This year’s general elections in Brazil will be a test for the country’s democracy due to threats by far-right President Jair Bolsonaro who has questioned the validity of its voting system, Human Rights Watch says.
In its annual report on rights abuses around the world, the Washington-based group urged Brazil’s Supreme Court, Congress and other democratic institutions to remain vigilant and resist any attempt by Bolsonaro to undermine the October elections.
“President Bolsonaro tried to weaken the pillars of democracy, attacking the judiciary and repeating baseless allegations of electoral fraud,’ said Maria Laura Canineu, Human Rights Watch director in Brazil.
His government has promoted policies contrary to human rights in various areas, including indigenous peoples’ rights, women’s rights, people’s rights with disabilities and freedom of expression, the report said.
The president’s office did not answer a request for comment on the rights report. Bolsonaro plans to seek re-election in October, though he has not formally declared his candidacy.
Police lethality reached a record in 2020 in Brazil, with the highest number of deaths resulting from police action since the indicator started to be monitored, and about 80 per cent of the victims were black, HRW said.
Bolsonaro has encouraged police violence and defended a bill to make it harder to hold police officers accountable for abuses, it added.
His government pursued criminal investigations against critics, including with the use of the National Security Law of the 1964-1985 military dictatorship that he defends, it said.
Bolsonaro has promoted bills to deny the right of many indigenous peoples to their traditional lands and, in practice, legalise illegal mining in those territories.
During his administration, deforestation in the Amazon has skyrocketed to the highest level since 2006, as shown by the government’s own data, Human Rights Watch said.