Brazil | Freedom House

Countries at the Crossroads



Countries at the Crossroads 2012

2012 Scores

Accountability and Public Voice
(0 = WORST, 7 = BEST)


Civil Liberties
(0 = WORST, 7 = BEST)


Rule of Law
(0 = WORST, 7 = BEST)


Anti-Corruption and Transparency
(0 = WORST, 7 = BEST)


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Brazil has been an independent nation since 1822, and a republic governed by a federalist constitution since 1889. Starting in 1930, Getúlio Vargas led a period of considerable autocratic modernization and incipient industrialization. Vargas was toppled by the military in December 1945, and the 1946 Constitution installed a democratic regime. Vargas returned by direct election as president in 1950, but his populist regime ended in August 1954, when he committed suicide rather than again be removed by the military. In 1955, Juscelino Kubitschek was elected president, promising “50 years of progress in 5” with a new intense phase of import-substitution-industrialization and the construction of the new inland capital Brasilia.

The 1960s and 1970s were characterized by intense rural-urban migration. In March 1964 the military removed President João Goulart and proceeded to rule Brazil until March 1985. Unlike other military regimes in South America, Brazil held congressional elections every four years and political parties were allowed to operate, though with severe restrictions. After a prolonged 10-year “political transition,” democracy finally returned when, in January 1985, the Electoral College chose Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB) member Tancredo Neves as president. Neves died before taking office and Vice-President José Sarney completed the five-year mandate. During this period, a new constitution was approved in 1988, but rampant inflation inhibited development. On November 15, 1989, the first direct elections for president since 1960 were held and Fernando Collor de Mello of the Party of National Reconstruction (PRN) narrowly defeated the Workers’ Party (PT) candidate. However, Collor was impeached by Congress in December 1992 following a corruption scandal.

In October 2002 PT candidate Luiz Ignácio “Lula” da Silva was elected president following the eight-year presidency of Fernando Henrique Cardoso of the Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB). This marked a new phase of maturity for the Brazilian political system: peaceful alternation in power between two of the main political parties. Lula, a poor migrant from the underdeveloped northeast and former labor union leader, had lost the 1994 and 1998 elections to the renowned sociologist, former senator, and finance minister Cardoso.[1]

Lula rose to power as head of the metalworkers’ labor union in São Paulo in the late 1970s and in 1980 helped found the leftist PT, which favored a large state role in the economy, redistribution of wealth, and nationalist policies. After the 1994 election, the PT became less radical and concentrated on electing more officials and eventually achieving the presidency.[2] Meanwhile, during the Cardoso presidency, nationalist elements of the constitution were altered to permit privatization of many state enterprises and other market-friendly measures were adopted. However, both foreign debt and unemployment soared, especially after a currency devaluation in 1999.In the 2002 campaign, the PT assumed a more market-friendly posture, and Lula defeated PSDB candidate José Serra in a runoff with 62.5 percent of the vote.

As president, Lula shocked more radical PT militants by maintaining austere orthodox macroeconomic policies. This belt tightening helped the economy expand by 5.2 percent in 2004. The government suffered a major debacle in 2005 with the mensalão scandal, a scheme involving monthly payments to various parties and their deputies in return for pro-government votes. Although Lula was not personally implicated, the scandal hurt his approval ratings, which sank to 28 percent in December 2005. However, fears regarding reelection prospects diminished in early 2006 as Lula’s standing began to improve in the polls.[3] When balloting was held in October 2006, Lula fell just short of an absolute majority in the first round but topped PSDB candidate Geraldo Alckmin in the runoff with 60.8 percent.

Growth continued at higher than 5 percent in 2007 and 2008. Despite a subsequent sharp slowdown caused by the global financial crisis, Lula’s popularity remained high, aided by sustained economic growth that has considerably improved both Brazilian self-confidence and the nation’s international standing. Since 2003the country has experienced considerable upward social mobility, and extreme poverty declined from 17.3 percent of the population in 2001 to 10.2 percent in 2007.[5] Perhaps no policy has been more successful than the conditional cash transfer program known as bolsa família (family stipend), which provides US$50 per month for low-income families who keep children vaccinated and in school. By the 2006 elections, this program reached some 11 million families—and importantly, some 40 million voters in an electorate of 125.8 million.[4]

Lula was ineligible to run for a third term in 2010, but in 2009 he selected his chief of staff, Dilma Rousseff, as his favored successor, and the PT accepted this decision. The PSDB again selected José Serra as its candidate. As of December 2009, Serra led Rousseff in the polls, but by May 2010 they were tied at 36 percent, and by late September 2010 Rousseff established a solid lead, confirming the strength of Lula’s coattails—perhaps unsurprising, given his 80 percent approval rating.[6] Although the election went to a second round, Rousseff emerged the winner with 56 percent of the valid vote.

Despite this progress, Brazil has some persistent social and governance problems. As a coalition-based presidential system, maintaining the government support base requires significant bargaining, which encourages corruption, a vice also present in many other governance realms. Violence by organized criminals is a major problem in large cities and provokes severe police abuses. The 27 state governors possess a level of autonomy sometimes not matched by accountability. Land reform remains a difficult question, with actors from giant agribusinesses to landless peasants seeking new territory along an enormous and ambiguously titled frontier. Moreover, Brazil still has one of the most unequal income distributions in the world, as well as notable racial disparities. Nonetheless, a combination of structural and policy shifts have left the country in a position to confront these issues. As Brazil’s international prominence rises, success or failure to achieve sustainable social and economic progress will be on display for the world to see.

Accountability and Public Voice: 

Brazil has a generally free and fair election system. Voters go to the polls every two years, alternating between municipal and general elections. Voting is obligatory for most Brazilians. In the October 2010 general elections, the electorate numbered 135,804,433 eligible voters, and turnout was 82 percent. Balloting is overseen by a national election governance body, the National Election Court (TSE), with regional election courts (TREs) in each state and election judges and registry offices at the municipal level.[7] The TSE, which commands high respect from both the population and elites, has seven judges with two-year mandates on rotation from the Supreme Court (STF), the top federal appeals court (STJ), and the Brazilian Bar Association (OAB).

Occasionally, the TSE engages in what some observers consider the judicialization of politics, determining election norms that should be the prerogative of Congress. For example, in response to a rash of party switching in 2002-2003 and 2006-2007 that facilitated President Lula’s efforts to construct a coalition in Congress, the TSE decided that the mandate of those elected belongs to the party that elected them and not the individual officeholder. Henceforth, elected officeholders that switch parties could lose their mandates under some circumstances. Candidates for president, governor, and mayor must receive an absolute majority of the valid vote or face a second round runoff election three weeks later.

In the 2010 election, the PT elected 88 deputies and 14 senators. The campaign was considered free and fair.[8] Since the mid-1990s, four parties, the PMDB, PT, PSDB and the Liberal Front Party (PFL), which in 2007 changed its name to the Democrats (DEM), have held the largest blocs in Congress. In the 2008 municipal elections, the PT and PMDB secured gains, while the two major opposition parties, the PSDB and PFL/DEM, suffered declines.[9] This result was typical of gains accrued by the parties in power at the federal level.[10] In 2010, Lula campaigned vigorously against PSDB and DEM senators running for reelection, and six were defeated. Thus, in 2011, President Rousseff inherited a more favorable Senate configuration, with 55 senators in her support block. In the Chamber of Deputies, she counted 351 deputies in her coalition.[11]

Each state elects three senators by simple majority to eight-year terms in alternation. In 2011, 15 parties are represented in the Senate. The Chamber of Deputies has 513 deputies, with a minimum of 8 from small states and a maximum of 70 for the state of São Paulo. This produces skewed regional representation; very lightly populated states such as Amapá and Roraima, proportionate to their populations, should have only one deputy, whereas Brazil’s largest state should have a 120-deputy delegation. The election of state and federal deputies uses an open-list proportional representation system. Because there is no minimum required percentage, in 2010, 22 parties elected at least one deputy. This system produces some unexpected results. In some states, a candidate with 200,000 votes is not elected, but in other states a candidate with 500 votes is elected.

Election finance comes from several sources, including a party fund and seven weeks of free television and radio time distributed by the TSE, proportionate to each party’s votes received in the last election. Contributions from individuals and firms are capped by law, but perhaps 80 percent of campaign finance comes from off-the-books (caixa dois) contributions not officially reported to the TSE. The TREs often unquestioningly accept suspiciously low spending declarations from candidates without investigation. The election courts lack sufficient material and human resources to monitor contributions, which are often decisive in elections and bring great influence to private sector groups. Congress, with its own vested interests in mind, has never approved stronger laws to this effect. Another indirect form of financing comes from “cultural contributions” made by public and private companies to nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and organizations linked to certain parties and candidates—which then expect budget allocations back to the donors. For example, between 2007 and 2011, Brazil’s largest state enterprise, national oil company Petrobras, made large contributions to NGOs in the state of Bahia, many of which were linked to the PT.[12] In January 2012, Petrobras CEO José Sérgio Gabrielli resigned and was appointed secretary of planning for the state of Bahia; he will reportedly run for governor in 2014.[13]

Citizens who have been convicted in court are allowed to run for office in Brazil until their last appeal has been exhausted. Thus, many become candidates in hopes of gaining parliamentary immunity. Politicians are judged exclusively at the Supreme Court. In 2008, 40 percent of Brazil’s 513 federal deputies had cases pending with the courts.[14]This hurts Congress’s credibility and makes it more difficult to fulfill its role of checking the executive. Cases most frequently involve tax evasion, but also include money laundering, fraud, corruption, and even murder.

However, in June 2010, Congress approved the “clean sheet” (ficha limpa) law, which had been proposed by popular initiative in September 2009. This law specified that candidates with “dirty” court records (i.e., those convicted by a second level court) would be ineligible to run for office. The TSE applied this law in July and August 2010 and disqualified some 200 candidates. However, in September 2010, the Supreme Court ruled that the law could not be applied in 2010 because of a constitutional article stipulating that any election law change can only be applied one year after adopted. However, the law will be used to disqualify candidates in the 2014 national elections.[15] In 2012, the election courts are applying the law to exclude candidates for municipal elections; as of early September 2012, the election courts had barred 317 mayoral candidates.[16] Election courts are also empowered to remove from office officials who violate laws prohibiting the “abuse of private and public economic power.” Three of the 27 governors elected in 2006 were removed in early 2009 after defeated candidates brought cases alleging vote buying and illegal use of state governments’ human and material resources.

Brazil’s system of checks and balances is patterned roughly on the U.S. model. The president has line-item veto power and Congress hardly ever overrides his or her vetoes. Very few of the president’s 25,000 political appointments must be confirmed by the Senate. To a large extent, the president dominates the congressional agenda via party coalitions whose cohesion is maintained through the distribution of key appointments and budget appropriations to parties and individual legislators.[17] The STF on occasion rules that decisions by Congress and the executive are unconstitutional, and both other branches abide by these high court decisions.

The civil service is recruited by competitive public exams and has career and promotion plans detailed by law. In spite of a large number of political appointees, Brazil is considered to have a high-quality, well-trained permanent bureaucracy. Once a public servant’s status becomes permanent, it is very difficult to effect removal or dismissal except via complicated administrative procedures. However, the large number of confidence appointees means that bureaucrats are subject to political pressures. For example, in 2009, the first woman to head the Federal Tax Service (SRF), Lina Maria Vieira, was summarily dismissed by the finance minister because she had implemented a broad anti-tax evasion policy against large firms and banks, including firms controlled by the family of powerful senator (and ex-president) José Sarney.[18]In addition, nepotism remains a problem; when the STF in August 2008 issued an edict prohibiting nepotism in hiring, the resulting revelations of the extent of such hires caused a scandal that lasted into August 2009.[19]

Brazil has a very large and well-developed civil society. Civic groups and NGOs are allowed to testify and comment on pending legislation and their efforts receive considerable coverage in the media. However, the influence or impact of these efforts is spotty. On certain issues, such as environmental protection, press coverage has some impact. International NGOs such as the World Wildlife Foundation and Greenpeace are very active in Brazil. Civic groups are also active in the annual budget process but have little impact on the joint budget committee. At the municipal level, NGOs and civic groups exercise more influence, especially in the south and southeast regions. Good governance groups have an increasingly vocal presence in Brazil.

In general, NGOs are free from government pressure, although they must file with the SRF every year to maintain their nonprofit status. In 2009, the PSDB and DEM installed a parliamentary commission of inquiry (CPI) to investigate the activities of and federal funding for NGOs and civil society public interest organizations during Lula’s first term. Since 2001, Senator Mozarildo Cavalcanti (PTB) has been denouncing NGOs, especially transnational groups, that he deems “enemies of the Amazon region” and pressuring for their exclusion by the federal government.[20]NGO activists are subject to threats and intimidation, and many have been killed because of their militancy, especially in land tenure conflicts. Notable examples are Chico Mendes, the leader of rubber tappers in the state of Acre, murdered in December 1988, and Dorothy Stang, an American nun murdered in Anapu, Pará in February 2005. Attempts to convict Vitalmiro Bastos de Moura (the farmer who allegedly ordered Stang’s murder) were initially unsuccessful, illustrating the difficulties in achieving justice in such cases, but in April 2010 he was sentenced to 30 years’ imprisonment.

Although the Lula and Rousseff governments were frequently dissatisfied with media coverage, both strongly support constitutional and legal protections for freedom of expression and media freedom. Brazil still has some laws and decrees left over from the military regime, including, until a 2009 STF decision, a draconian1967 press law that limited journalism work to those with a bachelor’s degree in social communications. The law also contained articles that inhibited freedom of expression by the press and journalists, with fines and prison terms for defamation, libel, and slander.[21]Before the press law was overturned, criminal prosecutions for libel and defamation were common.

Civil defamation complaints are also often filed by aggrieved subjects of media reports. One of Brazil’s major press freedom issues is that courts frequently impose censorship on media outlets in such cases. A notable incident of prior newspaper censorship occurred in July 2009, after Federal Police indicted Fernando Sarney, the son of Senate President José Sarney, on various corruption-related charges. On July 30 Federal District Supreme Court president Dácio Vieira (a friend of the Sarney family) issued an injunction imposing prior censorship on any reporting of Fernando’s indictment in O Estado de São Paulo, one of Brazil’s major daily newspapers.[22] Such episodes of prior censorship continued in 2010 and 2011.

Intimidation and attacks against journalists remain a problem as well, especially for reporters investigating crime and corruption in rural areas. The most notorious incident was the murder of TV Globo journalist Tim Lopes in June 2002 while he was investigating the use of child prostitutes by drug traffickers in Rio de Janeiro.[23] In 2008 two journalists were held and tortured by a Rio militia. A 2012 Committee to Protect Journalists report warned of continued impunity in numerous cases of dead journalists over the previous decade, and nine were murdered between January 2011 and July 2012.[24]

Brazil’s presidency has an annual budget allocation of aroundUS$600 million for official publicity that is used by state agencies to promote their activities and achievements. In 2008, this propaganda machine reached 4,417 media outlets. Such revenue is hotly sought after by the Brazilian media as an important contribution to their bottom lines. This mechanism is also practiced by state and larger city governments.[25] To a certain extent this advertising influences media policies and opinions. State governors, especially, exercise control over local newspapers through advertising.   

Media ownership is highly concentrated, especially in the broadcast sector, and owners use their outlets to further personal interests. Many important politicians own media outlets in their home states, which are used to further their political and economic interests and attack their enemies. In August 2009, federal police and prosecutors indicted leaders of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (IURD) for illegally siphoning off contributions to finance the church-owned media empire, Record TV and radio network, which is in fierce competition with the dominant Globo TV and its media network.[26] Following the indictment, both networks used considerable portions of their evening news programs to attack each other.

The federal government owns the Brazilian Communication Firm (EBC), which operates a news agency, plus official television and radio stations. However, the audience ratings for TV Brasil are extremely low, as are those of other federal and state broadcast channels. The federal government still maintains a one-hour obligatory radio network program carried by all radio stations called the Voice of Brazil, broadcast every weeknight at 7:00 PM. However, some stations have opted to transmit this program at a later hour. Access to the internet suffers few restrictions, although some limitations were imposed on campaigning via social networking sites during the 2008 municipal elections.[27]

Civil Liberties: 

Although both the Cardoso and Lula governments made advances on human rights, certain sensitive cases from the military regime (1964-1985) have yet to be revealed. In 1996, it was estimated that there were 358 deaths during this period, including 138 disappearances.[28] As part of the final stage of transition from the military regime, Congress granted a general amnesty to both sides: military personnel and the regime’s civilian defenders, as well as opponents who attacked the government through armed guerrilla actions.[29] In August 2001, an Amnesty Commission was installed at the Ministry of Justice to examine requests for amnesty and compensation for those who suffered persecution during the period. By 2007, 29,079 cases had been analyzed, with another 28,558 on the agenda. Lula, Rousseff, and former chief of staff José Dirceu were among those who received amnesty and monetary compensation.[30]Generally, public opinion favors the truth, amnesty, and compensation process, but only the most notorious cases get media coverage.

It was assumed by most that the 1979 two-way amnesty precluded any trials of military personnel involved in the torture, persecution, and killing of anti-military activists. However, since mid-2009, there is a movement to alter the amnesty law to allow prosecution of those accused of perpetrating torture during the military era. In late April 2012, federal prosecutors in São Paulo requested that retired Army colonel Arturo Brilhante Ustra, who had already been targeted in a civil suit, be indicted for the torture and disappearance of bank workers’ union leader Aluízio Palhano Pedreira Ferreira in 1971. Prosecutors tried to circumvent the Amnesty Law by alleging that Ustra had committed a still-unsolved (because of the disappearance) “ongoing crime,” which was thus not subject to the Amnesty Law. The state affirmed that the Supreme Court had already validated this concept in 2009 and 2010 when it allowed the extradition of two Argentines accused of torture and disappearance.[31] In August 2012 the São Paulo State Supreme Court upheld Brilhante Ustra’s conviction for the torture of three people in the early 1970s. It was a declaratory conviction that carried no prison term but did includeUS$50,000in compensation for the survivors.[32] In addition, later in August 2012, a federal judge in Marabá, Pará accepted criminal accusations of federal prosecutors against “Major Curió,” the alias of retired Colonel Sebastião Curió Rodrigues de Moura, and Major Lício Augusto Maciel for the kidnapping and disappearance of several guerrilla fighters during the repression of a militant rural group in northern Goiás in 1973.[33]

In November 2011, Congress approved the creation of a Truth Commission to investigate the circumstances of disappearances and torture perpetrated during the military regime. In May 2012 President Rousseff installed this seven-member panel to conduct the investigation during the next two years.[34] Meanwhile, also in May 2012, a new book revealed the account narrated by a repentant police officer who listed 10people who had been killed in the 1970s, with their bodies incinerated in the ovens of a sugarcane mill in Rio de Janeiro state.[35]

Although the victims are no longer political, abuses including torture and even death at the hands of state agents remain one of Brazil’s most pressing human rights issues. Confronted with well-armed, lethal urban gangs, the police have been accused of seeking to cut corners in ways that lead to rights violations. In Rio de Janeiro, for example, 1,330 deaths at the hands of police were registered in 2007, although figures declined somewhat in subsequent years.[36] Although these police killings were recorded as “acts of resistance,” the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Extrajudicial Killings has reported that a significant portion appeared to have been executions.[37] Nor is the human dignity of prison inmates well respected. State and federal prisons are overcrowded and most prisoners lack legal assistance. Violence and sexual abuse are common. Trials are slow, and prisoners often remain incarcerated after their sentence has expired for lack of an adequate control system. In addition, leaders of Brazil’s numerous large organized crime organizations, such as the First Capital Command (PCC) in São Paulo and the Red Command (CV) in Rio de Janeiro, maintain command from behind prison walls via cell phones and visits by couriers. After these privileges were rescinded in 2006, the PCC organized an “uprising” in the city of São Paulo, with scores of attacks on police barracks and outposts that left at least 150 people dead. 

These issues are both caused by and symptoms of crime, which remains one of Brazil’s major social maladies. The number of homicides in Brazil reached a peak of 51,043 in 2003 before declining to 42,179 by 2008. However, several studies have contrasted a decrease in homicides in larger cities with an increase in smaller interior and coastal northeastern cities. Other crimes, including kidnapping and armed robbery, also present major challenges to authorities in many cities. Indeed, the prevalence of such crime and the impunity for most criminals is one reason the public has not demanded more drastic action to decrease the volume of police abuses. In a positive note, murder rates in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro have dropped in recent years.

In 2007, the Lula government created the National Program of Public Security with Citizenship (Pronasci) within the Ministry of Justice to initiate social programs, train police officers, and offer special stipends for police operating in dangerous areas. Police in São Paulo affirm that the decrease in the homicide rates is due to improved management and higher imprisonment rates. Others feel that the reduction in conflicts between rival organized crime groups explain the lower violence, because the PCC has consolidated its control in the state. In Rio de Janeiro, efforts to “pacify” the large slums known as favelas have helped control violence in some areas, though questions about police tactics continue.[38]

When abuses by state-level civil and military police occur, citizens have the right to seek justice and file complaint or criminal suit, usually through a public defender, but a police inquest might also be installed. Occasionally, the police involved are demoted, expelled from the force, or imprisoned, but such cases are rare due to numerous problems ranging from lack of cooperation within the police to poor coordination among the various agencies involved in investigations.[39] Unlike most Latin American countries, Brazil has no independent national human rights ombudsman. In April 1997, the Cardoso government created, within the Ministry of Justice, the National Secretariat for Human Rights, renamed the Special Secretariat for Human Rights (SEDH) in 2003. This unit monitors human rights issues and coordinates policy across branches of government, focusing on vulnerable sectors of society. In addition, a majority of states in Brazil now have police ombudsmen located in state capitals. However, the ombudsmen do not have independent investigative capacity and turn over complaints to the internal affairs divisions of state police forces or state prosecutors.[40]In practice, the poor have much less access to seek redress, especially in rural areas.

Successive Brazilian governments have generally refrained from using state power to persecute political opponents. There are exceptions at the state and local levels, where opposition newspapers are harassed, or firms owned by opposition leaders are subjected to strict tax audits. Arbitrary arrests of political and economic opponents also occur mostly at the state and local level, but judges usually are quick to grant habeas corpus requests by defense lawyers or public defenders. This depends on the economic status of the person who has been arrested.

More frequent are arbitrary arrests of those suspected of regular criminal offenses. It is common for persons accused of crimes to be imprisoned for long periods without trial, especially in the case of the poor. The justice system is severely overloaded; absent legal assistance, the poor languish in prison until their case comes to trial. Between July 2008 and July 2009, a National Council of Justice (CNJ) task force reviewed 28,052 cases in 13 states and freed 4,781 prisoners held without trial for extended periods, including 310 minors.[41] The task force plans to complete its survey in the remaining 14 states and elaborate new guidelines and rules to ameliorate these problems.

Over the last 10years, the Federal Police has conducted investigations of international human trafficking, including women destined for prostitution in Europe, the kidnapping of children for “placement” with families overseas, and the illegal extraction of organs for transplant. Similar cases also occur internally.[42] In addition, Ministry of Labor investigators frequently discover and sometimes prosecute cases of semi-slave labor in rural areas as well as the exploitation of illegal immigrants in urban areas.[43]

Brazilian law ensures that both men and women are entitled to all civil and political rights, and the state has taken some steps to ensure effective protections for women. In 1985, President Sarney created the National Council for Women’s Rights (CNDM). The Special Secretariat for Women’s Policies (SPM) was established by Lula on his first day in office in January 2003. In August 2006, Congress passed the Maria da Penha Law, which criminalized domestic violence in accordance with Article 226 of the constitution.[44]Over the subsequent three years this law was slowly enforced in most states in an attempt to reduce high levels of domestic abuse: between 1980 and 2010, Brazil’s rate of female homicide victimization rose from 2.3 per 100,000 to 4.4 per 100,000.[45] By 2008, states and cities had established 386 special police precincts to deal with cases involving women.[46] These precincts are staffed by female police officers, as women seeking to enforce their rights had been frequently ridiculed and humiliated by male police officers.

Abortion is illegal in Brazil under nearly all circumstances, but in April 2012 the Supreme Court ruled that anencephalic fetuses (those with no brain) have no life and thus may be legally aborted. Many Brazilians considered it a first step toward a general legalization of abortion; a special expert commission constituted by the Senate to revise the 1940 penal code is considering such a measure.[47]

Brazil features a 30 percent quota for women candidates on the open lists for deputy. However, because 98 percent of the electorate votes for an individual rather than the party list, just 44 women—9 percent of the total—were elected as federal deputies in 2010, and 14 of 81 senators.[48] Women have gained access to the judiciary with appointments to the superior courts. Ellen Gracie Northfleet, appointed to the STF in 2000, served as STF president in 2006–2008. Carmen Lúcia Antunes Rocha was appointed in June 2006, and in April 2012 became the first woman to preside over the TSE, while Rosa Maria Weber Candiota da Rosa was appointed in December 2011.

Protection against gender discrimination in private sector employment is more difficult. According to the 2007 National Survey Sample of Housing Units (PNAD), the average salary for women was 33.9 percent lower than the average for men.[49]In spite of the data for the private sector routinely collected by government agencies, no efforts have been made to correct this situation. Some firms require younger women to present a doctor’s certificate that they have had their fallopian tubes tied, thus guaranteeing that they will not take a six-month maternity leave with pay, as required by labor legislation.

Brazilians consider their nation to be a “racial democracy,” and many observers believe that this myth long prevented Brazil from undertaking an honest reckoning with the realities of racism. There are many laws that prohibit racial discrimination, but much informal discrimination still exists. The 2006 PNAD described the racial composition of Brazil’s population as 49.9 percent white, 6.9 percent black, and 42.6 percent pardo, or mixed race, with most of the rest Asian/Indian.[50]A 1995poll found that 89 percent of the sample agreed that “whites discriminate against blacks in Brazil;” the response was almost the same (91 percent) in 2008.[51] Brazil’s indigenous population is very small—734,000 in the 2000 census—but indigenous populations occupy significant territory and are involved in sensitive legal issues (see Rule of Law).[52]

Brazil has many antidiscrimination laws and policies. In 2003, Lula created a special cabinet-level position for the promotion of racial equality. Many universities integrate affirmative action criteria in their entrance exams that favor Afro-Brazilians, members of indigenous groups, and the poor. Until April 2012, this practice had not been confirmed by law, and various groups including the DEM party challenged these “racial quotas” in federal courts.[53] That month, however, the Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision upholding the constitutionality of quotas for admission to federal universities, which reserved 50 percent of slots for graduates of public secondary schools and an additional 25 percent for racial minorities.[54]

In the public sector, quotas have been implemented in some ministries. The Ministry of Justice, for example, has a 20 percent quota for Afro-Brazilians, but in reality these measures have not been very effective.  On October 14, 2012, the press announced that President Dilma Rousseff was planning to install a racial quota system for all appointments in the executive branch – both for political appointees as well as those recruited by competitive public exams.[55]  In the private sector, there is considerable disguised discrimination in hiring and salary levels. A Ministry of Planning report in 2008 revealed that white men make nearly twice the monthly income of Afro men and nearly three times that of Afro women, a pay gap that stands when adjusted for equal work and similar qualifications.[56]The state has legislation banning such discriminatory practices, but in practice these customs are entrenched.

Although Brazil has traditionally been more tightly linked to the Catholic Church than any other religion, there are no restrictions on the practice of religion, and the government does not take religion into account when making political appointments. The Vatican is seeking to establish a new agreement with Brazil to guarantee religious instruction in all public schools and gain new tax exemptions. The Catholic Church also has radio stations, but only one cable TV station. There are a few Roman Catholic priests in Congress, but the Church places restrictions on their candidacies.

Evangelical Christian churches have expanded in Brazil since 1960, and 73 evangelical deputies and senators were elected in 2010, up from 43 in the 2006 balloting.[57] The practices of some evangelical churches, which are not hierarchical like the Catholic Church, have come under scrutiny. As noted above, the practices of the large and influential IURD have led to criminal indictments.

The state guarantees the freedom of association and the right of assembly. The only restriction on public assembly is the need to request a parade permit in advance of marches along public thoroughfares; these permits are sometimes denied. Protests are common in urban areas, and public demonstrations occasionally become tense, especially when a counter-group is present. At times these protests become violent and the destruction of property and looting of stores ensues, at which point the police intervene.

Labor unions remain strong in Brazil, especially for industrial workers, whose strikes can bring entire sectors to a standstill. The Rousseff government has continued Lula administration policies that are protective of labor unions and sensitive to their demands. Nonetheless, trade unions are not fully free and independent in Brazil insofar as a specific category of workers can be represented by only one union in each municipality. Pressure to break this singular representation rule faces resistance from most labor unions. All public and private employees have one day’s salary deducted each year as their obligatory “labor contribution.” Union organizers are subject to violence in rural areas.

Rule of Law: 

The Brazilian judiciary is considered generally independent and impartial, at least at the federal level. First level federal judges, who are well trained, are recruited by competitive public exams that are free of political interference. Appointments to the Federal Regional Courts, the STJ, and the Supreme Court are by presidential nomination, subject to confirmation by the Senate.

However, the justice system still faces serious problems, particularly on the state level. As of August 2009, the CNJ was investigating the possible removal of 107 federal and state judges for corruption.[58]After some 15 years of deliberation, under pressure from the executive branch and despite strong opposition from the judiciary, Congress finally approved a judicial reform package in 2004. This reform established the CNJ as the external control body for the judiciary and an equivalent body, the National Council of the Public Ministry (CNMP) for public prosecutors.[59] Since 2005, the CNJ has been reviewing and analyzing the administration of justice in federal and state courts and has suspended some judges. Most observers suggest that the CNJ has performed well so far but faces many long-term challenges.[60]

Presidential appointments to the higher federal courts are never rejected by the Senate. Between 2003 and 2010, for example, Lula appointed 7 of the 11 members of the Supreme Court. Since 2011, Rousseff has appointed two members, and she will appoint three more in 2012. Nonetheless, the STF has maintained proper distance and independence from government pressures. STF sessions are broadcast live on cable television, so the public occasionally witnesses some lively verbal exchanges among judges. One such spat occurred in April 2009,when STF president Gilmar Mendes was accused by Judge Joaquim Barbosa—the first Afro-Brazilian appointed to the high court—of destroying Brazilian justice.[61] Barbosa was also involved in a nasty exchange of accusations with Judge Cezar Peluso following the end of Peluso’s two-year rotation as STF president in April 2012.[62] This transparency in STF deliberations has increased public awareness of judicial operations and procedures, including conflicts between judges.

The executive and legislative branches generally comply with judicial decisions. Members of Congress complain about intervention by the judiciary to “impose” rules, but this occurs in the absence of adequate legislation by Congress itself. Opposition parties in Congress frequently contest procedural decisions by the ruling bloc via a Direct Action for Unconstitutionality (ADIn) at the Supreme Court, which is an important tool for combating abusive actions by the government coalition. Other plaintiffs, including professional associations such as the OAB and state agencies such as the Public Ministry, also make effective use of ADIns.[63]

Under Brazil’s legal system, accused criminals are presumed innocent until proven guilty—all the way until the final appeal has been exhausted. This system permits literally hundreds of appeals and other legal maneuvers that competent and high-priced lawyers can string out for years. If the accused is a first-time defendant, the judge will often grant release during the appeal process, although in practice this generally applies only to those of high socioeconomic status. Generally, citizens receive a fair and public hearing, but it is rarely timely. All defendants have the right to independent counsel, but the poor must depend on public defenders, of which there is a shortage in almost all states. In general, federal prosecutors are independent of political manipulation, but this is not always the case at the state level.

The case of Banco Opportunity CEO Daniel Dantas exemplifies the gap in justice between rich and poor Brazilians. In July 2008, a federal judge in São Paulo twice ordered Dantas’ arrest by the Federal Police, who had been investigating his illegal activities for several months. His lawyers quickly bypassed two layers of federal courts and went straight to Supreme Court president Mendes, who granted habeas corpus after each arrest.[64] Most jurists considered Mendes’ actions—which are not characteristic of the behavior of high court judges—very irregular.

High government officials and ruling party politicians accused of crimes were rarely prosecuted in the past because of parliamentary immunity for deputies and senators, as well as the fact that they can only be judged by the Supreme Court. This situation changed dramatically after the mensalão case in 2005. In 2007, Federal Chief Prosecutor Antônio Fernando Souza filed a brief at the STF accusing 38people of involvement in the scandal. To great surprise, the STF accepted all of the cases and determined that federal courts would hear each case and take testimony from witnesses. One of the cases accepted was that of the formerly all-powerful presidential chief of staff, José Dirceu, who was forced to resign and was expelled from the Chamber of Deputies in December 2005.[65] The Supreme Court began deliberating the Mensalão case in August 2012 and as of early September hadconvicted10 of the accused and absolved 2. Among the accused are 14 politicians—6 of whom are from the PT.

The Brazilian Armed Forces are under civilian control and since the installation of the 1988 constitution the military has refrained from intervention in politics, though it retains strong influence. For example, only in 1999 was President Cardoso able to install a Ministry of Defense and relegate the three former armed forces ministries to command status. The military very rarely becomes involved in domestic security operations, except when convoked specifically by state governors to supplement local police activities. In 2004, the government created the National Public Security Force (FNSP) coordinated by the National Secretariat for Public Security (SENASP) under the Ministry of Justice. This force is recruited among the best qualified state-level military policemen and trained to be a highly mobile group ready for specific local interventions. Usually, these actions are to combat drug traffickers. The FNSP has been used in four states: Espírito Santo, Mato Grosso do Sul, Rio de Janeiro, and Goiás. The FNSP receives specific training in human rights and crisis management. Its limited operations since 2005 have been praised for efficiency and respect of citizens’ rights, especially during the Pan American Games in Rio in 2007.[66]

However, control and accountability of regular state-level civil and military police is very problematic. In many states, these police forces become involved in local politics. Acting as a corporate segment of the electorate, the police are often able to elect retired officers to state legislatures, who then act as a powerful lobby in support of police units. In some states, public prosecutors and the Federal Police have also discovered corruption schemes aimed at the enrichment of senior police officers, usually through over-invoicing service and procurement contracts. When discovered, these cases are subject to internal police inquests as well as indictments by public prosecutors.

Worse yet is the involvement of state police with organized crime in large cities such as Rio de Janeiro. There, police have created local private militias that expel criminals from neighborhoods and subsequently extort and harass residents, while imposing exclusive distribution of services such as cooking gas and cable television. According to a study by the Public Policy and Human Rights research unit at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, in May 2009 such militias were operating in 171 communities. It is also common for off-duty military and civil police to have a second job with a private security company; this is prohibited by law but tolerated by state authorities. In August 2011 Rio de Janeiro judge Patricia Acioli was murdered after attempting to combat police corruption; a senior police official was among those subsequently arrested for the killing.[67]

The state gives all citizens the right to own property. Restrictions on foreign land ownership are a sensitive subject. Foreign investors now own 34,591 farms covering 4,038,000 hectares, and the National Land Reform Institute (INCRA) has requested that Congress restrict land ownership by foreigners in the Amazon.[68]The 1988 constitution and relevant legislation guarantees property rights and contracts, but enforcing contracts can be difficult and time consuming, and there are typically multiple layers of conflicting deeds for farmland registered at local notary’s offices. Conflicts involving squatters’ rights often explode into violence. A fierce battle over the terms of an updated land law pitted environmentalists against agricultural interests throughout 2011 and 2012. In May 2012, President Rousseff vetoed several key articles of the law passed by Congress in April.[69]

The Landless Workers Movement (MST) is one of the largest and best articulated civic groups in Brazil. The country began experiencing severe land tenure conflicts in the early 1960s, but the issue was muffled during most of the military regime. In 1984, the MST was born as a Marxist-inspired social movement favoring massive land expropriations and distribution to landless peasants. The MST is not registered as a formal organization in Brazil in order to avoid legal action by its adversaries; rather, it uses front organizations to receive donations from the private sector, the Brazilian government, and foreign entities. Thus, when laws are broken, police and prosecutors indict MST leaders individually. The MST’s central strategy involves invading and occupying land it deems unproductive in order to force the federal government to accelerate expropriations and distribution. Although the MST leadership has never publicly adopted a strategy of violence, fighting frequently erupts during their actions. State courts usually decree evictions of MST land evasions rather quickly, but governors are often reluctant to issue eviction orders to state police units. Although the group previously received support from the PT and some sectors of the Church, relations with the PT cooled after Lula became president in 2003. Between 2000 and 2007, the MST affirms that it led 2,190 invasions, with 450,000 families either settled or awaiting settlement.[70]

Although there are provisions for the land rights of indigenous populations, these often conflict with infrastructure projects. In addition, Indian tribes are divided into two groups–those that are adequately “civilized” (and thus emancipated), and others that remain under the tutelage of the National Indian Foundation (FUNAI). Many Indian groups prefer to not be declared civilized, but some tribes take advantage of this new status to allow resource extraction in their forest areas, often for meager financial return.

One major battle occurred after the Collor government initiated studies for the demarcation of the massive Raposa Serra do Sol Indian reservation in the state of Roraima. While demarcation was effected by presidential decree in 2005, it was challenged by the governor of Roraima at the Supreme Court. Finally, in a 10-1 decision in March 2009, the STF decided in favor of continuous demarcation of 12 million hectares. This meant that all non-Indians (mostly rice growers and three small towns) lost their property rights and the area was exclusively reserved for 18,000 Indians, with financial compensation for the former owners. The STF stipulated a number of rules to reconcile native and government control, but the decision will serve as a benchmark for the other 22 pending cases involving the demarcation of Indian reservations.[71]In May 2012, by a 7-1 vote, the Supreme Court ordered farmers removed from 54,000 hectares of land in the southern region of Bahia state that had been demarked for the Pataxó Indians in 1938. Funai had originally brought the case to the STF in 1982.[72]Nonetheless, land-related violence against indigenous groups remains a pressing challenge.[73]More generally, the state at times expropriates private property for use in infrastructure projects, with compensation arbitrated by the courts.

Anti-Corruption and Transparency: 

Corruption is a very serious problem in Brazil. In the most comprehensive available analysis, Getúlio Vargas Foundation economist Marcos Gonçalves Silva estimated in 2009 that the direct and indirect impacts of corruption cost Brazil’s economy some US$5 billion per year (0.5 percent of GDP), roughly half the US$10 billion in public investments earmarked in the 2006 budget.[74] In 2011, Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index ranked Brazil 73out of 180 nations, with a score of 3.8.[75] During the Lula period, Brazil’s numerical score had declined from 3.9 to 3.5, dropping especially sharply in 2006, when a score of 3.3 reflected the effects of the mensalão scandal. 

The government has excessive regulations, requirements, and controls that provide opportunities for corruption. Bureaucratic procedures at the local level are frequently used by officials to solicit bribes and kickbacks from citizens.

In 1987, the government created the Integrated System of Financial Administration (SIAFI), which registers all expenditures by federal government units, online, every day. Only those with a special password and training may operate the system, but for journalists, congressional staff, and watchdog NGOs with access, SIAFI is a very powerful tool. However, federal bureaucrats often divide expenditures into several slices issued on different days within various layers of the bureaucracy, which makes deciphering and monitoring certain expenditures more difficult. Since its inception, SIAFI has developed techniques that make detection of such manipulation much easier. Indeed, the Office of the Comptroller General (CGU) uses the database to monitor suspected corruption cases.

The state still plays a large role in Brazil’s economy: in 2008, it was estimated that the government had a 40 percent participation in Brazil’s GDP.[76] Privatization processes have improved since the 1990s, when they were often fraught with corruption and manipulation involving government agents, exemplified in the July 1998auction of giant state telecommunications firm Telebrás. A substantial portion of current state ownership is related to Petrobras, the national oil company that is one of the largest state enterprises in the world and therefore a target of rent seekers. With the discovery of giant new reserves that place Brazil among the world’s oil heavyweights, Petrobras is set to expand considerably over the next decade.[77] In mid-2009, the Senate installed a CPI to investigate “philanthropic” donations made by the firm to NGOs and cultural entities linked to the PT and allied parties. The CPI also questioned the mechanism whereby Petrobras and the National Petroleum Regulatory Agency (ANP) distribute royalties to municipalities adjacent to petroleum fields, amid allegations that towns governed by PT mayors received upward adjustments of these royalties prior to the 2008 municipal elections. In addition, opposition parties suspect that Petrobras pressured its suppliers to make campaign contributions to the PT and allied parties.[78]

 In spite of laws and regulations to the contrary, most Brazilian politicians use public funds for their private benefit.[79]Some of the most dramatic cases of private appropriation of public resources involve powerful regional kingpins who are elected to Congress and thus gain political immunity. Perhaps the most prominent recent example involves the four-time president of the Senate and former national president, José Sarney. According to Veja magazine, when first elected Senate president in 1995, he installed a “staff mafia” that has done his bidding ever since.[80]Sarney and other senators allegedly used secret administrative acts (never published in the daily record) to hire and fire relatives, cronies and friends.[81]Sarney also used his influence in several cabinet ministries and federal agencies to ensure financial gain for his family’s businesses (commanded by his son, Fernando Sarney). His daughter, Roseana Sarney, has been elected the governor of their home state of Maranhão four times, and his son José Sarney Filho represents the state as a federal deputy for the Green Party (PV).

Asset declarations are required from all senior officials in the three branches of government. Candidates for deputy and senator must file declarations with the election courts. All such statements are open to public and media scrutiny, and the press often questions seeming omissions of assets. 

In 2003, Lula unchained the Federal Police and prosecutors, which were restrained under the Cardoso government, to actively investigate corruption in Brazil. Armed with federal court orders to search-and-seize, tap telephones, requisition call records, and gain access to income tax returns and bank transactions, many corruption schemes involving politicians and their allies have been uncovered. However, most politicians are protected by the STF trial privilege. The mensalão case—brought before the High Court by a federal prosecutor general appointed by President Lula—remains the most prominent exception and marks a strong blow against such impunity.[82]

The government’s external control units, which include the CGU and the Congress-linked Federal Accounts Court (TCU), discover many violations of anticorruption laws and request indictments with federal prosecutors, but often to no avail. The TCU is composed of nine judges, who serve until the mandatory retirement age of 70; one-third are chosen by the president, with Senate confirmation, one-third by the Senate, and one-third by the Chamber of Deputies. The politicians chosen usually have been recently defeated at the polls and are expected to cover for their respective parties and groups in TCU deliberations. On July 27, 2009, STF President Gilmar Mendes harshly derided the TCU’s ineffectiveness at revealing the wave of corruption, much of it nepotism related, sweeping Congress.[83] This spate of scandals—especially in the Senate—was revealed in the press shortly after José Sarney was elected Senate president in February 2009 and Senator Renan Calheiros, himself a longtime target of corruption allegations, became the PMDB floor leader.

In 2011, President Rousseff imposed a “housecleaning” on her cabinet and forced six ministers to resign following corruption accusations lodged by the Federal Police and the press. This demonstrated a shift from the attitudes of presidents Cardoso and Lula, who tended to ignore similar accusations. President Rousseff also sacked several second-echelon employees in the affected ministries.

In addition, in February 2012, a federal judge in Goiás ordered the arrest of Carlos Augusto de Almeida Ramos (known as Charlie Waterfall) based on federal police investigations and wiretaps conducted since 2009. Almeida had a complicated and diversified crime organization based on illegal gambling operations sustained with police and political cover. Investigations revealed that his political cover was provided by three governors, several federal deputies, and DEM Senator Demóstenes Torres. Torres was expelled from the DEM and in July 2012 was expelled from the Senate after a secret ballot voted on by his peers.[84] Congress established a bicameral investigation committee to examine Almeida’s connections with politicians, private sector firms, and the press.[85]

The transparency of tax collections has similarly come under question in relation to the scandal in which SRF head Vieira was dismissed upon attempting to collect back taxes from large evaders (see Accountability and Public Voice). After a series of personnel shifts and investigations, the episode resulted in the resignation of some 60 technicians in the SRF, including 12 top administrators who complained about political interference.[86]

In June 2009, 43 federal employees accused of corruption were dismissed, bringing the total to 2,179 since 2003, according to data from the CGU.[87] The Brazilian media gives broad and accurate coverage of corruption at the federal level, but less for smaller states and municipalities, as local media outlets are often owned or controlled by politicians. In general, although there is no specific federal law protecting them, at the national level whistleblowers, anticorruption activists, journalists, and government investigators feel secure in reporting cases of corruption and bribery, and press denunciations of corruption have increased in recent years. However, at the state and municipal levels this is not always the case. Educational institutions are generally free of corruption and graft regarding admission and grades. 

Citizens’ legal right to petition government agencies for information is guaranteed in Article 5 of the 1988 Constitution, as regulated by law.[88]However, Brazil did not have a comprehensive freedom of information law until President Rousseff promulgated regulations for the Public Information Access Law in May 2012.[89]Even before the new law, most government agencies maintained transparency websites stocked with information the agency deems appropriate, but “sensitive” information is not easily available. As described above, many agencies disguise their expenditures in the SIAFI system. In practice, the most powerful instrument to obtain government information is via a formal request by a deputy or senator.

Brazil’s annual budget process has several stages, culminating in a detailed budget proposal submitted on August 1 for approval before the holiday recess in December. The elaboration of the budget proposal in Congress is done by the Joint Budget Committee (CMO), composed of 31 deputies and 11 senators and subject to complete rotation of the hotly-disputed spots each year. Although the CMO does hold some public hearings, input from organized civic groups is very limited.[90] However, a participatory budget mechanism that incorporates demands from neighborhood associations is sometimes used at the municipal level. This system was famously installed by the local PT government in Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul during four successive administrations (1989–2004).[91] Participatory budgeting is used by other city governments, though many use it for political cooptation.

The only detailed source of expenditures by the federal government is via SIAFI. The Senate and Chamber of Deputies have oversight committees that are supposed to monitor budget implementation. This is difficult because the executive branch—in the name of “austerity”—frequently freezes expenditures in specific areas, only to liberate spending later if tax collections permit the availability of funds. Although this manipulation is related to achieving the primary surplus target, it is one of the mechanisms used by the president to maintain cohesion in his or her congressional coalition.[92]

Brazil’s procurement procedures are quite complicated, even when these are transferred to online competitive bidding; frequently the result is overpriced goods and services.[93]Many firms win bidding on contracts only to later request supplements to the original budget allocation. Despite the detailed rules, the press frequently carries stories about biased bidding procedures that favor specific suppliers, usually enabled via collusion among bidders to divide up the spoils. In mid-2006, the Federal Police revealed the so-called “bloodsucker” scandal, in which over-invoiced ambulances were acquired for distribution to local governments, with intermediation by federal deputies. Of the 69 deputies involved who sought reelection that year, only five were reelected.[94]

  • Proportional representation-determined elections should be changed from an open list to a closed list format in order to strengthen political parties and downgrade the importance of high name recognition and unlimited financial resources.
  • The Clean Sheet Law approved by Congress in 2010 should be rigorously applied by election courts in 2012 and 2014 to eliminate candidates with criminal records.
  • Merit-based civil service requirements should be extended, with the number of political appointments made by the president, governors, and mayors reduced.
  • Government should increase the repression of private militias in urban neighborhoods and strengthen mechanisms to ensure that civil and military police who participate in such groups are expelled.
  • The use of state enterprises to indirectly finance political campaigns should be prohibited, with strict accountability imposed in the Regional Election Courts.
  • The use of political criteria to select Federal Accounts Court judges should be abolished and only technical criteria used.
  • A constitutional amendment should be approved to permit immediate implementation of second level court decisions while appeals continue in higher courts.
  • Stronger legislation should be adopted to swiftly punish murder of journalists as a federal crime.

[1] David Fleischer, “Brazil: From Military Regime to a Workers’ Party Government,” in Latin America: Its Promise and Its Presence, ed. J.K Black (Boulder: Westview Press, 2010), 457-487.

[2] David Samuels, “From Socialism to Social Democracy: Party Organization and the Transformation of the Workers’ Party in Brazil,” Comparative Political Studies37, no. 9 (2004):999-1024.

[3] For details from these Datafolha polls, see:

[4] Flávio Tayra, “Mobilidade Social e Crise Global,” Revista SuperHiper, March 2009,

[5] Wendy Hunter and Timothy Power, “Rewarding Lula: Executive Power, Social Power, and the Brazilian Elections in 2006,” Latin American Politics and Society 49, no.1 (2007):1-30, available at

[6]Folha de São Paulo, September 28 2010, p. A4.

[7] For an overview of Brazil’s election governance system, see David Fleischer and Leonardo Barreto, “El impacto de la justicia electoral sob el sistema político brasileño,” América Latina Hoy, no. 51 (2009): 117-138,

[8]David Fleischer, “Political Outlook in Brazil in the Wake of Municipal Elections: 2009-2010” (paper presented at “Political Outlook in Brazil after 2008,”The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, November 10, 2008), available at

[9] Ibid.

[10] David Fleischer, “As eleições municipais no Brasil: Uma análise comparativa (1982-2002),”Opinião Pública [Campinas] 8, no.1 (2002):80-105.

[11]Radiografia do Novo Congresso (2011-2015).  Brasília: DIAP, 2010, pp. 13-14.

[12]“ONG que recebeu da Petrobras doou a petistas,” O Globo, February 18, 2012.

[13]Tiago Décimo, “Gabrielli assume Planejamento da BA amanhã,” O Estado de São Paulo, March 9, 2012

[14]David Fleischer, Brazil Focus Weekly Report: 19-25 April 2008,

April 2008,,

[15] Débora Santos, “Supremo decide que é constitucional Lei da Ficha Limpa,” O Globo, February 17, 2012.

[16] Daniel Carvalho & Valmar Hupsel Filho. “Justiça barra 317 candidatos a prefeito que têm ficha suja,” Folha de São Paulo, September 8, 2012, A-4. prefeito-que-tem-ficha-suja.shtml

[17] Sérgio Abranches, “O presidencialismo de coalizão: o dilema institucional brasileiro,” Dados 31, no. 1 (1988):5-33.

[18] Elio Gaspari, “O que significa ‘controlar’ a Receita?,” Folha de São Paulo, July 15, 2009, available at

[19]Felipe Recondo, “Governo vai rastrear parentes,” O Estado de São Paulo,July 23, 2009, available at (accessed October 2, 2009). 

[20] Andréa de Lima, “Senado abre CPI para investigate atuação de ONGs,” Folha de São Paulo, February 24, 2001. 

[21]Eva Menezes, “Justiça brasileira revoga a Lei de Imprensa,” Journalism nas Américas Blog, University of Texas at Austin’s Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas, May 1, 2009,

[22] Felipe Recondo, “Justiça censura Estado e proíbe informações sobre Sarney,” O Estado de São Paulo, July 31, 2009,,justica-obriga-grupo-estado-a-retir....

[23] Cristina Guimarães, “Caso Tim Lopes mobiliza todo o país,” Tim,

[24];; Luciana Nunes Leal, “SIP pede punição de crimes contra imprensa,” O Estado de São Paulo, April 24, 2012, p. A-9.

[25] Fernando de Barros e Silva, “Bolsa-Mídia de Lula,” Folha de São Paulo, June 1, 2009, (accessed October 1, 2009).

[26] “Juiz acata denúncia contra líder da Universal,” Folha de São Paulo, August 11, 2009, available at (accessed October 1, 2009).  

[27] Freedom House, “Brazil,” in Freedom on the Net: A Global Assessment of Internet and Digital Media (New York: Freedom House, 2009), //

[28] Crimeia de Almeida. ed.  Dossiê Ditatura –Mortos e Desaparecidos Políticos no Brasil – (1964-1985), (São Paulo: Imesp, 2009).

[29] Law No. 6,683, August 28, 1979, available at

[30] Felipe Seligman and Valdo Cruz, “Comissão de Anistia declara Lamarca coronel do Exército,” Folha de São Paulo, June 14, 2007,

[31] Lucas de Abreu Maia, “MP denuncia coronel Ustra por sequestro,” O Estado de São Paulo, April 25, 2012.

[32] Rachel Costa, Isto É, August 24, 2012. TORTURA+ACABA

[33] “Justiça Federal aceita denúncia contra major Curió,” Veja, August 30, 2012.

[34] Vera Rosa & Tânia Monteiro, “Dilma Instala Comissão da Verdade,” O Estado de São Paulo, May 16, 2012.,dilma-instala-commisao-da-verdade,8...

For a listing of the Truth Commission members, see:

[35] Marcello Neto and Rogério Medeiros, Memórias de uma Guerra Suja.  Rio de Janeiro: Topbooks, 2012, 25-33.  The torturer, Claudio Guerra, had become an evangelical church minister and could no longer contain his anguish regarding his behavior in the 1970s.

[36] Secretaria de Seguranca, Balanco das Incidencias Criminais e Administrativas no Estado do Rio de Janeiro(Rio de Janeiro: Governo de Rio de Janeiro), 23,

[37] Philip Alston, Report of the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary, or Arbitrary Executions (Geneva: UN Human Rights Council, August 29, 2008),

[39]Alston, Report of the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary, or Arbitrary Executions,  12, 32-36, 40-42.

[40]Bruno Konder Comparato, “As Ouvidorias de Polícia no Brasil: Controle e Participação” (PhD diss., Universidade de São Paulo, 2005), available at

[41] “Mutirão do CNJ liberta 4,7 mil em um ano,” BOL Notícias, August 15, 2009,

[42] For information on human trafficking in Brazil, see www.projeto

[43] Leonardo Sakamoto, ed., Trabalho Escravo no Brasil do Século XXI (Brasília: OIT, 2005),; José de Souza Martins, “A irredutível economia da escravidao,” O Estado de São Paulo, July 26, 2009,,a-irredutivel-economia-da-escravidão,408296,0.htm.Twice, on May 8 and 9, the “rural caucus” in the Chamber of Deputies was able to avoid a final floor vote on a PEC (constitutional amendment) to outlaw and punish “slave labor” (mostly on farms).  The vote on this PEC was postponed until May 22.

[44]  United Nations Development Fund for Women, “Brazil Enacts Law on Violence against Women,” news release, August 9, 2006,; Constitution of the Federal Republic of Brazil, Art. 226, available at

[45] Júlio Jacobo Waiselfisz, Mapa da Violência 2012:Homicídio de Mulheres no Brasil.  São Paulo: Inst. Sangari, 2011.

[46] Renato Sérgio de Lima, “Mapeamento das Delegacias de Mulher no Brasil,” Forum Brasileiro de Segurança Pública, November 24, 2008,

[47] Felipe Seligman and Johanna Nublat, “STF libera aborto de fetos anencéfalos,” Folha de São Paulo, April 13, 2012.

[49] Cléia Paixão, “Mulheres lançam campanha nacional por igualdade de salários e oportunidades,” Estado de Alagoas Secretaria de Mulher, Cidadania e Direitos Humanos,  news release, 2008, (accessed October 30, 2009).

[50] Instituto de Pesquisa Economica Aplicada (IPEA), Desigualdades raciais, racismo e políticas públcas: 120 anos após a abolição (Brasília: ipea, May 13, 2008), (accessed October 30, 2009).

[51] Datafolha Opinião Pública, “Preconceito admitido por brasileiros diminui,” November 27, 2008,;The opposite view is that these “affirmative action” initiatives might lead to “reverse discrimination.” See Diogo Schelp, “Queremos dividir o Brasil como na foto?”  RevistaVeja, no. 2128 (September 2, 2009), (accessed October 1, 2009) and Demétrio Magnoli, Uma Gota de Sangue: História do Pensamento Racial (São Paulo: Contexto, 2009).

[52] Instituto Socio-Ambiental,“ISA lanca livro de referencia para a questao indigena no Brasil,” news release, October 24, 2006,

[53] Roldao Arruda, “DEM tenta impedir matrícula de cotistas,” O Estado de São Paulo, July 22, 2009,  www.estadã,0.php (accessed October 1, 2009).However, on April 26, the Supreme Court decided that university admissions by ethnic criteria (Afro-Descendents and native Indians) were constitutional. Felipe Seligman and Nádia Guerlenda, “Por unanimidade, STF decide a favor das cotas,” Folha de São Paulo, April 27, 2012.  One week later, the Court decided in favor of the use of quotas for the distribution of ProUni university scholarships. Felipe Seligman, “Por 7 a 1, Supremo decide que ProUni é constitutional,” Folha de São Paulo, May 4, 2012.

[54] Mariângela Gallucci & Felipe Recondo. “STF aprova cota racial em universidade”, O Estado de São Paulo, April 27, 2012.,stf-aprova-cota-racial-em-universid...

[55] João Carlos Magalhães & Natuza Nery. “Dilma vai criar cota para negro no serviço público,” Folha des São Paulo, October 14, 2012.

[56]Luana Pinheiro and Vera Soares, Brasil: Retrato das Desigualdades - Gênero, Raça(Brasilia, IPEA/ UNIFEM, 2008), 32, October 30, 2009).

[57]Radiografia do Novo Congresso (2011-2015).  Brasília: DIAP, 2011, 44-45

[58] Felipe Seligman. “CNJ investiga pelo menos 107 magistrados,” Folha de São Paulo, August 4, 2009, October 1, 2009).

[59] Pedro Lenza, “Reforma do Judiciário. Emenda Constitucional Nº 45/2004 – Ezquematização das principais novidades,” Jus Navigandi 9, no. 618 (March 18, 2005), available at

[60] A direct challenge regarding the jurisdiction and attributions of the CNJ was finally resolved by the Supreme Court that “liberated” the external control body to continue its investigations.  Felipe Seligman, “Supremo confirma poder do CNJ de investigar juízes,” Folha de São Paulo, February 3, 2012

[61] Mariângela Gallucci, “Joaquim Barbosa bate-boca com Mendes no STF,” O Estado de São Paulo, April 22, 2009.,joaquim-barbosa-bate-boca-com-mendes-no-stf,358924,0.htm (accessed October 1, 2009).

[62]“Bate-boca constrangedor,” O Estado de São Paulo, April 21, 2012.

[63]Matthew M. Taylor, “Citizens against the State: the riddle of high impact, low functionality courts in Brazil,” Revista de Economia Politica 25, no.4 (October/December 2005), available at .

[64] “Preso de novo, Daniel Dantas volta à carceragem da PF,” VoteBrasil, July 10, 2008,

[65] Valdo Cruz, “”STF transforma José Dirceu em réu do mensalão,” Folha de São Paulo, August 31, 2007, (accessed October 1, 2009). 

[66] Guilherme Fister, “Segurança sem perder a ternura,” Zero Hora, January 20, 2006, available at (accessed October 2, 2009).

[68] “Estrangeiros compram mais imoveis rurais,” Zero Hora, February 24, 2009,

[70] For a recent analysis of the MST’s finances and strategy, see Policarpo Junior and Sofia Krause, “Por dentro do cofre do MST,” Revista Veja, no. 2128 (September 2, 2009), 64-72, .

[71] Claudia Andrade, “Por 10 a 1, Supremo mantém demarcação contínua da Reserva Raposa/Serra do Sol,” UOL Notícias, March 19, 2009,

[72] Felipe Seligman, “STF manda fazendeiros deixaram área na BA,” Folha de São Paulo, May 3, 2012.

[74] Florência Costa. “Corrupção mata,” IstoÉ, October 3, 2009, (accessed October 30, 2009).

[75] Transparency International, “2011 Corruption Perception Index,”

[76]Roberto Blum, “Brasil: De que esquerda estamos falando,” Correio Internacional, September 16, 2008,

[77]Kelly Lima, “Brasil pode ter 8ª maior reserva de petróleo do mundo,” PortalExame, November 8, 2007, (accessed October 30, 2009).

[78] Cristiane Jungblut and Isabel Braga,” CPI investigará repasses da Petrobrás,” O Globo, May 25, 2009,  available at (accessed October 30, 2009);  Cirilo Junior, “PF investiga suposto desvio de royalties da Petrobrás; ANP não vê indício de irregularidade,” Folha de São Paulo, July 4, 2009, (accessed October 30, 2009).  See also notes 13 and 14.

[79] Marita Boos, “A mistura do público com o privado deveria dar cadeira,” O Globo, July 24, 2009,

[80] Reinaldo Azevedo, “Sarney e cúpula do Senado na festa da família Agaciel,” Veja, June 11, 2009, (accessed October 2, 2009).

[81] It was revealed that some 633 “secret acts” were issued since 1996.  See Claudia Andrade, “Senado vai investigar novos atos secretos,” UOL Notícias, August 13, 2009, (accessed October 1, 2009).

[82] Rosanne D’Agostino, “Supremo luta contra o tempo para julgar mensalão,” UOL Notícias, February 20, 2009,

[83] “Gilmar Mendes diz que TCU ’falha’ no Congresso,” Folha de São Paulo, July 28, 2009, (accessed October 1, 2009).

[84] Fernanda Krakovics, “Demóstenes Torres tem mandato cassado pelo Senado,” O Globo, July 11, 2012. pelo-senado-544970

[85] Kelly Lima, “Planalto emplaca relator e tenta obter controle sobre CPMI,” Folha de São Paulo, April 25, 2012.

[86] Kennedy Alencar, Leandra Peres and Valdo Cruz, “Lula repreende Mantega e exige ‘retomada’ da Receita,” Folha de São Paulo, August 27, 2009,

[87] Marcelo de Moraes, “Expulsão de Servidores corruptos bate recorde,” O Estado de São Paulo, July 28, 2009,,0.php (accessed October 1, 2009).  

[88] Marco Aurélio Ventura Peixoto, “Habeas data: a polêmica garantia constitucional de conhecimento e retificação de informações pessoais em poder do Estado,” Jus Navigandi 6, no. 52 (November 2001), available at

[89] “Lei de Acesso à Informação regulamentada pelo Conselho Nacional do Mistério Público a aplicação da Lei”.

[90]Instituto de Estudios Socioeconomicos,  “Nota técnica 110: Reforma Orçamentária: proposta tímida,” June 14, 2006,

[91] Rebecca Neaera Abers, Inventing Local Democracy: Grassroots Politics in Brazil  (Boulder: Lynne Rienner, 2000).

[92]Lee J. Alston et al., Political Institutions, Policymaking Processes and Policy Outcomes in Brazil (Washington, D.C.: Interamerican Development Bank, March 2006),; Octávio Amorim Neto and Fabiano Santos, “The Executive Connection: Patronage and Party Discipline in Brazil,” Party Politics 7, no. 2 (2001).

[93] Juliana Simão. “Licitação online: Governo federal muda lei e cria portal B2B para fazer compras na Internet,” IstoÉ Dinheiro na Web, July 27, 2009, available at

[94]Costa and de Queiroz, O Que Esperar do Novo Congresso- Perfil e agenda da legislatura 2007/2011, 15.