Explaining Brazil #145: How much damage can Bolsonaro really do?

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro carried out a massive cabinet reshuffle on Monday, raising fears that his administration could take an undemocratic turn

This week began with Congress forcing President Jair Bolsonaro to fire his beloved anti-globalist Foreign Minister. But just a few hours later, that was completely overshadowed by a major cabinet reshuffle and a military crisis. Mr. Bolsonaro pushed his Defense Minister out of office — prompting the joint resignation of commanders from all three Armed Forces, in what is Brazil’s biggest military crisis in four decades.

Many political observers believe Mr. Bolsonaro is planning something along the lines of a self-coup, while others say he is laying the groundwork for a movement similar to the U.S. Capitol riots, should he lose next year’s election. While it remains too soon to reach any clear conclusions, one thing is certain: the crisis will not end here.

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  • Guilherme Casarões is a professor at think tank Fundação Getulio Vargas. He is the co-founder of the Observatory of the Extreme Right, a project to monitor the behavior of extremist groups in the political arena.

Background reading:

  • Columnist Beatriz Rey explains why Brazil was among the world’s top 10 democratic backsliding countries, according to the Varieties of Democracy project. 
  • As a matter of fact, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s latest Democracy Index, Latin America’s overall scores have decreased over the past five years. We dig into why that happened in Episode #138.
  • Upon The Brazilian Report’s launch, in October 2017, we denounced the rising tide of authoritarianism in Brazil — as democratic institutions fail to respond to Brazil’s needs.
  • March 31 marks the anniversary of the 1964 military coup — and the Bolsonaro administration is keen on celebrating the date. In Episode #37, we discussed Brazil’s history of coups and revolutions
  • And 52 years ago, Brazil institutionalized torture and repression.
  • A week before Jair Bolsonaro was elected president, editor-in-chief Gustavo Ribeiro talked about the politician’s authoritarian tendencies. “Why voters have turned to Jair Bolsonaro is understandable, but the truth is: if your alarm systems haven’t gone off yet, you are probably underestimating the dangers of his election.”

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