September 28, 2021

Top Senate Democrats Sound Alarm on Brazil’s Democratic Decline and Creeping Authoritarianism under President Bolsonaro

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today was joined by Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) to register their growing concerns over Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s defiance of basic democratic norms. His repeated challenges to the rule of law and promises to disregard rulings of his country’s Supreme Court, among other hallmarks of Caudillos, threaten a rupture with constitutional order in advance of Brazil’s 2022 general elections. In a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the senators called on the Biden administration to bolster U.S. support for Brazil’s democratic institutions in the face of Bolsonaro’s undemocratic proclivities. They also call on the Administration make clear that further attacks on the country’s democracy will jeopardize the underpinnings of the U.S.-Brazil relationship.

 “On several occasions, President Bolsonaro has reiterated that he will only end his current tenure in office by being ‘jailed, killed, or victorious.’ This type of reckless language is dangerous in any democracy, but it is especially unmerited in a democracy of Brazil’s caliber, which for decades has shown itself capable of facilitating peaceful transfers of power,” wrote the Senators. “[Bolsonaro] has repeatedly insisted that he will refuse to concede the elections if he loses. He also claims, without evidence, that these elections will constitute a farce marred by fraud barring a substantial reform to the voting system. In fact, Brazil’s electoral system is regarded as one of the world’s most secure.”

In urging Secretary Blinken to prioritize Brazil’s political situation as part of the Biden administration’s diplomatic initiatives to uphold democratic principles in the Western Hemisphere, the Senators added:  “Our partnership with Brazil should be a bulwark against undemocratic actors, from China and Russia to Cuba and Venezuela, which seek to undermine democratic stability in our hemisphere. Indeed, as the hemisphere contends with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change, the United States stands to benefit now more than ever from a strong partnership with Brazil.”

Find a copy of the letter HERE and below.

Dear Secretary Blinken:

 

We write to express our concern regarding attacks on Brazil’s independent democratic institutions. In recent months, President Jair Bolsonaro has made repeated statements defying basic democratic norms, challenging the rule of law, and threatening a rupture with Brazil’s constitutional order. Given Brazil’s status as one of the world’s largest democracies and economies and a principal U.S. ally in the region, the deterioration of Brazilian democracy carries implications throughout our hemisphere and beyond. We urge you to make clear that the United States supports Brazil’s democratic institutions, and that any undemocratic break with the current constitutional order will have serious consequences.

 

President Bolsonaro has made a series of increasingly dangerous statements regarding Brazil’s 2022 general elections, in which he plans to run for reelection. He has repeatedly insisted that he will refuse to concede the elections if he loses. He also claims, without evidence, that these elections will constitute a farce marred by fraud barring a substantial reform to the voting system. In fact, Brazil’s electoral system is regarded as one of the world’s most secure. On several occasions, President Bolsonaro has reiterated that he will only end his current tenure in office by being “jailed, killed, or victorious.” This type of reckless language is dangerous in any democracy, but it is especially unmerited in a democracy of Brazil’s caliber, which for decades has shown itself capable of facilitating peaceful transfers of power.

 

Just as concerning, President Bolsonaro has engaged in personal attacks against members of Brazil’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal and Supreme Court, and has stated he is willing to resort to unconstitutional maneuvers to prevent these institutions from exercising their legally-mandated authorities. If President Bolsonaro follows through with his promises to openly disregard rulings of the Supreme Court, it would set a dangerous precedent for further attempts to undermine rule of law by Bolsonaro or any future president of Brazil.

 

Brazilian civil society leaders from across the political spectrum have spoken out clearly against such unconstitutional measures. On August 5, a diverse group of business leaders, politicians, and academics published an open letter proclaiming, “Brazilian society is guarantor of the constitution and will not accept authoritarian adventures.” The United States should be equally clear that we support Brazil’s democratic system, which has long empowered the Brazilian people to freely and independently choose their leaders.

 

As two of the hemisphere’s largest democracies, the United States and Brazil maintain widespread cooperation on security, economic, and diplomatic matters. Moreover, our partnership with Brazil should be a bulwark against undemocratic actors, from China and Russia to Cuba and Venezuela, which seek to undermine democratic stability in our hemisphere. Indeed, as the hemisphere contends with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change, the United States stands to benefit now more than ever from a strong partnership with Brazil. A disruption of Brazil’s constitutional order would jeopardize the very foundation of this bilateral relationship. As democracies around the globe grapple with unprecedented challenges, we urge you to make support for Brazilian democracy a top diplomatic priority, including in bilateral discussions related to Brazilian membership in organizations such as the OECD and NATO.

 

We strongly support the Biden Administration’s defense and promotion of democracy, as demonstrated by the planned Summit for Democracy, which makes these issues even more crucial.  Please count on our support for your efforts to strengthen our regional partnerships and uphold democratic principles in the hemisphere.  

 

 

Sincerely,

 

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Press Contact

Juan Pachon