rights journalism awards. She was a finalist for the 2015 Gabriel García Márquez Award for New Ibero-American Journalism, with the first investigative story to ever be published as a graphic novel in Brazil. In May 2018, she launched her first nonfiction novel “Em nome de Quem? A bancada evangélica e seu projeto de poder” (“In the Name of Whom? The Evangelical caucus and its project of power”), which earned the third place of Brazil’s National Library Prize and is currently sold out. Dip co-directed the documentary film “Sob Constante Ameaça” (“Under Constant Threat”) about how women occupy the city and fear gender-based violence. She received the Cosecha Roja grant in 2018 to cover stories on youth, inequality and poverty, violence against women, hate crimes, and attacks against the LGBTQ community
He live streamed his first speech after his election win, in October 2018, from his living room, using a poor quality video camera, in a live stream that kept freezing. Live streaming on social media would become Bolsonaro’s primary form of official communication in his first year in office, which he used both to address ordinary issues and also during bad and critical moments. In October 2019, for example, Globo Network, the country’s biggest media conglomerate, reported that one of the men accused of killing Rio de Janeiro city councilwoman Marielle Franco the year before visited the gated community in Rio’s Barra da Tijuca neighborhood where the Bolsonaro family lived, and where another accused in the case, Ronnie Lessa (a neighbor of the now presidential family), also lived . A doorman testified, according to the Globo report, that someone in Bolsonaro’s home granted the accused killer access to the gated community on the day of the crime, hours before the murder. The investigations are still ongoing, but that didn’t stop Bolsonaro from taking to his Facebook page less than 30 minutes after the report was aired, live streaming an enraged rant about the persecution against himself and his family – which is the target of several investigations conducted by Brazil’s Federal Police – and raving things like, “Globo TV, you are constantly pestering the fuck out of me!” Not only that, he also publicly threatened not to renew the TV channel’s license after it expires, in 2022. Over the course of the entire year, official statements and outrageous tweets, such as the one in which the newly elected president asked his Twitter following what a “golden shower” was, were not only published by Bolsonaro’s staff and family, but also by his cabinet ministers. One of the most recent major scandals, which developed in 2020, was caused by the government’s then Culture secretary, Roberto Alvim. The cabinet’s official social media channels published a video of Alvim sitting in his office with a picture of Bolsonaro hanging behind him and a Brazilian flag by his side, in which, to the music from Wagner’s “Lohengrin,” he announced a “National Arts Prize” while paraphrasing Nazi German’s propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels. “The Brazilian art of the next decade will be heroic and it will be national. It will be endowed with great ability to engage emotionally, and it will be equally imperative, as it will be deeply connected to the pressing aspirations of our people, or it will be nothing,” Alvim declared in the video. After sparking huge backlash and especially provoking the outrage of the Jewish community, Bolsonaro fired the Culture secretary.
Back to Bolsonaro’s live-streamed election victory speech in 2018, some books were placed around the desk behind which he spoke. One of them was by the self-proclaimed philosopher and intellectual guru of the new government, Olavo de Carvalho, and another was a Biblical adaptation that is popular among Evangelical Americans. While Carvalho claims to be a philosopher, the intellectual mentor of the Bolsonaro family does not have a college degree. An astrologist, he teaches courses, dabbles in flat Earth ideology, and has more than 30 published books. On the newly elected president’s desk lay his work “O mínimo que você precisa saber para não ser um idiota” (“The least you should know not to be an idiot,” not published in English). Carvalho said he was invited to be Bolsonaro’s Education minister, but he declined the invitation and recommended Ricardo Vélez Rodríguez for the job. Rodríguez was able to hold the position for as few as 98 days, during which time he tried to impose changes in Brazil’s school books, in an attempt to portray the country’s 1964-1985 Military Dictatorship not as the result of a coup, but as a “change of an institutional kind.” His controversies were more than what the government could take, and he was soon replaced by the economist Abraham Weintraub, who has been accumulating even more bad decisions than his predecessor. Weintraub uses his Twitter account to insult people, attack the world-renowned educator Paulo Freire, and post offensive pictures to those who confront him with questions. Once during a Senate hearing, the Education minister mistook the Czech writer Kafka for the Middle Eastern meatballs “kofta” kebabs. His performance running the cabinet has been seen as extremely poor: he has cut public university budgets, antagonized student organizations such as the UNE (National Students’ Union) and the UBES (Brazilian Union of High School Students), made mistakes that harmed more than 5,000 students who took Brazil’s National High School Exam, the country’s most important admission test to public colleges and universities, and has frozen the basic education budget. This is why there is an ongoing impeachment proceeding against him, filed by members of Congress.
The President’s Preachers
Even though Bolsonaro has remained a Catholic his whole life, he was baptized in the waters of the Jordan River as part of an Evangelical Christian ceremony in 2016. The preacher who performed his Evangelical baptism was the minister and president of the conservative Christian Social Party (PSC) Everaldo Dias, known as “Pastor Everaldo,” a man with a long political career, which includes a presidential campaign with a clear religious agenda and a number of investigations conducted by the Brazilian Federal Police against him. Bolsonaro’s wife, Michelle, is also an Evangelical Christian, and for some time she attended the church of Pastor Silas Malafaia, a preacher who married the Bolsonaro couple in 2013. Malafaia is a very active televangelist with a huge social media following, infamously known for his extremist and homophobic comments and especially for his huge political influence. He has made presidential candidates change their government platforms with one tweet, helped elect his own relatives, and threatened members of the Evangelical caucus who voted against impeaching president Dilma Rousseff in 2016, claiming that he would hunt each one down in their own towns so that they would never get elected for office again. At the time, the Evangelical caucus in Brazil’s Congress voted almost unanimously to impeach president Rousseff. Since then, the group has been gaining more and more members every election, and has officially endorsed Bolsonaro’s bid for president.
Using populist, misogynistic, homophobic, and delusional arguments (like claiming that Marxist and “gender ideology” forces were indoctrinating Brazilian schools, or when a video went viral accusing the Workers’ Party of handing out baby bottles with penis-shaped teats at daycare centers around the country), Bolsonaro nodded to his most extremist political following after the break of every crisis, scandal, or sign that his approval was dropping during his first year in office. His “success formula” has ingredients and aesthetics that are similar to those of other far-right governments that have been rising around the world. That formula was improved and brought to him by Donald Trump’s former strategist Steve Bannon, as the US senior counselor himself told the newspaper El País in March 2019. The reporter asks him, “Have you worked with him [Bolsonaro] from the beginning?” And Bannon answers, “Yes. See, he and Salvini [Matteo Salvini, an Italian senator and the leader of the far-right party that is currently being investigated for forcing more than 100 migrants to stay on a boat for days in the Mediterranean sea] are very close. They talk about law and order in their countries. (…) More than Trump, he and Salvini advocate for the idea of a Judeo-Christian West. And that’s something that is close to Vox as well: traditional family, society structure, war on cultural Marxism… Remember that this movement is populist, nationalist, and traditionalist. And Bolsonaro and Salvini are its best representatives.” Bannon goes on to say, “When Trump was at 12 percent [of voter intention], I told him, ‘If you go back to the basic national-populist ideas with which you started and which you have renounced, you will definitely win. In 88 days you will win.’ That’s the same thing I told Bolsonaro in July 2018, when he was at 15 percent. He had such a powerful message that, if he trusted it, even if the media said he was the devil, he would win.”
While in a 2003 episode when he was still a federal congressman Bolsonaro told a fellow member of Congress that he would not rape her because she was “too ugly” and “not his type” – a statement for which Brazil’s Supreme Court sentenced him to pay damages to Workers’ Party congresswoman Maria do Rosário, years later, in May 2019, while criticizing gay tourism, the now president of Brazil would go as far as to suggest that those who want to come to the country “to have sex with a woman could suit themselves.” The declaration generated public outrage and provoked a backlash from organizations that fight sex tourism, international human trafficking, and the sexual exploitation of women and girls, which are serious issues faced in Brazil. In August that same year, Bolsonaro would once again make sexist comments, comparing his wife, the first lady Michelle Bolsonaro, with Brigitte Macron, the wife of the French president, Emmanuel Macron. And while in 2016, as a congressman, Bolsonaro cast his vote to impeach president Dilma Rousseff by evoking “the memory of colonel Carlos Alberto Brilhante Ustra, the terror of Dilma Rousseff,” a reference to the military official responsible for the torture of hundreds of people (including Rousseff) and the disappearance and death of dozens during Brazil’s Military Dictatorship, in April 2019, during a visit to Israel, Bolsonaro said that “the words uttered there [during the impeachment proceedings] had an impact in Brazil and abroad for a few days, but they were words that were found in John 8:32” and that “the truth had to be known”. A few days before that, in March, the government had published a video in its official channels paying tribute to the 1964 military coup, saying that the army “saved Brazilians”. Using the same tone, the newly elected president has made homophobic, racist, bigoted comments about non-Judeo-Christian religions and indigenous peoples, and threatened activists, the Left, educators, artists, and journalists throughout his first year in office, while also crushing labor rights, relaxing gun laws, and dismantling public policies, especially those dedicated to minorities and the poor. He also looked the other way as some of the biggest environmental disasters to ever hit the country unfolded.
Mud, Fire, and Oil
The year 2019 was marked by environmental tragedies and man-made disasters caused by irresponsible corporate activities. The first episode happened in January, when a deactivated dam operated by the mining giant Vale collapsed in Brumadinho, Minas Gerais state, leaving 270 dead and 11 missing. One of the main reasons that caused the disaster was the kind of dam used by the company. A report by The Intercept at the time showed that there had been a number of inconsistencies in the dam licensing process. In January 2020, the Minas Gerais State Prosecutor’s Office accused employees of Vale and the German inspection firm TÜV SÜD of falsely claiming that several dams were safe, including the one in Brumadinho that ultimately burst. Vale and TÜV SÜD were charged with environmental crimes.
The report by The Intercept also underscored that the Environment minister of the Jair Bolsonaro administration, Ricardo Salles, has nevertheless advocated for speeding up environmental licensing processes in the country. The most recent bill presented to Congress proposing looser regulations in this sense includes articles to allow automatic licensing that businesses could issue for themselves without going through environmental authorities. The chairman of the Environment Committee of Brazil’s lower house of Congress, Rodrigo Agostinho, told the newspaper Folha de S. Paulo that roughly one thousand bills pending in Congress propose some kind of legislation that would result in environmental setbacks for the country.
In August 2019, the Amazon rain forest burned, and Bolsonaro and Salles’ first reaction was to say that everything was under control, and that wildfires are common during the drought season. But when the fires started to draw global attention, the government tried to blame them on indigenous peoples and their customs, and on the action of international NGOs. More than 30,000 fires were recorded by the Inpe (National Institute for Space Research). An investigation published by the magazine Globo Rural showed that ranchers, miners, and land grabbers known in Brazil as grileiros promoted a “Fire Day” on August 10th, 2019 in the state of Pará. The groups organized via WhatsApp to start orchestrated fires, according to the report, “with the main goal of setting fire, on Aug. 10, to areas of forests and unused public lands, making the fire spread and damage the Jamanxim National Forest, a 1.3-million hectare (3.2-million acre) reserve known for its rich biodiversity. The arsonists intended to have the fire reach Terra do Meio, an area of rural conflict in the Amazon.” Inpe data also showed that, in August, 29,944 square kilometers (roughly 11,500 square miles) of the rain forest biome were destroyed in fires. That is an area as large as 4.2 million soccer fields. Bolsonaro refused international aid and started to accuse the Inpe of manipulating the data. In May 2019, eight former Environment ministers had already written an open letter exposing the government’s actions to dismantle socio-environmental policies and phase out policies implemented before the Jair Bolsonaro administration.
Then, by the end of August, came the oil. Huge crude oil stains started to appear along Brazil’s northeastern shoreline. Five months after the biggest environmental disaster ever recorded on the Brazilian coast, what caused the spill remained a mystery. By the end of January 2020, more than one thousand places had been affected by the leak in more than 130 cities in the Northeast, as well as in the southeastern states of Espírito Santo and Rio de Janeiro, according to data disclosed by the Ibama (the Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Renewable Resources). A piece published by the investigative news agency Pública showed that the conditions in which the oil was being cleaned up and discarded were completely inappropriate. Also inappropriate were the president’s statements about the case. Without presenting any evidence, he blamed Venezuela for the spill, implying that it could be an environmental crime committed to harm the bid of the so-called “assignment for consideration” to sell exceeding oil extracted from a pre-salt field in the Campos Basin. Bolsonaro went as far as to tell journalists in China that the oil spill was “a terrorist act” perpetrated by Greenpeace.
A biased relationship with indigenous communities and traditional peoples of Brazil has also marked the first year of the Jair Bolsonaro administration. Right on his first day in office, the president signed the provisional presidential decree “MP 870/2019,” a government overhaul that reduced the number of departments and changed the roles of some of them. The reorganization included moving the indigenous affairs agency Funai to the Ministry of Women, Family, and Human Rights, and handing over the authority to define land demarcation to the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, and Supply. Prior to the overhaul, the Funai was in charge of demarcating land for indigenous communities, and the agency reported to the Justice Ministry. The overhaul would be in effect for no more than 120 days if the Congress didn’t ratify the presidential decree, which did happen, but lawmakers made important changes to it: in May, they moved Funai and the land demarcation process back to the Justice Ministry. In June, Bolsonaro issued a new provisional decree, once again to move the land demarcation process to the Ministry of Agriculture. Days later, the Supreme Court justice Luís Roberto Barroso suspended that part of the new decree, and his decision was upheld by the full bench of the Supreme Court in August. Since then, both the Funai and the land demarcation process are under the responsibility of the country’s Ministry of Justice. Flustered by the rulings that hindered his government overhaul, Bolsonaro eventually declared that no indigenous lands would be demarcated as long as he is in office. Months later, in February 2020, he claimed that indigenous reservations “make the Amazon unfeasible”, saying that he is proud to have stopped demarcation processes, and complimenting the Environment minister, Ricardo Salles. “Do you know why I know he is really good? Because of the criticism” [against him], Bolsonaro said during a Facebook live stream. The government is trying to get the Brazilian Congress to pass a bill to allow commercial mining in indigenous territories, including in areas where uncontacted tribes live, which could result in a true ethnocide. Following down that path, in early 2020, the Funai confirmed the nomination of the former Evangelical missionary Ricardo Lopes Dias for the position of general coordinator of protection of uncontacted and recently contacted indigenous populations. The decision has been widely criticized, as Evangelical missions in the Amazon have been causing great harm for years now, and missionaries have expressed their desire to reach those isolated communities. The Federal Prosecution Service recently filed a petition to suspend Dias’ nomination, and the case is still pending in court.
Regarding Bolsonaro’s anti-indigenous policies, in January 2020, chief Raoni Metuktire – the 89-year-old leader of the Kayapó people and one of the world’s most prestigious and well-known indigenous personalities – welcomed over 400 members of more than 47 indigenous peoples to a meeting by the banks of the Xingu River, in the state of Mato Grosso, to devise an action plan to face the arbitrary decisions made by the Brazilian government. During the conference, which media outlets from all over the world covered, chief Raoni said that he would meet Bolsonaro in person, and that the council they were holding was not focused on planning a war, but rather planning to defend the indigenous people, cause, and land. “White man, let us live in peace, with no conflict,” Raoni pleaded.
Damares Alves and the Threat against Women’s and LGBT People’s Rights
Another controversial choice for the new government cabinet, and a direct nod to conservative Evangelical voters, was the appointment of Damares Alves to run the Ministry of Women, Family, and Human Rights (formerly the Ministry of Women, Racial Equality, Youth, and Human Rights). Alves is a pastor of the Lagoinha Baptist Church and a former adviser to senator Magno Malta, as well as a former legal adviser to the Evangelical caucus and Family and Support to Life parliamentary front in Congress. She gained notoriety when she declared, during her inauguration, that she would start a new era in the country, in which “boys wear blue and girls wear pink,” to fight “gender ideology.”
As a cabinet minister, one of the primary items on her agenda became banning abortion even in the cases in which it is allowed in Brazil today: when the pregnancy is the result of a rape, when the mother’s life is at risk, or if the fetus has anencephaly, a congenital brain disorder. She has proposed legislation that was dubbed the “rape allowance” bill, to offer monthly payments to women who decide to continue a pregnancy resulting from sexual violence. Her views go against feminist demands and the opinions of doctors, scientists, and human rights defenders, who insist that the debate about decriminalizing abortion in Brazil should be based more on evidence and scientific fact than on religious beliefs.
While under-reporting is an issue, Brazil’s gender-based violence rates are alarming, with one women assaulted every four minutes according to the Health Ministry. To fight violence against women in the country, Damares Alves suggested painting the walls of Medical Examiner’s Offices pink, to offer victims of sexual assault “safety and comfort” while they go through forensic examination.
While the number of reported rapes has been growing in Brazil, reaching 180 cases a day in 2018, according to the 13th Annual Public Security Report produced by the Brazilian Forum of Public Security, after seven months into the new government, Alves’ ministry still hadn’t spent one single cent of its R$13.6 million budget (around US$3.5 million) to build the Brazilian Woman’s House, one of the federal government’s main initiatives to fight violence against women in the country. Meanwhile, during a visit to the Marajó islands in the state of Pará, where the towns with the country’s lowest HDI scores are located, and where there high levels of sexual abuse and exploitation of children and adolescents, minister Alves claimed that sexual violence was the result of girls’ “lack of underpants.” She added that she would build an undergarment shop in Marajó to solve the problem.
The minister’s relationship with the LGBT community, which should be served by her cabinet, was also off to a bad start. In one of the world’s most violent countries for LGBT people, Damares Alves met in her chambers with members of an “ex-gay” movement that is trying to repeal a law that bans the horrible conversion therapy in the country. The topics discussed in the meeting were not disclosed. Not only that, but dozens of bills proposing the end of rights that have been already achieved by the LGBT community are being pushed or brought back to Congress, including proposed legislation to fight same-sex civil union and adoption, ban the use of a preferred or chosen first name by transgender people, and even criminalize restroom use based on gender identity instead of sex assigned at birth.
The Hero Minister and the Future, “Terribly Evangelical” Minister
The Brazilian Congress has been defying many of Bolsonaro’s brutal decrees, and ultimately so has the country’s Supreme Court. Maybe this is why the president said, during an Evangelical worship service at the Chamber of Deputies, that one of the two justices he plans to appoint to the Supreme Court will be “terribly Evangelical.” The service, performed in July 2019, was an important event preceding a big vote that would take place that same week on the proposed pension reform. The government had been pushing the overhaul for most of the year as its top-priority economic policy. The Congress would eventually pass the bill a few months later, raising the retirement age to 65 for men and 62 for women, with a minimum contribution period of 15 years for women and 20 years for men. The terribly Evangelical minister is yet to be nominated.
Meanwhile, the judge who spearheaded Operation Car Wash, Sergio Moro, was celebrated as a national hero by Bolsonaro voters and appointed by the newly elected head of state as his Justice minister. Moro, according to a series of exposés published by The Intercept, had conducted a biased, high-handed work in the Car Wash task force, speeding up, among other things, the incarceration of Brazil’s former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in 2018 and ultimately helping Bolsonaro win the presidential elections later that year. In his first year as Justice minister, Moro successfully pushed the Brazilian Congress to pass his controversial “anti-crime bill.” The new legislation included increasing the maximum length of prison sentences allowed in Brazil from 30 to 40 years; increasing sentences for different crimes; expanding the list of heinous crimes; and tightening up the rules for downgrading incarceration conditions, in a country with the world’s fourth largest prison population. There are currently 700,000 inmates serving prison sentences in Brazil, while its prison facilities have a total capacity of 415,000, and serious reports of human rights violations abound. Sergio Moro’s proposed legislation also established that police officers who are investigated for killing someone when they were on duty but there was no conflict or self-defense situation will be entitled to a lawyer paid by the force to defend them in out-of-court proceedings and military police probes. Meanwhile, Bolsonaro has been issuing decrees trying to increase the number of cases in which individuals are legally allowed to own and carry guns.
Misinformation and Threats against Journalists
The first year of the Bolsonaro administration – as well as the beginning of the second year – has been marked by noise, misinformation, confusion, and violations of all kinds of rights. So doing journalism has not been easy. Journalists had to work twice as hard, and it took them a lot of nerve to produce every news piece mentioned in this article. The government has carried out personal attacks against journalists and denied them access to official data and information, while (sometimes successfully) attempts to hack accounts and threats, insults, and smear campaigns have been especially flooding social media. Bolsonaro has gone as far as declaring that journalists were “an endangered species.” During his presidential campaign, more than 100 journalists received threats and hateful messages on social media. Some were physically assaulted by Bolsonaro supporters, instilled by the then-candidate’s outspoken hatred of newsmen and newswomen. The Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism released a list with the names of 130 journalists (including mine) and their rights that have been violated in the period.
One of the most striking examples of that is the persecution against Patrícia Campos Mello, a reporter with the Folha de S. Paulo who revealed an illegal fake news WhatsApp bulk messaging campaign that helped Bolsonaro’s presidential bid. After the story broke, in October 2018, the newspaper received more than 220,000 WhatsApp messages, and Campos Mello started to receive threatening calls against herself and her family. Not to mention the numerous insults she faced on social media, partly coming from Bolsonaro himself and his sons. More recently, the journalist was called by a joint parliamentary committee of inquiry on the spread of fake news to speak about the investigation, where she was attacked and slandered by Hans River do Rio Nascimento, a former employee of a mass WhatsApp messaging agency. Without presenting any piece of evidence, Nascimento claimed that the reporter wanted “a certain kind of story in exchange for sex.” His accusations were immediately shared by congressman Eduardo Bolsonaro during his testimony and on social media. The attack continued on social media with sexist memes. News groups, human rights organizations, women journalists, and media outlets released manifestos and statements supporting the reporter that was under attack. Even the speaker of Brazil’s lower house, Rodrigo Maia, took a stand and said that lying to a parliamentary committee of inquiry is illegal, and attacking the press with false accusations and sexual insinuations is “obscene.” Even after the huge backlash, the president spoke about the case claiming that the Folha journalist was affiliated to the Workers’ Party. Making yet another extremely offensive and outrageous sexist joke, he left his official residence days later laughing and saying, “She wanted a scoop. She wanted the scoop against me at any cost.”
Several important personalities like the anthropologist Débora Diniz, the philosopher Márcia Tiburi, and the former congressman Jean Wyllys had to leave the country after receiving death threats. Wyllys was actually elected to the current term of office, but he resigned due to the grave threats made against him and his family.
It’s Time to Resist
Brazil has experienced more violations in one year under Bolsonaro than an article could possibly describe. But there is definitely resistance: journalists continue to investigate; scholars and scientists continue to conduct their research despite budget cuts and threats; human rights advocates and students continue to take to the streets, despite facing police brutality. Social movements fighting for land and housing resist and continue to occupy – the MST (Landless Workers’ Movement) launched in January a National Plan to “Plant Trees, Grow Healthy Food,” with which they plan to plant 100 million tree seedlings in 10 years, as a response to the man-made environmental disaster of Brumadinho. The black movement resists, as it published last month a letter affirming their commitment to the fight against racism and in defense of rights, signed by 117 organizations that came together for what they call the biggest Afro-Brazilian civil society joint effort of the century. The LGBT movement resists, as it gathered more than 3 million people last year in São Paulo for one of history’s biggest Pride Parades. And indigenous peoples resist, as the unprecedented meeting called by chief Raoni by the Xingu River showed. The feminist movement resists, spearheading the biggest movement against Bolsonaro’s campaign in 2018, when thousands took to the streets to hold banners calling “Ele Não” – “Not Him” –, and now getting ready to hit the streets around the country on March 8. Students and teachers resist, as they have always, now planning two months of demonstrations to fight for education in March and April.
In Congress and legislatures around the country, where the confrontation can be face-to-face and conservatives outnumber progressives, the struggle is there too: in August, a Parliamentary Front for People’s Feminist and Anti-racist Participation was launched in the country’s Chamber of Deputies, a caucus coordinated by six congresswomen. And for the first time in history, Brazil has three openly transgender members of Congress. There are efforts to collectively conduct terms of office in legislatures and left-wing parties have been uniting to launch candidates for city government in this year’s elections. Some members of Congress have also been relentlessly exposing, vetoing, and overturning the president’s arbitrary decisions.
Predicting what comes next can be hard, as the government has been rapidly dismantling policies and institutions. Still, to those who fight for democracy and equal rights, after one year of befuddlement, this must be a year of courage and resistance.