Brazil: How and Why It Is a Semi-Democracy

October 12, 2004 - 4:30 pm

Jorge Zaverucha, The Universidade Federal de Pernambuco

The dominant idea in the media as well as in academia is that Brazil is a consolidated democracy. Moments before leaving office, Former President Cardoso viewed Brazil as “one of the most democratic countries in the world.” In the same vein former President José Sarney recently wrote “we abolished all the authoritarian legislation and that never triggered a military alert.” Sarney did not mention that the National Security Law, Military Penal Code, Military Code of Procedures, Media Law, Foreigners’ Statute, and the decree that deals with the safeguarding of society etc. is still in practice.

In this talk, Jorge Zaverucha challenges the idea that democracy is consolidated in Brazil and argues that Brazil in fact is a semi-democracy. His presentation will have three parts. Prof. Zaverucha will discuss the source of such different interpretations. Although recognizing the importance of elections, they are not a sufficient condition for a consolidated democracy. Zaverucha will emphasize the importance of coercive institutions that are not submitted to electoral competition-such as the armed forces, police, judiciary and Public Ministry. If it is true that Brazil’s democracy has advanced in political terms, the same can not be said about civil rights. This situation makes the system a hybrid one with both authoritarian and democratic traits. In short, this talk probes on the extent to which Brazil may be a semi-democracy.

Jorge Zaverucha received his Ph.D. in Political Science from University of Chicago. He is currently a Distinguished Professor of the Magistrate Superior School of Pernambuco. He is the author of Rumor de Sabres (1994) and Política de Segurança Pública: dimensão da formação e impactos sociais (org. com Maria do Rosário B. Negreiros. Ed. Massangana, 2002); Fragil Democracia (2000) and Policia Civil de Pernambuco: o desafio da mudança (2003).