Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro attends a virtual global climate summit via a video link in Brasilia, Brazil April 22, 2021. Marcos Correa/Brazilian Presidency via REUTERS
Brazil is the largest country in Latin America. It is home to two hundred million people. Fifty-six percent of Brazil's citizens identify as Black or brown. Yet in 2019, nearly 80% of those killed by police and 75% of murder victims were Black. The Atlas of Human Development in Brazil, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), and the João Pinheiro Foundation have concluded that racial disparities have been widening in Brazil. Black people comprise the majority of people who are living in extreme poverty. They have the highest rates of homicide. They earn 42% less than white people. Brazil suffers from 'structural racism' in many of the same ways that are evident in the USA, another post-slavery society. The UN has urged the government to enact structural reforms.
Since the election in 2018 of the openly anti-human rights President Jair Bolsonaro, discrimination against Black and Indigenous people has worsened. Police brutality has markedly increased according to Human Rights Watch. Bolsonaro's homophobic statements and restrictions against the LGBTIQ+ community have exacerbated homophobic and transphobic violence, resulting in imprisonment, murder, and discrimination against LGBTIQ+ people.
Brazil's long history of violence against the Indigenous people of its Amazon regions is becoming increasingly life-threatening. Intentional burning and wildfires have destroyed large areas of the Amazon Forest, home to over 30 million people. According to Amnesty International, the fires are mostly caused by illegal deforestation and land seizures. Burning has usually been linked to the interests of agribusiness to clear the forest for cattle farming. At least 182 indigenous people were murdered in 2020, a dramatic 61% increase from already elevated numbers in 2019.
In November 2019, President Bolsonaro announced that the Amazon is being opened for agriculture and mining. Indigenous peoples in Karipuna, Eu-Wau-Wau, and Arara have reported illegal seizures and destruction of their ancestral lands. The Brazilian government severely limited the powers of the governmental agencies created to protect the people of the Amazon regions. Indigenous leaders who oppose such deforestation are often murdered. Government officials in protective agencies receive frequent death threats. President Bolsonaro has tried to "mirror" his government's attacks on Indigenous people by claiming that the Brazilian government itself is being attacked by the criminal actions of onguerios (NGOs). President Bolsonaro calls NGOs such as Greenpeace "terrorists."
In 2021, President Bolsonaro's denialist propaganda that the COVID-19 pandemic is a hoax has led Brazil to become one of the world's worst-affected countries. He repeatedly dismissed the danger caused by the pandemic and rejected taking strict quarantine measures. His COVID denialism and racism are directly parallel with the right-wing politics of his model, Donald Trump. An October 2021 congressional report on Bolsonaro’s failures to respond to the pandemic recommended he be charged with crimes against humanity.
Genocide Watch considers Brazil to be at Stage 5: Organization due to police oppression against Black, Indigenous, and LGBTIQ+ people, and Stage 6: Polarization based on race, class, and Indigenous identity.
Genocide Watch recommends:
· The U.S., O.A.S., E.U., and U.N. should urge President Bolsonaro to end police brutality against Black, Indigenous, and LGBTIQ+ people.
· The same governments should support international and local NGOs that defend human and Indigenous rights.
· The entire international community should work to prevent the Amazon region from becoming another victim of agribusiness deforestation, a cause of global warming and climate change.
· The World Bank and IMF should devise financial incentives for Brazil to protect the Amazon.
· The U.S., U.N., and O.A.S should demand that President Bolsonaro stop denying the scientific facts about the COVID-19 pandemic and implement measures to provide Brazilians with vaccinations.