This past Sunday, Brazil elected a new president. The electoral campaign was polarized from the start, with hate speech and attacks everywhere. Everyone I know had some sort of fight or disagreement with family members, friends, co-workers and even strangers because of the elections.
While half of the Brazilian population was celebrating Jair Bolsonaro’s victory, the other half was scared. His far-right rhetoric, lack of experience and credentials and extremely authoritarian profile (not to mention his very public and frequent homophobic, racist and misogynistic comments) will put the Brazilian democratic institutions to the test in the next four years.
At TIE, we work with organizations that address some of the most complex problems and with some of the most vulnerable communities in our society. We believe not only from a personal perspective but from daily observing the work of these organizations, that democratic values, tolerance and inclusion are and should continue to be the basis of all economic and social development initiatives.
According to Eric Posner, a professor at the University of Chicago Law School, history shows that for a democracy to degenerate into an authoritarian government, the president would need to attack the press, Congress, the judiciary and the bureaucracy, subdue the state governments, attack organized civil society and stir the masses. So far, the masses have already been stirred; the state governments are and have always been weak in Brazil; Congress is widely known to be extremely corrupt; and the press, bureaucracy and the judiciary have already been under attack by the elected president and his followers (including his son, a Congressman who said one week ago that he would like to shut down the Supreme Court). The elected president has already stated that he intends to cut all funding to human rights NGOs, criminalize certain civil society groups that work for agricultural land reform and environmental issues and stated right after his electoral victory in the first round that he would “end all activism in the country”.
Knowing the history of TIE, you can see how the third sector landscape usually reflects the political and economic situation in the country. When TIE started in 2006, 55 million Brazilians lived in poverty, 1 in every 4 people. There were parts of the Northeastern region that had a Human Development Index similar to Sub-Saharan Africa. As a result, the majority of the international development institutions and NGOs were here, investing in the country. But, in the years following, there was widespread belief that Brazil seemed to be improving in a number of ways, and in response, many of the NGOs and foundations left the country, as their resources and support were no longer needed. Now, it seems like that we’re going back to where we were years ago, and NGOs that fight for minorities and human rights are going to need a lot of support.
We are really glad to be based here and to be able to partner with the Brazilian civil sector in such a critical moment. We believe that civil society will play a significant role in protecting our democratic values. We support and will continue to support social initiatives and leaders who share that vision and who are actively involved in building a better future for everyone.