Two hundred activists and academics met on Saturday, December 1, at Columbia Law School to form the National Network for Democracy in Brazil. After a long day of discussions, the gathering decided to form a decentralized, democratic and nonpartisan national network with three objectives: (1) Educate the U.S. public about the current situation in Brazil; (2) Defend progressive social, economic, political, and cultural advances in Brazil; (3) Support social movements, community organizations, NGOs, universities, and activists, etc., who will be vulnerable in this new political climate.
The meeting opened with the participation of Debora Diniz, anthropologist at the University of Brasília (UnB), a researcher at Anis-Institute of Bioethics and an important defender of human rights; Gladys Mitchell-Walthour, political scientist, specialist on race in Brazil and president of the Brazilian Studies Association (BRASA); Sidney Chalhoub, professor of Brazilian history at Harvard University; and Alex Main, Director of International Policy at the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) in Washington, DC. Throughout the day, participants gathered in small groups and plenary sessions to discuss the different challenges to democracy as a result of Bolsonaro’s election.
During the afternoon session, participants broke down into different working groups to outline priorities and develop concrete strategies in addressing specific issues, recognizing the intersectionality of many of the themes being discussed. They included: academic freedom; Afro-descendants/Blacks; economics; indigenous peoples; labor and workers; land and rural workers; law and lawfare; LGBTQI+; Lula Livre; media; religion; public health and universal access; public security and safety; socio-environmental issues; urban movements; working with Congress; and women.
Among the activities approved at the final assembly were: supporting a petition campaign initiated by the BRASA Executive Committee in defense of human rights and academic freedom in Brazil; organizing a national day of public demonstrations in memory of Marielle Franco on March 14, 2019 in 100 sites across the country; establishing an International Observatory for Democracy in Brazil, which will be headquartered at Brown University; setting up a National Steering Committee with representatives of affiliated groups to coordinate national campaigns and other activities; and working to establish an office on Brazil in Washington, D.C.
Two Brazilian political leaders, who were in New York at the time, attended the event: Raul Amorim, a member of the national leadership of the Landless Workers Movement (MST) and Fernando Haddad, of the Workers’ Party and the left-wing presidential candidate who challenged Bolsonaro in the second round of the 2018 elections. Both greeted participants and pointed out the importance of this international effort to defend democracy and economic, social, political, environmental, and human rights in Brazil.