WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas
7 Oct 2022 | News

Polarized Elections in Brazil: A Challenge to Democracy

On October 3, representatives of the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) and the Washington Brazil Office (WBO) discussed the results of the first round of the Presidential elections in Brazil with Ofunshi Oba Koso, host of the weekly show Colombia Acuerdo de Paz.

Carolina Jiménez Sandoval, President at WOLA, Gimena Sánchez-Garzoli, Director of the Andes at WOLA, and Juliana de Moraes Pinheiro, Institutional Relations Advisor at the Washington Brazil Office (WBO) were among a group of international observers who participated in an International Human Rights Specialists Electoral Mission. 

Jiménez Sandoval said that although these are the most polarized and contentious elections in Brazil’s history, with political violence, intimidation and fake news common, participation has been particularly high. 

Concerns, however, remain over Bolsonaro’s systematic questioning of the legitimacy of electoral institutions, including attempts to undermine the electronic voting system, presumably to pave the way for rejecting the final results should he not win. 

De Moraes explained that the increased number of seats Bolsonaro’s party secured in Congress will prove a challenge to any potential future Lula-led government. She also said that while the opposition did not expand much in terms of seats in the Congress, there were some historical wins for diversity. Two indigenous and two trans women won seats. De Moraes believes the focus of activists should be to create a more inclusive Congress that can promote, advance and implement policies favorable to protecting the environment while at the same time advancing economic development. 

Sánchez talked about the threats facing the afro descendant, Quilombola, indigenous, women and LGBTIQ+ populations, and journalists, among others — particularly given a rise in attacks at the hands of Bolsonaro.

Bolsonaro’s open racist, misogynistic and homophobic comments has granted his followers a blank check to attack these groups and to sow intolerance in the society. That, alongside the dismantling of gun laws which has led to an increase in the possession of guns, and a rise in repression by police and militias has led to an explosive cocktail that has put many, particularly marginalized communities, at great risk. 

Also, the advancement of large scale development projects without effective oversight and the lack of protection of vulnerable areas of the Amazon region is leading to irreparable environmental destruction and the extermination of indigenous and black populations that live there.  

Sánchez noted that on September 30, five members of the U.S. Senate and five representatives of the House passed Resolution CAN22736 that urges the Government of Brazil to ensure that the October 2022 elections are conducted in a free, fair, credible, transparent, and peaceful manner.

In order to guarantee that the results of the October 30 elections are respected, the international community must continue to monitor and publicly pronounce itself in favor of free and fair elections in Brazil. WOLA and WBO will continue to educate U.S. policymakers on the risks to democracy and violations faced by Afro-Brazilians, Quilombolas, LGBTIQ, Indigenous communities and women. 

Sánchez proposes that the members of Congress who passed the CAN22736 Resolution and signed the September 9 letter to Biden should form a Congressional Working Group on Democracy and Human Rights in Brazil. The Congressional Black Caucus and the LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus should focus attention on Brazil and take the necessary actions to guarantee rights protections for these groups.