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Security Brief: Historical Analysis Week of May 17, 2021

Week of May 17, 2021


Natasha Polston, Marco Magrin, Darren Nichols, Historical Analysis Team


Brazillian President, Jair Bolsonaro[1]


Date: Thursday, May 13, 2021

Location: Brazil

Parties involved: Brazillian government, Indigenous peoples of Brazil, NGOs

The event: Brazil’s government has been accused of targeting indigenous leaders in Brazil. Two staunch critics of President Bolsonaro in the indigenous community were put under investigation by police, with federal judges claiming the investigations were an “illegal embarrassment”.[2] This comes following a series of accusations against the Brazillian government and President Bolsonaro of deliberately and continuously mistreating and harassing the indigenous community in the country. With COVID-19 having disproportionately affected indigenous peoples in Brazil, the misinformation campaign against them by Brazil’s government has made matters worse.

The implications:

  • An international focus on the indigenous community as a result of Bolsonaro’s misinformation campaign against them has ensured that an international fundraising campaign for them has been highly successful. For the global community, it has highlighted the plight of indigenous peoples in Brazil, showing the horror and persecution that they have suffered at the hands of the nation’s government. As a result of this, President Bolsonaro took a conciliatory tone towards the issue of deforestation and oppression of the indigenous community at US President Joe Biden’s climate summit in April. Despite the soft power pressures exerted on Brazil’s president and his appearance of seemingly agreeing with the problems, Bolsonaro approved a 24% cut to the environment ministry’s budget and highlighted his plans to mine indigenous territory.[3]

  • In addition to the oppression being experienced by the indigenous peoples, it has been asserted that civic freedoms in Brazil are being restricted for all peoples and this is just one clear example of it. Political oppression and use of the military and the police to exert their will over the people and limit their freedoms has become commonplace in Brazil. Continuation of such an existence will become paramount to a dictatorship, where limited freedoms are enjoyed and fear keeps the population under control. Ultimately, this could lead to violent clashes within Brazil between those who support President Bolsonaro and those who do not.



Date: May 2021

Location: Brazil

Parties involved: Brazilian government, Health & Public services, Electorate, Brazilian Senate

The event: Jair Bolsonaro’s government has been suspected of mishandling the response to the pandemic, provoking a response by the Brazilian senate in late April.

The implications:

  • With the ongoing investigation by the Senate, the verdict may likely cause a wide rift within the Brazilian parliament ahead of the upcoming Brazilian elections scheduled for October 2022. The investigation, which is beginning to take form along predictable party lines with Bolsonaro’s supporters skewing in favor of the President, could provide fertile ground for additional domestic polarization. It also hints towards a drastic decline in Jair Bolsonaro’s personal popularity, already declined throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, may plague his future ambitions in the 2022 elections.[4]

  • With over 400,000 dead as of Sunday, May 23, 2021, Bolsonaro has garnered heavy criticism, both domestically and internationally, for his government’s response to the pandemic.[5] The Brazilian government has been slow in implementing a lockdown, favoring local restrictions on freedom of movement and activity, with no real universal restrictions applied. The failure to contain the pandemic through lockdowns was compounded with a slow vaccination acquisition program, which has slowed Brazil’s objective to achieve Herd immunity further, thereby exacerbating the epidemiological risks for the general public. Bolsonaro has defended his actions, stating that limited restrictions were taken to protect the economy.[6]

  • Bolsonaro has also stuck with his plan of pursuing Natural Herd immunity, with the senator leading the inquiry implying that he did not want to acquire vaccines at all.[7] The investigation into the alleged wrongdoings by the Bolsonaro government, has also made allegations of corruption and intentional defiance. These allegations may create further political instability, in an already treacherous terrain that has historically plagued Brazilian politics, the instability of which has been exacerbated by the devastating socio-economic consequences of the pandemic.


Date: Friday, May 21, 2021

Location: Brazil

Parties involved: President Jair Bolsonaro, Former Presidents Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Fernando Henrique Cardoso

The event: The two former presidents met to coordinate their opposition against President Bolsonaro to keep him from winning a second term.[8]

The implications:

  • Lulu de Silva of the Worker's Party and Cardoso of the Brazilian Social Democratic Party have been long-time political rivals. Still, their opposition to Bolsonaro has driven them to work together. In the October 2022 election, if it comes down to a run-off between Bolsonaro and a candidate from the Workers Party, the Brazilian Social Democratic Party will back that candidate and vice versa.[9]

  • President Bolsonaro's popularity has been waning due mainly to his handling of the pandemic. On Sunday, May 23, 2021, Brazil passed 450,000 deaths and 16 million confirmed cases.[10]

  • President Bolsonaro has governed on a nationalist platform and has been compared to Donald Trump. If Bolsonaro should lose the upcoming election, the CTG believes the intelligence points to a possible violent transition of power. The President has embraced the military, relaxed gun laws, and armed his supporters.The CTG should closely monitor Brazilian politics to inform our business clients or NGO clients working in Brazil of future security issues that could affect them.

[1] Presidente da República, Jair Bolsonaro, durante desfile Cívico por ocasião do Dia da Pátria by Palácio do Planalto licensed under Flickr

[2] Brazilian police target indigenous leaders after government criticism, The Guardian, May 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/may/13/brazil-police-indigenous-leaders-covid-jair-bolsonaro

[3] Brazilian police target indigenous leaders after government criticism, The Guardian, May 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/may/13/brazil-police-indigenous-leaders-covid-jair-bolsonaro

[4] Bolsonaro's approval falls to 24%, the lowest ever, says Datafolha poll, Reuters, May 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/bolsonaros-approval-falls-24-lowest-ever-says-datafolha-poll-2021-05-13/

[5] Covid: Brazil passes 400,000 deaths amid slow vaccinations, BBC News, April 2021, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-56913943

[6] Brazilian Senate opens inquiry into Bolsonaro’s COVID handling, AlJazeera, April 2021, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/4/27/brazil-senate-opens-inquiry-into-bolsonaro-covid-handling

[7] Brazil’s Bolsonaro fined for breaking COVID public health rules, AlJazeera, May 2021, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/5/22/brazil-bolsonaro-fined-for-breaking-covid-public-health-rules

[8] Brazil's Lula meets centrist Cardoso in anti-bolsonaro move, Reuters, May 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/brazils-lula-meets-centrist-cardoso-anti-bolsonaro-move-2021-05-21/

[9] Ibid

[10] Brazil passes 450,000 COVID-19 deaths, Health Ministry says, Reuters, May 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/brazil-passes-450000-covid-19-deaths-health-ministry-says-2021-05-25/

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