The government led by the president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, threatened the pillars of democracy and continued to disregard scientific recommendations to prevent the spread of covid-19, denounced Human Rights Watch (HRW).
In the organization’s 32nd annual report, which takes stock of the fulfillment of human rights in more than 100 countries, the chapter on Brazil highlighted the fact that last year Bolsonaro threatened democracy by “trying to undermine confidence in the electoral system”. , freedom of expression and independence of the judiciary”, but he stressed that the government’s attempts ended up being rebuffed by the Federal Supreme Court (STF).
The non-governmental organization assessed that the Brazilian head of state acted to intimidate the country’s main court, which is conducting four investigations into his conduct, including whether he interfered with Federal Police appointments in order to promote his personal interests, and whether committed malfeasance in relation to a case of alleged corruption involving the purchase of vaccines for covid-19.
“President Bolsonaro has tried to weaken the pillars of democracy by attacking the judiciary and repeating baseless allegations of electoral fraud,” said Maria Laura Canineu, director of Human Rights Watch in Brazil, in a statement released with the annual report.
“With the October presidential elections approaching, the Federal Supreme Court, the Superior Electoral Court, the Federal Public Ministry, Congress and other democratic institutions must remain vigilant and resist any attempt by President Bolsonaro to deny Brazilians the right to vote. their leaders”, added the expert.
Bolsonaro disregarded WHO recommendations
On public health and the fight against the pandemic, the non-governmental organization highlighted that until November 7, 2021, Brazil registered 21 million confirmed cases of covid-19 and 609,447 deaths – the second highest number of deaths in the world in absolute values. .
“President Bolsonaro continued to flout recommendations from the World Health Organization (WHO) and promote ineffective drugs against Covid-19,” the HRW report said.
Currently, Brazil accounts for more than 620,000 deaths and 22.5 million confirmed by covid-19.
The NGO mentioned a parliamentary investigation opened in the upper house into the health crisis caused by the pandemic, which found that the Brazilian Government and several local authorities had failed to supply oxygen to hospitals in the state of Amazonas, leading to dozens of deaths in January 2021. .
The investigation, which in its final report asked for the indictment of Bolsonaro for the alleged practice of nine crimes in the pandemic and the indictment of more than 80 people linked to companies and the current government, also found evidence of corruption in the purchase of vaccines and other failures in the pandemic response.
In the statement released along with the 2022 report, HRW highlighted that Bolsonaro continued to disseminate false information about vaccines against covid-19, stressing that his government had failed to manage the enormous impact of the pandemic on education.
In summary, the NGO highlighted that in 2021 the Brazilian government “promoted policies contrary to human rights in other areas, including indigenous peoples’ rights, women’s rights, the rights of people with disabilities and freedom of expression. Police lethality has reached a record high, while deforestation in the Amazon has soared to the highest level since 2006.”
“Criticizing the president can result in persecution”
In a projection for the year 2022, HRW highlighted that the presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for October “will test the strength of Brazilian democracy in the face of threats from President Bolsonaro, a fervent defender of the brutal Brazilian military dictatorship (1964-1985)”.
The communiqué and report highlighted threats to freedom of expression, mentioning that the Brazilian government has called for the opening of criminal investigations against at least 17 critics, including using the National Security Law, created under the military dictatorship and repealed last year.
“While many of the cases have been shelved, these actions send the message that criticizing the president can result in persecution,” HRW said.
“President Bolsonaro has also blocked press vehicles [media], civil society organizations and other users of their social media accounts, accounts they use to share information or discuss matters of public interest,” he added.
Finally, HRW recalled that although the Brazilian government has made promises to protect the Amazon in international forums, it has implemented policies to accelerate its destruction.
“In response to the great national and international outrage, the Bolsonaro government is committed to protecting the forest, but official data shows that these promises are empty,” said Canineu.
“President Bolsonaro needs to show concrete results in reducing deforestation and fighting impunity for environmental crimes and acts of violence against forest defenders,” concluded the director of HRW Brazil.