Biden urged to abandon U.S. agreements with far-right Bolsonaro regime

United States President Joe Biden has been urged to abandon U.S. agreements with Brazil’s far-right Bolsonaro regime.

A policy document, put together by experts on Brazil’s situation in academia, social movements, solidarity groups, human rights and environmental organisations, lays out the steps the United States needs to take to repair direct consequences of the foreign policy pursued by previous administrations; for example the U.S.-supported coup against Dilma Rousseff, NSA spying on her government and Petrobras (which Biden himself expressly refused to end), and finally Operation Lava Jato, the joint U.S.-Brazil anti-corruption investigation which helped ruin Brazil’s economy, jail presidential candidate Lula da Silva, and bring Jair Bolsonaro to power.

That Joe Biden is being asked to right these wrongs is not short of irony, given that he was Vice President for eight years, during which the very foreign policy that led to a Bolsonaro presidency was being implemented, and not least that U.S. corporations have been amongst the biggest beneficiaries from it.

However, the authors consider that the emergency facing the country outweighs need for compunction on Biden’s part.

Full press release:

WASHINGTON, DC / February 3, 2021 – Human Rights & environmental experts, convened by U.S. Network for Democracy in Brazil (USNDB), delivered to the Biden Administration urgent recommendations for US-Brazil Policy across 10 critical issues including: (i) Democracy and the Rule of Law; (ii) Indigenous Rights, Climate Change, and Deforestation; (iii) Political Economy; (iv) Alcântara Space Base and U.S. Military Aid; (v) Human Rights: Historically Marginalized Groups; (vi) State Violence and Police Brutality; (vii) Public Health; (viii) COVID-19; (ix) Religious Freedom; and (x) Labor. The co-authors documented how Bolsonaro’s agenda, enabled by the prior administration, threatens human rights, peace, justice, and the planet’s climate, and outlined how Biden and the U.S. Congress can start to repair the recent damage.

Experts tackled ways in which U.S. foreign and domestic policies, in particular trade relations and military presence, can impact racial justice in Brazil, the rule of law, democracy, and the environment. Complementing high profile recommendations for the Amazon Rainforest, the experts urge a rights-based approach to protect tropical forests like the Amazon, emphasizing respect for Indigenous Peoples, addressing the role of the U.S. Government, U.S.-based corporations, and avoiding false solutions like forest-carbon offsets, that are not proven to actually reduce emissions and allow pollution to continue in the U.S., most often disproportionately impacting Black, Indigenous, and other historically marginalized groups.

“It is imperative that the United States prioritize respect for civil and human rights and the rule of law in its relations with Brazil.” said Dr. James N. Green, Professor of Brazilian History and Culture, Brown University, “Biden has committed to act on climate, biodiversity, human rights, democracy, and racial justice. Biden needs to apply this commitment in Foreign Policy, especially in Brazil, where these intersectional crises are at a boiling point. Under Trump, Bolsonaro benefitted from having an enabler in the White House, and these recommendations outline steps Biden and the Democrat majority congress can take to address the consequences of Bolsonaro’s agenda.”

“Under the former US president, Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro had a close ally in the White House.” said Dr. Gladys Mitchell-Walthour, Professor of Public Policy and Political Economy, University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. Dr. Mitchell-Walthour added that: “this special relationship allowed for expanded trade and deals such as those in Alcântara which had devastating effects on Quilombo communities. Human rights violations against Afro-Brazilians, Indigenous,  and marginalized people have gone unchecked without any international consequences. The Biden Administration has a chance to take a strong stance against these human rights violations.”

“It is unprecedented to have a President of the United States who has been so vocal about the importance of the Amazon and the climate, but the billions of dollars he has referenced should not replace the action needed for the US to address its role in tropical deforestation,” said Daniel Brindis, Forests Campaign Director, Greenpeace USA, “Furthermore, without safeguards to protect human rights and to ensure that conservation payments actually protect forests, there’s a danger that he could be just throwing money at the problem or making the problem worse.”

A number of prominent organizations and Brazil scholars have endorsed the recommendations made in the report, including: Greenpeace USA, Amazon Watch, Friends of the Earth – U.S., Rainforest Action Network (RAN), Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) and Defend Democracy in Brazil; and Brazil scholars from a number of universities: Harvard, Brown, Columbia, U.C. Berkeley, Princeton, and others.

This policy paper is the result of the USNDB’s work to implement the Washington Brazil Office (WBO), supporting advocacy efforts related to Brazil in the U.S. Congress in collaboration with think-tanks and advocacy groups in Washington, D.C. The WBO is formed by an executive director, project assistants, and an advisory board of eleven members representing academics, labor unions, researchers, non-profits, social movement leaders, and NGOs. The WBO works on issues related to human rights and the environment in Brazil, seeking to analyze policies and their consequences while promoting democratic debate toward social and environmental justice in the country.

The full text of the Policy Paper is available HERE.

About the USNDB: The USNDB was founded in 2018, and includes over 1,500 people in 234 colleges and universities in 45 states throughout the US among its members. Its Steering Committee is comprised of forty organizations and seventy individuals, and its Executive Committee collaborates with two National Coordinators: Professors James N. Green of Brown University and Gladys Mitchell-Walthour of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

The USNDB is a decentralized, democratic, non-partisan national network with three main objectives: (i) Educate the U.S. public about the current situation in Brazil; (ii) Defend social, economic, political, and cultural advances in Brazil; and (iii) Support social movements, community organizations, NGOs, universities, and activists, etc., who face diverse threats in the current political climate.

For more information about the policy paper, please contact James N. Green at [email protected], Gladys Mitchell-Walthour at [email protected], and Juliana de Moraes Pinheiro at  [email protected]. More information about the USNDB and the WBO can be found at