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Photo: “11/07/2019 Solenidade de Posse do Diretor-Geral da ABIN, Alexandre Ramagem“, by Palácio do Planalto licensed under CC BY 2.0. Hue modified from the original

Smith, Amy Erica. “Covid vs. Democracy: Brazil’s Populist Playbook.” Journal of Democracy 31, no. 4 (2020): 76-90.


Covid-19 has had unambiguously tragic human consequences in Brazil, which have been exacerbated by President Jair Bolsonaro’s “executive underreach” in failing to follow public-health guidance. Yet the democratic impacts are mixed. On the one hand, the health crisis may have diminished the risk of military intervention, belying Bolsonaro’s expressed support for military insurrection and encouraging elites to resist his “performative golpismo.” On the other hand, the pandemic has furthered societal polarization and encouraged citizens to interpret even information on matters of immediate personal health through partisan filters. If the pandemic is a crucible, Brazil’s democracy will likely emerge brittle but intact.

The Illiberalism Studies Program studies the different faces of illiberal politics and thought in today’s world, taking into account the diversity of their cultural context, their intellectual genealogy, the sociology of their popular support, and their implications on the international scene.