Progressive call to sustain democracy and the multipolar order

A warning regarding the dangerous path followed by Brazilian democracy.

Rafael Heiber
2 October 2018
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Lula Day, Act for Democracy, in Sao Paulo, Brazil. July 20, 2017. Flickr/PT. Some rights reserved.

In light of the many events and processes throughout the world that are endangering social cohesion and global progress, political leaders, activists and intellectuals gathered together for a two-part international seminar series, “A Progressive Call to Sustain Democracy and the Multipolar Order.”

The series addressed threats to democracy and the rise of populism and isolationism, and was held in both São Paulo, Brazil and Madrid, Spain in September of 2018. As a result, ten participants have issued this joint statement containing their reflections and conclusions. Among the signatories are included: Noam Chomsky, Professor Emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT); Celso Amorim, former Brazilian Minister of Defense and Foreign Affairs; and the Spanish jurist Baltasar Garzón

The statement is a warning regarding the dangerous path followed by Brazilian democracy and the devastating consequences that might follow all over the world.It reads:

“ Madrid, September 2018, 

President Dilma Rousseff’s removal on 31 August 2016 initiated an attack on Brazilian democracy. This attack reached a second milestone on 1 September 2018, when former President Luiz Inácio Lula Da Silva, a favourite in Brazilian presidential election polling for the elections on 7 and 28 October, was disqualified from running for office. As a result of both actions, Brazilian citizens face the dangerous prospect of a possible victory by a fascist, racist, chauvinist and homophobic candidate, one who calls for violence and armed repression. 

We are drawing attention to these two illegitimate attacks. Firstly, a parliamentary attack against President Rousseff. And secondly, Lula’s sentencing without proof to 12 years in prison, as well as his disqualification from running for electoral office. These are steps to prevent the Brazilian Worker’s Party (PT), to which both Rousseff and Lula belong, from implementing a plan for the redistribution of wealth and the reduction of social, racial and gender inequality. For the past 16 years, this plan has served as a successful example of an alternative to neoliberalism responsible for the global crisis. 

We are warning that the instrumentalization of judicial power, in Brazil and other developing countries, is central to a strategy led by international financial capital and some media companies falling short of their obligation to report the truth. The strategy operates via allegedly fighting corruption, but is in reality fostering it. It prevents the electoral candidacy, via unjust sentencing, of those who are viewed as a check on the agenda of ‘markets.’

This is particularly serious in the case of Brazil, which during the Lula government was a reference point for multilateralism and encouraged significant initiatives like the BRICS. Yet now, Brazil has decided to ignore the United Nations Human Rights Committee’s request, “to take all necessary measures to ensure that Lula can enjoy and exercise his political rights while in prison, as a candidate in the 2018 presidential elections.” 

We are profoundly concerned about the consequences of illegitimately facilitating the Brazilian presidential victory of a fascist candidate. They would reverberate both within the country and across the international stage, where extreme right-wing leaders are on the rise and even govern, via voting marked by frustration with the 2008 crisis and neoliberal austerity. 

So that society can peacefully accept the results of the elections on 7 and 28, there should be a guarantee of just competition among all parties, including the PT."


Celso Amorim, former Brazilian Minister of Defense and Foreign Affairs.

Renata Avila, Director of Ciudadanía Inteligente Foundation.

William Bourdon, Human rights lawyer and Founding partner of Bourdon & Associés.

Pedro Brieger, Director of NODAL.

Noam Chomsky, Professor Emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Gaspard Estrada, Executive Director of OPALC, Sciences Po.

Baltasar Garzón, Jurist and President of FIBGAR.

Rafael Heiber, Executive Director and Co/founder Common Action Forum.

Alexander Main, Director of International Policy, CEPR, Washington, DC.

Pierre Sané, former Secretary General of Amnesty International and President of Imagine Africa Institute. 

The Brazilian elections will take place next weekend. The extreme right candidate is leading the polls. 

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