In October 2022, the electoral victory of Lula de Silva and the Workers Party in Brazil ended the four-year long autocratic rule of President Jair Bolsonaro of the Liberal Party. Under Bolsonaro, academic freedom and the autonomy of higher education institutions in the country were drastically reduced. According to the Freedom House and V-Dem world democracy indexes, since 2018, the country’s scores on human rights, academic freedom, freedom of speech, and right to education have gradually fallen.
The Bolsonaro government heavily politicized education policies, limiting research funding for public universities, compromising the freedom of speech and institutional autonomy in higher education, which led some scholars and researchers to leave the country and seek refuge elsewhere. According to the V-Dem World Democracy 2023 report, the electoral defeat of Bolsonaro stalled the autocratization trend in the country, and the victory has renewed hopes for democratic reconstruction and consolidation. Brazilian civil society, journalists, researchers, students, and scholars have been celebrating Lula’s election and supporting his educational reform proposal, which aims at endorsing a compulsory literacy campaign across Brazil.
Higher education reform is more complicated and challenging than mandatory primary education. Federal universities expect to restore their pro-Bolsonaro research budgets and modernize the technological infrastructure, in addition to reestablishing their autonomy. Scholars hope to receive institutional and financial support to conduct their research, as well as the right to international travel so that they can participate actively in the global scientific community. Students and scholars also share an expectation that the government will support diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives to secure equal participation of indigenous, underrepresented, historically marginalized groups and communities in higher education. However, given the country’s economic stagnation, implementing these reforms in the near future will be difficult.
Endangered Scholars Worldwide is happy to share these positive developments in Brazil and stands in solidarity with those who strive for freedom and safety in Brazil and across the world. We at ESW look forward to sharing the news of full acquittal and reinstatement of those academics, artists and students who fled the country and/or were dismissed from their positions during the Bolsonaro government due to the peaceful exercise of their freedom of expression and association, conduct that is expressly protected under international human rights instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Brazil is party.
Please send appeals on behalf of endangered scholars and students to the following:
Ambassador Ronaldo Costa Filho
Permanent Representative of Brazil to the United Nations
747 3rd Avenue, 9th Floor
New York City, NY 10017
Phone: +1 (212) 372-2600
(Last updated: June 28, 2023)