February 15, 2023

Democracy Endangered: The Case of Brazil

Event Series: Free Speech at the Crossroads: International Dialogues

Showing the Democracy Endangered: The Case of Brazil Video

The recent armed attack on the three main centers of political power in Brazil reflected a story the West is getting to know all too well. An abrasive incumbent, Jair Bolsonaro, incited outrage amongst thousands of supporters with baseless claims of election fraud. What was supposed to be a peaceful transfer of power descended into bedlam. As security officials allegedly had a hand in fueling the insurrection, it is clear that anti-democratic sentiment is alive and well in Brazil and is likely backed by powerful people. What can the West and Latin America do to stop authoritarian actors who seek to undermine fair elections and democracy? Is this trend contagious?

This event was co-sponsored by the Free Speech Project (Georgetown University) and the Future of the Humanities Project (Georgetown University and Blackfriars Hall and Campion Hall, Oxford).

Photo courtesy of Marcelo Camargo / Agência Brasil


Ana Ionova is a multimedia journalist based in Brazil who reports on human rights, the environment, health, politics, and women's rights. Her work has been published by Reuters, Los Angeles Times, Guardian, BBC News, New York Times, and Foreign Policy. She also contributes to BBC’s World Service and CBC Radio in Canada. Ionova has covered deforestation, climate change, and the impact of commodity supply chains on people and the environment. She previously reported from Argentina as an International Women’s Media Foundation fellow.

Andreza De Souza Santos is a lecturer and senior fellow at the Latin American Centre of St. Antony’s College at Oxford. Director of the Brazilian Studies Programme, she lectures on contemporary politics in Brazil, as well as rural-urban migration, informal housing, and urban violence. Her research concerns the dynamics between formal and informal political and economic systems. De Souza Santos was previously a post-doctoral researcher at the School of Anthropology in Oxford.

Ishaan Tharoor is a columnist on the foreign desk of the Washington Post, where he authors the Today's WorldView newsletter and column. He was previously a senior editor and correspondent at Time magazine, based first in Hong Kong and later in New York. He has also taught an undergraduate seminar at Georgetown University on digital affairs and the global age. Tharoor holds a bachelor's degree from Yale University in history and ethnicity, race, and migration.

Michael Scott (moderator) is senior dean and a fellow of Blackfriars Hall, Oxford, college adviser for postgraduate students, and a member of the Las Casas Institute. He also serves as senior adviser to the president of Georgetown University. Scott previously was the pro-vice-chancellor at De Montfort University and founding vice-chancellor of Wrexham Glyndwr University.

Sanford J. Ungar (moderator), president emeritus of Goucher College, is director of the Free Speech Project at Georgetown University, which documents challenges to free expression in American education, government, and civil society. Director of the Voice of America under President Bill Clinton, Ungar was dean of the American University School of Communication and is a former co-host of "All Things Considered" on NPR.