Bolsonaro’s “Anti-Intellectualist Policy” Compromises Academic Freedom

On June 18, 2020, Endangered Scholars Worldwide learned that Jair Bolsonaro’s attempt to intervene in the appointment of university deans was rejected by the Brazilian Congress. While we are relieved to hear this, we must remember that this trend will be in place for the foreseeable future. This is not the first time that Bolsonaro’s administration has attacked the independence of higher education institutions. As we reported, in 2019, Education Minister Abraham Weintraub accused the universities of making a “mess” and that is why the government is slashing university funding by 30 percent, a move that is said to be motivated by complaints about partisan activities on campuses.

Students protest a court order for universities to remove banners containing “negative propaganda” against Jair Bolsonaro, now president-elect, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, October 26, 2018. (AP Photo / Silvia Izquierdo)

To imagine the most recent government intervention as an isolated act, which will end with the legislative’s refusal, is a mistake. This is part of a project to repress academic freedom in Brazil. Committed to science, the university has become an enemy of the president.

The attempted intervention was a pretext for the imposition of far-right ideologies in Brazil’s higher education. That is why we join academic, intellectual, and political leaders in Brazil and other regions to decry attacks on the country’s universities in the name of Bolsonaro’s wider aggressive, anti progressive, and fascistic agenda.

We call upon all European governments, the US Department of State, international organizations, university presidents, academic and professional associations, student groups, and individuals devoted to the promotion and defense of human rights to protest and condemn these populist attacks on the pillars of Brazil’s democracy and education system.

We stand in solidarity with the students and faculty of Brazilian universities.

Please send appeals to the following:

Michael R. Pompeo

United States Secretary of State

Office of Foreign Missions

U.S. Department of State

2201 C Street NW

Washington, DC 20520 USA


Todd C. Chapman

Ambassador of the United States to Brazil

Embassy of the United States to Brazil

Rua Henri Dunant

500 Chácara Santo Antônio

São Paulo- SP, 04709-110


Fax: +55 11 5181 8730

Michelle Bachelet

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

Palais des Nations

CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland


Dr. Koumbou Boly Barry

United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education

Palais des Nations

CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland


David Kaye

United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression

Palais des Nations

CH-1211 Geneva 10


Fax: +41 22 917 9006



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