King’s College London debates what’s next for Brazil

Brasil Observer - Aug 15 2016
Photo: Geraldo Cantarino

(Leia em Português)


Researchers and students from the Brazil Institute and Dickson Poon School of Law of King’s College London hosted the symposium Brazil, What’s Next? – From the Turmoil to the Near Future, to explore what the future holds for a country facing numerous challenges and opportunities.

In the midst of Rio Olympic Games, Brazil is troubled by deep economic recession with high unemployment; political instability with a presidential impeachment process and an interim government; large-scale investigations into corruption; urban and rural violence; and a Zika virus outbreak, among other pressing issues. The three-day symposium brought together academics and practitioners to discuss the country’s current situation and its outlook for the near future, including challenges for democracy, human rights, culture, development and economy.

The symposium opened with the screening of the film Retratos de Identificação (Identification Photos), by Anita Leandro, a documentary about police identification photos taken after arrests of guerrillas during the country’s military dictatorship.

The following two days were packed with eight panels presented by more than 20 students, researchers and leading specialists including from universities in Germany and Spain. Welcomed by Professor Anthony Pereira, Director of King’s Brazil Institute, special guests included Professor Maurício Dieter from the University of São Paulo, journalist Jan Rocha, former BBC and Guardian correspondent in Brazil, Professor Carolina Matos from City University London and economist Marcos Felipe Casarin, Head of Latin America Macro Research at Oxford Economics.

Ambassador of Brazil to the UK, Eduardo dos Santos, delivered the keynote to the Democracy & Human Rights session, chaired by Dr Octavio Ferraz from The Dickson Poon School of Law, followed by the keynote speaker Jean Wyllys, Brazilian congressman and human rights activist, who came from Brazil especially for the event which attracted an audience of more than 200 people (read the interview with him on page 10).

The Brasil Observer attended the two main debates and can conclude, first of all, that the Brazil Institute of King’s College is doing a great job to boost the understanding of our country in the UK. Regarding the discussions that were held, it’s fair to say that Brazil has a long way to go in order to become a consolidated democracy.

It’s true that Brazil has never experienced such a large period of democracy as it has now. But the end of the military dictatorship (1964-85) didn’t eliminate the authoritarian vices of the Brazilin state. Thus we can conclude that we left an authoritarian dictatorship to enter an authoritarian democracy, as some panellist said during the symposium. In order to change that, Brazil needs to tackle the problem of inequality that affects all aspects of Brazilians’ life, since educational and economic opportunities to the democratization of the media and the operation of Justice and its security apparatus.

From an economic and development point of view, it’s a consensus that Brazil needs to balance the books in order to reduce its debt, but it would be an illusion to think the country could reach a more sustainable growth without progressive tax reform, for instance.

What’s next for Brazil? It’s hard to forecast any meaningful improvement without a political reform that brings Brazilian Congress closer to what the Brazilian society really is. It’s not yet the case.