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12 August 2022

TLI and the Campaign to Defend Democracy in Brazil

The resounding call from Brazil, "democratic rule of law always", was heard loud and clear in King's College London when Professor Octavio Ferraz read the "Letter to Brazilians in Defence of Democratic Rule of Law" at the same time as it was read in Sao Paulo. Over a million people have already signed the letter and showed their support for Brazilian democracy ahead of the elections and the attempts by the current president to undermine their legitimacy. If you wish to join the campaign and sign the letter - follow instructions bellow

Brazil Mass Rally for Democracy
Mass rally in Sao Paulo in support of the Letter to Brazilians, 11 August 2022

Over a million Brazilians have already signed the "Letter to Brazilians in Defence of Democratic Rule of Law". Yesterday, the 11th of August, the letter was read publicly in Sao Paulo in a mass rally against the attempts by President Jair Bolsonaro to undermine the legitimacy of the upcoming elections and the suggestion that he might not respect the results (see The Guardian, 9 August 2022, Brazilians fear return to dictatorship as ‘deranged’ Bolsonaro trails in polls).

The Transnational Law Institute, the King’s Observatory of Democracy in Latin America and the King’s Brazil Institute held a reading event of the "Letter to Brazilians": at the same time as the reading in Sao Paulo, Prof. Octavio Ferraz read an English version of the letter (see full text below) at the Dickson Poon School of Law. Many joined us in the Moot Court, and many others online.

You can watch the reading here.

Our event at King's College was reported in the Brazilian media. Watch Professor Octavio Ferraz discuss (in Portuguese) the initiative and democratic decline in Brazil here.

If you are Brazilian and have a CPF number (Brazil’s tax number), you can sign the letter directly at the University of Sao Paulo Law School here. If you are not Brazilian or do not have a CPF number and want to sign this letter, please send an email to with the subject “Letter to Brazilians” and we will add you to this page.

Here is the full text of the letter:

A Letter to Brazilians in Defence of Democratic Rule of Law

In August 1977, amidst the celebrations of the sesquicentennial of the foundation of the Law Schools in Brazil, professor Goffredo da Silva Telles Junior, master of all of us, in the free territory of Largo de São Francisco, read the Letter to Brazilians, in which he denounced the illegitimacy of the then military government and the state of exception in which we lived. It also called for the re-establishment of the rule of law and the convening of a National Constituent Assembly.

The seed planted bore fruit. Brazil overcame the military dictatorship. The National Constituent Assembly rescued the legitimacy of our institutions, reestablishing the democratic rule of law with the prevalence of respect for fundamental rights.

We have the powers of the Republic, the Executive, the Legislative and the Judiciary, all independent, autonomous and committed to respecting and ensuring compliance with the greater covenant, the Federal Constitution.

Under the mantle of the Federal Constitution of 1988, which is about to complete its 34th anniversary, we went through free and periodic elections, in which the political debate on projects for the country has always been democratic, with the final decision being left to popular sovereignty.

Goffredo's lesson is embodied in our Constitution “All power emanates from the people, who exercise it through their elected representatives or directly, under the terms of this Constitution”.

Our elections with the electronic counting process have served as an example in the world. We had several alternations of power which respected the results of the polls and led to a republican transition of government. Electronic voting machines, as well as the Electoral Justice, proved to be safe and reliable.

Our democracy has grown and matured, but much remains to be done. We live in a country of profound social inequalities, with deficits in essential public services, such as health, education, housing and public safety. We have a long way to go in developing our economic potential in a sustainable way. The State is inefficient in the face of its numerous challenges. Demands for greater respect and equality of conditions in terms of race, gender and sexual orientation are still far from being fully met.

In the coming days, in the midst of these challenges, we will have the beginning of the electoral campaign to renew the mandates of state and federal legislatures and executives. At this moment, we should have the apex of democracy with the dispute between the various political projects aimed at convincing the electorate of the best proposal for the direction of the country in the coming years.

Instead of a civic celebration, we are going through a moment of immense danger to democratic normality, of risk to the institutions of the Republic and of insinuations of contempt for the results of the elections.

Groundless attacks unaccompanied by evidence question the fairness of the electoral process and the democratic rule of law so hard won by Brazilian society. Threats to other powers and sectors of civil society and the incitement to violence and the breakdown of the constitutional order are intolerable.

We have recently witnessed authoritarian rants that have jeopardized secular American democracy. There, attempts to destabilize democracy and the people's confidence in the fairness of the elections were unsuccessful. Here, they won't be either.

Our civic conscience is much greater than the opponents of democracy imagine. We know how to put aside minor differences in favor of something much bigger, the defense of the democratic order.

Imbued with the civic spirit that underpinned the 1977 Letter to Brazilians and gathered in the same free territory of Largo de São Francisco, regardless of the electoral or partisan preference of each one, we call on Brazilians to be alert in the defense of democracy and respect for the election result.

In today's Brazil there is no more room for authoritarian setbacks. Dictatorship and torture belong to the past. The solution to the immense challenges facing Brazilian society necessarily involves respect for the results of the elections.

In civic vigil against attempts at ruptures, we cry out in unison:

Democratic Rule of Law Always!!!!

Reading of the Letter to Brazilians Ferraz

The following institutions and persons support the above letter:

The Transnational Law Institute, King’s College London

The King’s Observatory of Democracy in Latin America (KODLA)

The King’s Brazil Institute

Professor Richard Abel (UCLA)

Dr Emily Barritt (King’s College London)

Chris Bostic (USA)

Professor Bojan Bugaric (University of Sheffield)

Dr Francisco Dominguez (Middlesex University)

Professor Keith Ewing (King’s College London)

Stephen Fry (English actor, broadcaster, comedian, director and writer)

Professor Roberto Gargarella (University of Buenos Aires)

Justice Baltasar Garzon (Spain)

Professor Siri Gloppen (University of Bergen)

Professor Thomas J. Glynn (Stanford University)

Professor Tania Groppi (University of Siena)

Megan Hawkes (King’s College London)

GW Hoffman

Laurent Huber Action on Smoking and Health US

Professor Dan Hunter (King’s College London)

Sir Jeffrey Jowell (Blackstones Chambers)

Professor Jeff King (University College London)

Omri Levin (King’s College London)

Professor Natasha Lindstaedt (University of Essex)

Dr Ewan McGaughey (King’s College London)

Richard Meeran (Leigh Day)

Professor David Nelken (King’s College London)

Professor Ole Frithjof Norheim (University of Bergen)

Tim Otty QC (Blackstone Chambers)

Professor Eva Pils (King’s College London)

Dr Josh Platzky Miller (University of KwaZulu-Natal and the University of Cambridge)

Dr Hannah Quirk (King's College London)

Professor Martin Raw (New York University)

Professor Massimo Renzo (King's College London)

Professor David M. Trubek (UW-Madison)

Professor David H. Treece (King's Brazil Institute)

Bruce Wheeler Society for Research on Nicotine & Tobacco

Dr Bruce M. Wilson (University of Central Florida)

Dr Alicia Ely Yamin (Harvard University)

In this story

Vinicius  de Carvalho

Reader in Brazilian and Latin American Studies