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Brazilian democracy scarred but resilient in face of challenge

On 25 March, BGIPU sent a delegation of six parliamentarians to Brazil on a bilateral visit aimed at developing our bilateral relationship and informing us about the current issues in Brazil.  The delegation was led by the Rt Hon Karen Bradley MP, and included Fabian Hamilton MP, Kim Johnson MP, Jason McCartney MP, Mark Pawsey MP and Baroness Scott.

Here are several testimonies from the delegates who travelled to Brazil:

Rt Hon Karen Bradley MP

“It was a packed agenda, taking in three cities in under a week, and allowed us to meet a diverse range of politicians, NGOs, business leaders and others across all three cities. My particular thanks to the team at BGIPU who organised the visit, in particular our fellow delegate and Americas Lead at BGIPU, Holly Sloan.

Arriving in Rio de Janeiro, it was clear to see that there is a marked wealth divide, with extreme poverty on the doorstep of phenomenal wealth and prosperity.  The local leaders that we met spoke clearly and articulately about the profound challenges that they face.  In Brasilia, the focus was much more on national politics.  The recent political upheaval of the election victory of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, defeating Jair Bolsonaro, and the subsequent unrest – directly felt by parliamentarians in their own Parliament building – was the main topic of the conversations we had in Brasilia. In Sao Paulo, the sheer scale of the city and its environs showed us so vividly the challenges that local politicians face.

In sum, there are some real opportunities to build on this visit to further relations between our two parliaments.  We must ensure continued friendly dialogue at every opportunity via the IPUs many multi-lateral assemblies and forums.”

Baroness Scott

“Most of the many people we talked to during our six days in Brazil remarked on the increasing polarisation in Brazil society in general and in electoral politics in particular.

Our visit took place just weeks after a bitterly contested Presidential election in which the incumbent Jair Bolsonaro was defeated by former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. In the second round of voting, Lula received 50.9 % of the vote to Bolsonaro’s 49.10% after which Bolsonaro refused to accept the result and left the country.  His return, in what turned out to be quite low key, took place during our visit.

On January 8 this year, Bolsonaro supporters attacked Federal Government buildings in Brazil, seeking to overthrow Lula. Whilst the situation was quickly resolved, it was clear from our meetings with Congressmen that there are deep scars from the event.

Whilst the Presidential election may have been fought between two men representing very different visions for Brazil, in Congress, at Regional level and in the municipalities, there are a plethora of political parties operating in a changing flow of alliances and coalitions.  This was a recurring theme during our meetings in Congress, and in City Hall in Rio and Sao Paulo.

We heard that Brazil, which we would see as traditional Roman Catholic country, is seeing a rapidly growing evangelical Christian movement representing what are described as “traditional” values.  These voters are forming the bedrock of support for Bolsonaro. Lula on the other hand draws his support largely from people who are marginalised by poverty, gender, race, sexual identity and by their espousal of environmental causes.

We met representatives of civil society notably the Marielle Franco Institute founded after the assassination in 2018 of Marielle, a socialist, feminist and human rights activist.

They described the many challenges of women in public life, discrimination against black people and the intractable poverty exemplified by the favellas.  In Sao Paulo we met Connectas who described their work in similar fields, but with a particular emphasis on environmental issues.”

Jason McCartney MP:

“One of the key elements of the visit was the opportunity to discuss and explore how Brazilian lawmakers see the future of the Amazon region. Much of the world sees the Amazon rainforest as the lungs of the world being destroyed by overdevelopment and deforestation. Meeting Members of the Chamber of Deputies was eye opening as those representing the region still see the rainforest as an economic resource providing jobs and income to their communities. We sat in on a Human Rights Select Committee session where the indigenous Indian community from the rainforests were asking for a bigger share of the national investment “invaders” who settled hundreds of years ago.

Another key opportunity was exploring Brazil’s attitude to Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine. Brazil are currently a member of the UN Security Council and will be chairing the G20 later this year. The Brazilian Parliamentarians we met didn’t see the Ukraine invasion as a clear cut “evil” invasion by Russia. We picked up on a strong nuance as to who was to blame for the invasion. The UK remains steadfast in our support for Ukraine but it’s clear a lot of diplomatic work needs to be done to bring countries into the coalition of nations opposing and speaking out against Putin’s illegal invasion.”

BGIPU Secretariat