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The human rights diplomacy of Jimmy Carter and the transition to democracy in Brazil: a causal or a casual connection?

Simona Losito
IMT Institute for Advanced Studies, Lucca
Simona Losito
IMT Institute for Advanced Studies, Lucca
Open Panel

Abstract

Respect of fundamental rights, free and fair elections in a pluralistic political system, rule of law, and freedom of speech can be considered the four main aspects to assess the quality of a democracy. Torture, violation of political and civil rights, absence of a rule of law, and censorship were common practices in the authoritarian Brazil of the 1970s. 1974 is considered the turning year in which the political situation in Brazil started to change. Geisel’s presidency, and his "abertura lenta e gradual" represented the signal of a changing attitude. Today it is possible to affirm that it was the dawn of the Brazilian democratization. The Brazilian democratization process is commonly considered the classical example of a liberalization from above, as Mainwaring affirms. Still, democracy in Brazil was not only a concession from above but also an achievement from below. This paper wants to investigate the international and transnational civilian actors that contributed to weaken the roots of the military regime and to its end: the international organizations (such as the OAS), the NGOs (especially Amnesty International), the internal opposition of the Catholic Church and the students. One more aspect will be analyzed in depth: the “human rights diplomacy” Carter implemented toward Brazil especially in the years 1977/1978 together with the deep connection president Carter managed to create with the Clerics in Brazil. To what extent Carter''s foreign policy was a factor that contributed in a determining way to conclude the long Brazilian democratization process?