In the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s many Latin American countries adopted neoliberal economic policies. Many countries faced negative economic and social results due to the policy shift and reverted to more domestic oriented markets. With that said, in recent years many Latin American countries, such as Brazil, have pushed back into neoliberalist policies. This comes as especially odd considering many global economic powers such as the US, UK, and China are shifting to domestic focused and protectionist policies.
On May 21st, truck drivers in Brazil began a nation-wide strike that lasted for ten days. The interruption in shipping routes devastated major industries such as agriculture, healthcare, education, and oil, resulting in a government declared state of emergency at the height of the protests. Brazil, a country slightly larger than the continental United States, relies heavily on road transportation. During the strike period, many major cities experienced food shortages, gas shortages, and even medical supply shortages.
Every democracy can be expected to produce antidemocratic sentiment. In supposedly ordinary times, which we do not usually recognize as such until the exception is all there is, these kinds of opinions do not get far, sparing the body politic a self-destructive infection. Nobody looking at the Brazilian situation today would classify what is going on as normal, as a logical permutation of the democratic order that took shape following the end of the dictatorship in 1985.
Brazil’s former President, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, has been in the media’s spotlight for quite some time. President for two terms, from January 1, 2001 to 2011, he was once one of Brazil’s most popular presidents. Coming from a humble background, Lula was born into poverty. He trained to be a metal worker outside of São Paulo and became involved in activism through work with the trade union. After being elected leader of the metal workers’ trade union, it was only a short time until he helped to create Brazil’s first major socialist party, the Worker’s Party.
On March 14th, 2018, one of Brazil’s strongest voices in the fight for equal rights was assassinated in her car along with her driver on the way home from an event to empower young black women in Rio de Janeiro. Marielle Franco had just been elected the city councilor of Rio de Janeiro 18 months prior to her death. At 38 years old, Franco was the only black female representative on the 51-member council, and one of seven women (The New York Times, 2018).
Just last week, Brazilian President Michel Temer signed a decree to allow the military to take over as the primary security force in the state of Rio de Janeiro as an extreme attempt to crackdown on rising gang violence in the region’s poor shantytowns, or favelas. The upper and lower houses of Brazil’s Congress both voted overwhelmingly in favor of this decision, in spite of rising public criticism and concern over the protection of human rights under the military’s control.
Despite the prospects of former Brazil’s president Lula da Silva re-election this year, the result of his trial shows a worrying trend towards politicisation of the judiciary power. Their actions plays a vital role in shaping democratic politics in the country. On January 24th, an appeals court in Brazil upheld Lula’s the conviction on charges of corruption. The most controversial point of the prosecutors’ case is that accused Lula of having accepted a bribe from a construction company named “OAS”, which is currently under prosecution in Brazil’s “Carwash” corruption scheme.