PR Political Rights 30 40
CL Civil Liberties 42 60
Last Year's Score & Status
73 100 Free
Global freedom statuses are calculated on a weighted scale. See the methodology.

header1 Overview

Brazil is a democracy that holds competitive elections, and the political arena, though polarized, is characterized by vibrant public debate. However, independent journalists and civil society activists risk harassment and violent attack, political violence is high, and the government has struggled to address crime and disproportionate violence against and economic exclusion of minorities. Corruption is endemic at top levels, and governmental transparency has decreased, contributing to widespread disillusionment among the public. Societal discrimination and violence against LGBT+ people remain serious problems.

header2 Key Developments in 2022

  • Former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of the Workers’ Party (PT) won the second round of the presidential election in late October, narrowly defeating incumbent Jair Bolsonaro of the Liberal Party (PL). The PL became the largest single party in both houses of the National Congress in the concurrently held legislative polls. Parties aligned with the nonideological center, meanwhile, collectively represented the largest lower-house group.
  • Outgoing president Bolsonaro, who claimed that the country’s voting system was susceptible to fraud during the campaign, challenged the results in court in late November. The Superior Electoral Court (TSE) chief rejected the case, saying Bolsonaro’s campaign acted in bad faith.
  • The highly polarized campaign was marred by disinformation, aggressive rhetoric, harassment, and political violence. A federal police officer in Paraná State was accused of killing a PT official in July, while a worker in Mato Grosso State killed a PT supporter in September. In late December, a man was arrested for attempting to detonate a bomb near Brasília’s airport, saying he was inspired by Bolsonaro.

PR Political Rights

A Electoral Process

A1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Was the current head of government or other chief national authority elected through free and fair elections? 3.003 4.004

Brazil is a federal republic governed under a presidential system. The president is elected by popular vote for a four-year term and is eligible for reelection to a second consecutive term.

In the 2022 race, the candidates appealed to voters concerned with economic difficulties and rising poverty levels. Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of the PT, who served as president from 2003 to 2011, and incumbent Jair Bolsonaro of the PL were the two leading candidates. Lula campaigned on economic concerns and social policy, while Bolsonaro’s campaign focused attention on evangelical support. The election was decided in a late October runoff, with Lula winning 50.9 percent of the vote and Bolsonaro earning 49.1 percent.

The highly polarized campaign was marred by disinformation, aggressive rhetoric on social networks and online messaging services and political violence. Bolsonaro also said the country’s voting system was susceptible to fraud during the contest. As the second round was held, federal highway agents reportedly conducted traffic stops in several states, stopping buses carrying voters to polling stations. Bolsonaro did not explicitly concede after losing the election, initially remaining silent while his supporters blocked major roads and called for new elections and military intervention. In late November, Bolsonaro challenged the results in court, calling for some runoff results to be “invalidated” after the TSE ratified the vote. TSE chief Alexandre de Moraes, who is also a Supreme Court justice, rejected the case, saying the campaign acted in bad faith. In late December, a man was arrested for attempting to detonate a bomb near Brasília’s airport, telling police he was inspired by Bolsonaro’s rhetoric. Lula was due to be sworn in on January 1, 2023.

A2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Were the current national legislative representatives elected through free and fair elections? 3.003 4.004

Legislative elections are generally free and fair. The bicameral National Congress is composed of an 81-member Senate and a 513-member Chamber of Deputies. Senators serve staggered eight-year terms, with one- to two-thirds coming up for election every four years. Members of the Chamber of Deputies serve four-year terms.

In the October 2022 elections, the PL became the largest single party in the Chamber of Deputies with 99 seats, while the PT won 69. The Centrão (“Big Center”), an array of patronage-based parties without clear ideological positions that provided legislative support to Bolsonaro, became the largest force in the Chamber of Deputies; the five parties understood to make up the Centrão won a combined 231 seats. The PL became the largest party in the Senate.

Brazilians also voted for state-level governors and legislators in all 26 states and the Brasília Federal District, concurrently with the national contests. Parties affiliated with the Centrão performed well, with over half of Brazil’s state-level representatives hailing from its parties. State-level campaigning took place in the same highly polarized environment as the presidential contest, marked by aggressive rhetoric and political violence.

A3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are the electoral laws and framework fair, and are they implemented impartially by the relevant election management bodies? 4.004 4.004

Brazilian election laws are generally well enforced. The TSE presides over cases related to violations of electoral law.

While Brazilian voters have cast ballots electronically since 1996, Bolsonaro had proposed its replacement with a paper-receipt system via a constitutional amendment, which the Chamber of Deputies did not sustain in a 2021 vote. Bolsonaro again claimed that the country’s ballot system was vulnerable to fraud ahead of the 2022 elections, though no evidence has ever been found. The Defense Ministry inspected several hundred voting machines in October; while it found no irregularities, it did not publish its report until November. The report did not explicitly declare whether potential fraud was possible.

In October 2022, the TSE gave de Moraes the unilateral authority to order the removal of online content that did not comply with previous TSE rulings, as part of an effort to combat disinformation. Bolsonaro supporters and legal experts criticized the move, fearing that it could allow for censorship. De Moraes cited the proliferation of false information and hate speech when initially proposing the move to the TSE.

B Political Pluralism and Participation

B1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do the people have the right to organize in different political parties or other competitive political groupings of their choice, and is the system free of undue obstacles to the rise and fall of these competing parties or groupings? 4.004 4.004

Brazil has an unfettered multiparty system marked by vigorous competition among rival parties. The electoral framework encourages the proliferation of parties, a number of which are based in a single state. Some parties display little ideological consistency. Lawmakers often switch parties, rendering electoral coalitions fragile. The executive branch must assemble diverse and often ideologically incoherent coalitions to pass legislation due to the large number of parties. Political parties operate with little transparency and under no governance rules, and often are targets of investigations into the misuse of public funds.

Ahead of the 2022 elections, 32 parties were registered, 23 of which won seats in the Chamber of Deputies. In 2018, 30 parties won lower-house seats.

B2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there a realistic opportunity for the opposition to increase its support or gain power through elections? 4.004 4.004

Opposition parties are able to compete and gain power through elections at both the federal and subnational levels. In the 2022 elections, the PL and the PT both gained significant levels of support. However, the Bolsonaro administration used public programs to bolster its campaign, reducing the opposition’s power to compete freely. The government increased the size of Auxílio Brasil (Brazil Aid) welfare payments between August and December 2022. In September, the government published rules on loans for Auxílio Brasil recipients. In October, it made 480,000 extra households eligible for Auxílio Brasil support.

B3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are the people’s political choices free from domination by forces that are external to the political sphere, or by political forces that employ extrapolitical means? 2.002 4.004

Powerful business interests undermine democratic accountability by facilitating or encouraging corruption among elected officials. Criminal groups have carried out attacks against political candidates.

Brazilian voters face high levels of political violence, which increased by 400 percent between 2018 and 2022 according to an October survey conducted by two nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). In July, a federal police officer in Paraná State was accused of murdering a local PT official, voicing support for Bolsonaro as he did so. In September, a worker in Mato Grosso State, who also supported Bolsonaro, admitted to killing a PT supporter and claimed self-defense. In an August survey, almost 70 percent of Brazilian respondents feared threats and harassment for their political views and 3.2 percent said they were victimized for their political views within 30 days of participating. In October, the Labor Ministry reported receiving 173 claims of electoral harassment—where employers promised benefits to or otherwise threatened employees depending on who they voted for—ahead of the elections.

Militias and other criminal organizations—which may exercise significant control over campaigning and other political activity within their territories—have been blamed for a rise in violence in recent years.

Score Change: The score declined from 3 to 2 because Brazilians were subjected to unprecedented levels of intimidation, threats, and physical violence during national- and state-level elections.

B4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do various segments of the population (including ethnic, racial, religious, gender, LGBT+, and other relevant groups) have full political rights and electoral opportunities? 3.003 4.004

The constitution guarantees equal rights without prejudice, but some groups have greater political representation than others, and there is great unevenness in exercising de facto political rights. Afro-Brazilians and women and their interests remain underrepresented in electoral politics and in government. In the 2022 election, women won 17.8 percent of Chamber of Deputies seats, a slight improvement over the 15 percent figure achieved in 2018. Afro-Brazilian representation also improved in 2022. In December, incoming president Lula announced a cabinet that featured more racial and gender diversity.

C Functioning of Government

C1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do the freely elected head of government and national legislative representatives determine the policies of the government? 3.003 4.004

Widespread corruption undermines the government’s ability to make and implement policy without undue influence from private or criminal interests.

During the 2010s, the functioning of government was severely hampered by a rolling political crisis due to corruption scandals. Congressional leaders have gained political prominence during the Bolsonaro administration, which lacked a stable governing coalition. The National Congress and state governors helped fill a vacuum in responding to COVID-19, with many governors imposing stricter restrictions and objecting to Bolsonaro’s management.

The presence of active-duty and retired military officials in the Bolsonaro administration, along with the expansion of military missions into areas like environmental protection and the pandemic response, prompted unease about the military’s influence in politics. The Defense Ministry was additionally responsible for examining a number of voting machines during the 2022 elections.

C2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are safeguards against official corruption strong and effective? 2.002 4.004

Corruption and graft are endemic in Brazil, especially among elected officials. Between 2014 and 2021, an investigation known as Operation Car Wash focused on bribery, money laundering, and bid-rigging involving state oil company Petrobras and private construction companies.

However, a series of investigative reports known as the Car Wash Leaks, published by the Intercept Brasil in 2019, exposed an improper relationship between Sérgio Moro—a judge who later became a Bolsonaro-era justice minister and won a Senate seat in 2022—and federal prosecutors. The Supreme Court annulled the convictions in 2021 on procedural grounds. Lula, who was imprisoned over corruption allegations in 2018, was released in November 2019, while his convictions were among those that were later annulled. Moro himself resigned as justice minister in 2020, after Bolsonaro attempted to interfere with the federal police, one of the agencies tasked with investigating his family and associates.

Criminal inquiries have targeted multiple members of Bolsonaro’s family. By early 2021, Bolsonaro and all four of his sons faced corruption investigations. In August 2022, the UOL news outlet reported that Bolsonaro family members traded 107 properties since 1990, with federal prosecutors examining transactions on 25 of them. None of the inquiries have advanced because of the veto power of the attorney general and Bolsonaro’s presidential immunity.

In March 2022, Education Minister Milton Ribeiro resigned after two pastors allegedly bribed the ministry in order to direct funding to their municipalities. Riberio was arrested on corruption charges in June, along with a pastor tied to Bolsonaro.

C3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Does the government operate with openness and transparency? 2.002 4.004

Brazil enacted a Freedom of Information Act (LLI) in 2012, but the government does not always release requested information, and when doing so, not always in machine-readable formats. Compliance with the LLI also varies among the country’s states and municipalities. In 2019, the Bolsonaro administration modified the LLI by decree, giving a larger group of officials the power to classify information as secret.

The Bolsonaro administration often decreed 100 years of secrecy on information it considered sensitive, including meetings with pastors, allegations against former health minister Eduardo Pazuello, and two of Bolsonaro’s sons’ visits to the presidential residence.

The Bolsonaro administration additionally used a “secret budget,” an opaque system of financial grants that routed billions of reais through a rapporteur. Observers criticized the arrangement, which allowed lawmakers to receive added funding in exchange for backing the administration without transparency or oversight. In December 2022, the Supreme Court ruled the arrangement unconstitutional.

CL Civil Liberties

D Freedom of Expression and Belief

D1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are there free and independent media? 3.003 4.004

The constitution guarantees freedom of expression and the country’s media environment is vibrant. However, investigative journalists, particularly those who cover corruption and crime, face threats, harassment, obstruction, and sometimes deadly violence. The legal framework provides inadequate protection for freedom of expression. Defamation is subject to criminal penalties.

Journalists who criticize Bolsonaro face online and offline harassment, and outlets that carry such criticism face economic pressure from the government. Between August 16 and October 30, 2022, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) counted 2.9 million social media posts containing aggressive and offensive content against journalists. Most came from Bolsonaro supporters or Bolsonaro himself, who often posts aggressive content against journalists, especially women.

D2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are individuals free to practice and express their religious faith or nonbelief in public and private? 4.004 4.004

The constitution guarantees freedom of religion, and the government generally respects this right in practice. However, Afro-Brazilian religious groups face considerable discrimination. Violence against Afro-Brazilian religious groups is frequent, especially in Rio de Janeiro’s favelas. In recent years, Afro-Brazilian temples (“terreiros”) have closed after assaults or threats from evangelical drug dealers, who claim territory and seek to repress faiths other than their own.

D3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there academic freedom, and is the educational system free from extensive political indoctrination? 3.003 4.004

Education policy has become politicized under the Bolsonaro administration, with some professors and researchers seeking temporary refuge abroad following threats in Brazil. The administration placed persistent pressure on academia and scientific organizations, especially by reducing funds for science and education.

In September 2022, the Health Ministry blocked Deisy Ventura, a professor who criticized the Bolsonaro administration’s COVID-19 response, from joining a World Health Organization technical committee.

D4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are individuals free to express their personal views on political or other sensitive topics without fear of surveillance or retribution? 3.003 4.004

People are generally able to express personal views in public without fear of institutional surveillance or retaliation. However, the 2018 and 2022 electoral periods were affected by the fear of political violence. Violent homophobic rhetoric contributes to a sense of fear among many that open discussion of LGBT+ rights and issues could be met with harassment or attack.

Social media intimidation and harassment by progovernment troll groups remains a serious problem in Brazil. Bolsonaro allies, including family members, have faced investigations over their involvement in disinformation campaigns.

Public servants are subject to social media monitoring and risk losing their positions if they criticize the government.

E Associational and Organizational Rights

E1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there freedom of assembly? 3.003 4.004

While freedom of assembly is generally respected, police or other security agents sometimes use excessive force against demonstrations.

Pro- and anti-Bolsonaro protests were held nationwide on September 7, 2022, the country’s independence day. While pro-Bolsonaro rallies held in 2021 were marred by clashes with authorities, events in 2022 were largely peaceful.

E2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there freedom for nongovernmental organizations, particularly those that are engaged in human rights– and governance-related work? 3.003 4.004

NGOs operate freely in a variety of fields. However, activists working on land rights and environmental protection issues have faced harassment, threats, and violence in recent years, along with verbal hostility from Bolsonaro and other administration officials. In September 2022, Global Witness called Brazil the world’s most dangerous country for environmental activists in the last decade, noting the deaths of 342 activists from 2012 to 2021. More than 85 percent of the killings happened in the Amazon.

In June 2022, British journalist Dominic “Dom” Phillips and activist Bruno Araújo Pereira, who was documenting the exploitation of the Amazon rainforest, went missing in Amazonas State; their bodies were discovered that month, when a fisherman confessed to killing them and directed authorities to their remains. In late July, prosecutors charged the fisherman and his brother along with a third man. Another individual suspected of involvement was bailed in October.

E3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there freedom for trade unions and similar professional or labor organizations? 3.003 4.004

Industrial labor unions are well organized, and although they are politically connected, Brazilian unions tend to be freer from political party control than their counterparts in other Latin American countries. However, controversial labor reforms enacted in 2017 diminished the strength and role of unions in collective bargaining with businesses.

F Rule of Law

F1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there an independent judiciary? 3.003 4.004

The judiciary, though largely independent in many parts of the country, is overburdened, inefficient, and often subject to intimidation and other external influences, especially in rural areas. Despite these shortcomings, the country’s progressive constitution has resulted in an active judiciary that often rules in favor of citizens over the state.

The Supreme Court serves as an autonomous counterweight to the executive. Tensions remained high in 2022, with Bolsonaro frequently issuing threats against the court. Bolsonaro has maintained an adversarial stance towards Supreme Court justices, especially Alexandre de Moraes, who Bolsonaro accused of favoring Lula in a January 2022 comment. In October, Bolsonaro threatened to pack the Supreme Court with his appointees if reelected.

F2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Does due process prevail in civil and criminal matters? 2.002 4.004

The judiciary generally upholds the right to a fair trial. However, federal, state, and appellate courts are severely backlogged. Access to justice varies greatly due to income inequality, and the state struggles to provide legal counsel for defendants and prisoners who are unable to afford an attorney. Under a 2017 law, members of the armed forces and military police accused of certain serious crimes against civilians can be tried in military, rather than civilian, courts. In the vast majority of homicides by police, there is no due process.

F3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there protection from the illegitimate use of physical force and freedom from war and insurgencies? 1.001 4.004

Brazil has a high homicide rate; 20,100 people were murdered in the first half of 2022, though that figure represented a 5 percent fall from the same period in 2021. The police force remains mired in corruption, and serious police abuses, including extrajudicial killings, continued in 2022. Police officers are rarely prosecuted for abuses, and those charged are almost never convicted. In May 2022, the Violence Monitor—a project of the G1 news site, the Center for the Study of Violence, and the Brazilian Public Security Forum (FBSP)—counted more than 6,100 deaths caused by police in 2021. Some 81.5 percent of the victims whose race was known were Black.

Police violence is particularly acute in Rio de Janeiro State. According to the May 2022 Violence Monitor report, police killed 1,356 people there, the most of any state in the country. A raid that took place in Vila Cruzeiro that month resulted in 22 deaths. Police violence is also prevalent in several other states; incidents in the states of Bahia, Goiás, São Paulo, Pará, Paraná, and Rio de Janeiro accounted for over 70 percent of all deaths by police in 2021.

Conditions in severely overcrowded prisons are life-threatening, characterized by disease, inadequate food, and deadly gang-related violence. Violence is more likely to affect poor, Black prisoners.

Indigenous people are also at physical risk. In its August 2022 report, the Indigenous Missionary Council (CIMI) counted 176 murders of Indigenous people in 2021, its second-highest figure. CIMI also reported 148 suicides, its highest-ever figure. In July 2022, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights voiced their concern over attacks on Indigenous people and called on the government to better protect them.

F4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do laws, policies, and practices guarantee equal treatment of various segments of the population? 2.002 4.004

While Brazilian society is largely tolerant, some populations are not able to fully exercise their human rights in practice.

Just over half of the population identifies as Black or of mixed race. Afro-Brazilians suffer from high rates of poverty and illiteracy, and almost 80 percent of Brazilians living in extreme poverty are Black or mixed race. Victims of violence in Brazil are predominantly young, Black, and poor: According to a July 2022 FBSP report, 77.9 percent of murder victims in 2021 were Black. The FBSP also counted 1,341 femicides in 2021, a 1.7 percent decrease from 2020.

In 2019, despite intense pressure from some religious and political leaders, the Supreme Court ruled LGBT+ people are protected under a criminal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of “race, color, ethnicity, religion, and national origin.” However, Brazil reportedly has one of the world’s highest levels of anti-LGBT+ violence. According to a February 2022 report by Grupo Gay da Bahia, an LGBT+ advocacy organization, 276 LGBT+ people were killed in 2021 because of homophobic violence, while another 24 died by suicide. The group’s figures represented an 8 percent increase over 2020.

Many Indigenous communities—who comprise about 1 percent of the population—suffer from poverty and lack adequate sanitation and education services. The Indigenous population faces considerable discrimination, and their lands have been subject to increased pressure under Bolsonaro, encouraged by his rhetoric and support for easing environmental laws. The National Indian Foundation, a government agency for Indigenous affairs, was weakened during the Bolsonaro administration.

G Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights

G1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do individuals enjoy freedom of movement, including the ability to change their place of residence, employment, or education? 4.004 4.004

Brazilians enjoy freedom to travel within and outside of the country, and to make decisions about their places of residence and employment, though access to high-quality education across all levels remains a challenge. Gang violence in favelas has sometimes impeded free movement and has prompted schools to shut down temporarily.

G2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are individuals able to exercise the right to own property and establish private businesses without undue interference from state or nonstate actors? 3.003 4.004

While property rights are generally enforced, laws granting Indigenous populations exclusive use of certain lands are not always upheld, sometimes leading to violent conflicts. According to the Pastoral Land Commission, 35 people were murdered over land disputes in 2021, a 75 percent increase compared to 2020. CIMI, meanwhile, counted 305 cases of land invasion, illegal exploitation, or property damage against Indigenous people in 2021. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), the federal government effectively ceased collecting environmental fines starting in 2019, even as illegal deforestation increased.

Requirements for starting new businesses are often onerous, but authorities have taken steps to ease the process. Corruption and organized crime can pose obstacles to private business activity.

G3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do individuals enjoy personal social freedoms, including choice of marriage partner and size of family, protection from domestic violence, and control over appearance? 3.003 4.004

The government generally does not restrict social freedoms. Same-sex marriage became legal in 2013. Gender-based violence remains widespread, though legislation has been introduced to combat it. A 2006 law sought to address high rates of impunity for domestic violence. Law 14.188 amended the penal code to criminalize simple bodily harm due to gender and criminalize psychological violence against women.

Abortion is legal only in the case of rape, a threat to the mother’s life, or a rare and usually fatal brain deformity in the fetus. However, women and young girls are denied their legal right to abortion due to discretionary acts from the bureaucracy and judicial system. As many as one million Brazilians seek abortions through clandestine means annually, including by traveling abroad.

G4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do individuals enjoy equality of opportunity and freedom from economic exploitation? 2.002 4.004

Slavery-like working conditions pose a significant problem in rural and urban zones. A 2012 constitutional amendment allows the government to confiscate all property of landholders found to be using slave labor, a measure Bolsonaro criticized. Deeply entrenched patterns of discrimination, including precarious informal employment, contributed to Afro-Brazilians suffering high COVID-19-related mortality rates.

COVID-19 and inflation have exacerbated inequality in Brazil. State spending to address inequality was obstructed when a 20-year budgetary spending cap was enacted in 2016, though the Bolsonaro administration was able to increase aid payments for part of 2022. Over 33 million people in Brazil faced extreme poverty as of June.

On Brazil

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  • Global Freedom Score

    72 100 free
  • Internet Freedom Score

    65 100 partly free