Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro

In the 2022 report released this Thursday, the human rights NGO focused its analysis on autocratic leaders and prospects for the future. Human Rights Watch believes popular uprisings can save democracy, but democratic leaders must do more.

The organization considers that if we look at the world in a generic way, everything points to the increase of autocracy and the decline of democracy. This image gains strength from the repression in China, Russia, Myanmar, Belarus, Sudan, Venezuela and many other countries. But it is also in some of these states that hope arises, just look at the popular movements in favor of democracy in Belarus, Sudan and Myanmar.

The Human Rights Watch leader admits, however, that the danger is not over. In Brazil, for example, democracy, despite being strong, is under threat. Jair Bolsonaro had time to learn from Trump’s mistakes and is already following the primer, talking about electoral fraud even before the people vote. In a press conference Kenneth Roth defended that the president is afraid of losing the elections, scheduled for October, the polls point in that direction, and therefore he is already preparing the future.

Bolsonaro prepares an alternative to stay in power, even if that alternative involves attacking democratic institutions. In Brazil’s favor, however, is the fact that it has strong institutions, which do not hesitate to stand up to the head of state whenever he tries to circumvent the laws.

Looking at the United States, Kenneth Roth said he feared that the attack on Capitol Hill a year ago was a rudimentary way of trying to reverse the election outcome, but that Republicans were now using more sophisticated tactics. As of November 2020, several Republican-led states are passing legislation that makes voting more difficult, especially for minorities. Human Rights Watch adds that in the last presidential elections, it was election officials who, refusing to give in to pressure, guaranteed the truth of the vote. Republicans are also trying to overcome what they see as a constraint.

In all these situations, the NGO affirms that democratic leaders need to rise to the challenges and respond to the aspirations of the populations. Kenneth Roth expresses the conviction that the failure of these leaders has allowed the autocrats to remain in power. It is the frustrations and anguish of people that give strength to leaders like Putin, Trump or Bolsonaro.

Human Rights Watch says that democracy is no longer the best of the worst systems if people’s desperation leads to indifference.

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