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Brazil 36 Years After the End of the Military Regime: Celebration and Concern - 2 February 2021

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Join us for this amazing panel organised by King’s Department of Political Economy and King’s Brazil Institute to celebrate Brazil’s 36th anniversary of re-democratisation and to reflect on some of the most important challenges that remain for the country in its search for a sustainable path to inclusive growth.

In January 1985, after 21 years, political power in Brazil was finally returned to civilians. During military rule Brazilians endured censorship, torture, and exclusion. After re-democratisation, a wave of optimism swept the country as a new constitution, full of guarantees to social, political and civil rights, was introduced in 1988, and in 1989 a new presidential election was called for the first time in almost three decades. Between the decades of 1990 and 2000 some of the country’s deepest and long-lasting problems were tackled with some success. Inflation and debt came under control, school enrollment and years of education improved remarkably across the population, Brazil built an ambitious universal public healthcare system, independent judicial and public accountability institutions were created and strengthened, extreme poverty was drastically reduced and - to the surprise of many analysts - even Brazil’s income distribution improved significantly. Moreover, the economy grew above rich countries’ average for some time and, in a historic moment, Brazil survived the global financial crisis of 2007-2008 almost unscathed.

However, the 2010s were a cold shower. Protesters took to the streets against poor public services, corruption, high levels of violence and a slowdown in the economy, amongst other issues. Many people described the country’s political system as broken and public trust in institutions and political parties reached record lows. During this decade Brazilians watched their second president being impeached in less than 25 years, they faced the longest economic recession on record, the number of homicides per year reached the top of global charts, and a gigantic police investigation caught all major parties deeply involved in billion-dollar corruption scandals. Even infant mortality and extreme poverty worsened during this period. In 2018, a former army captain, obscure member of parliament and poorly funded candidate, Jair Bolsonaro, won Brazil’s presidential election vowing to ‘break the system’ and restore order. For that, he counted on the support of some military men during his campaign. Bolsonaro was elected after winning a majority of votes among the poor, the middle-class, and the rich. He has always been an open defender of the military regime and its practices of torture and repression, and for his ministerial team he has appointed both former and active military officials to key positions in the cabinet.

Join us for the event to learn more about inequality, education, informality, and political institutions in Brazil with our excellent panelists.


Nicola Phillips is Professor of Political Economy and Vice President & Vice Principal (Education) at King’s College London. Nicola was the Chair of the British International Studies Association (BISA) in 2015-2016, and a member of the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF) sub-panel for Politics and International Studies. She has been an editor of both the Review of International Political Economy and New Political Economy, serving as the latter’s Editor-in-Chief between 2004 and 2010. She is a member of the editorial and advisory boards of several journals and book series, including Review of International Studies, International Affairs, and the Cambridge Studies in International Relations series. Nicola received the award of Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences (FAcSS) in 2016.

Francisco H.G. Ferreira is the Amartya Sen Professor of Inequality Studies and Director of the International Inequalities Institute at the London School of Economics. Francisco, also known as Chico, is an economist working on the measurement, causes and consequences of inequality and poverty, with an emphasis on developing countries in general and Latin America in particular. His work has been published widely, including in the Journal of Public Economics, Journal of Development Economics, Journal of Applied Econometrics, Review of Income and Wealth, Journal of Agricultural Economics, Journal of Economic Inequality, the World Bank Economic Review and World Development. His research has been awarded various prizes, including the Richard Stone Prize in Applied Econometrics and the Kendrick Prize from the International Association for Research in Income and Wealth. He is a Research Fellow at IZA and currently serves as Vice-President of the Latin American and Caribbean Economic Association.

Joana Silva is an Associate Professor at CATÓLICA-LISBON since 2019. She has expertise in applied microeconomics, with particular focus on development, labour markets, international trade, firm dynamics, and policy evaluation. Her research has been published in leading academic journals, including the American Economic Review, Journal of International Economics, Review of International Economics, and other specialized outlets. Joana led several large-scale research programs on Poverty, Inequality, Labour Markets and Social programs. She has also co-authored two World Bank Regional flagship reports, and managed lending operations to several countries. She has extensive experience advising and supporting countries on the design and analysis of economic reforms, social programs and monitoring and evaluation systems.

Matias Spektor is Associate Professor and Founder of the School of International Relations at FGV. His areas of expertise include international security and foreign policy. Current projects include the study of nuclear latency, elite manipulation of public opinion during foreign-policy crises, the global anticorruption regime, autocracy promotion and covert action, and the impact of minority presidentialism on the conduct of foreign affairs. He completed his doctorate at Oxford University, and has held visiting positions at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the Council on Foreign Relations, the LSE, and King’s College London. Matias is also a regular commentator on Brazilian politics and foreign affairs through outlets such as the New York Times, the Financial Times, and Foreign Affairs. In the period 2012-19 he was foreign policy columnist at Folha de S. Paulo, Brazil's leading daily newspaper.

Anthony Pereira  (moderator) is Professor of Brazilian Studies and International Development at King’s College London. Before joining King’s in 2010, Professor Pereira held positions at the New School for Social Research in New York City, the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in the Boston area, and Tulane University in New Orleans, all in the United States, and the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom. He has also been a visiting professor at the Federal University of Pernambuco in Recife, the Federal University of Minas Gerais in Belo Horizonte, and the International Relations Institute of the University of São Paulo in the city of São Paulo, Brazil. His recent books include (with Jeff Garmany) ‘Understanding Contemporary Brazil’ (Routledge, 2018) and ‘Modern Brazil: A Very Short Introduction’ (Oxford University Press, 2020).

At this event

Anthony  Pereira

Anthony Pereira

Professor of Brazilian Studies

Francisco  Ferreira

Francisco Ferreira

Visiting Research Fellow

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Event details

2 February 2021

Online event