Deaths and economic insecurity caused by the coronavirus pandemic have reduced political freedom around the world to its lowest level since 2005, according to Freedom House, a human rights organization.
On the basis of 26 criteria of political rights and civil liberties, the entity classifies each year more than 200 countries and territories into three categories: free, partially free and non-free. In 2020, 78 of them lost their freedom, while 29 advanced, the worst result in 15 years. 82 countries were considered free, the lowest number since 2005.
With 74 points out of 100 possible, Brazil has maintained its classification as a free country, at the lower limit when it comes to civil liberties. The report says that, although polarized, the political environment is open to debate and the elections are competitive and free. “However, independent journalists and civil society activists are vulnerable to harassment and violent attacks.”
Freedom House also identifies the weaknesses of high rates of violent crime, rampant corruption, lack of trust in traditional political parties, social discrimination and violence against LGBT people.
Compared to the previous year, the country has lost one point in terms of equality of opportunity and freedom of economic exploitation. “At the start of the pandemic, poverty and inequality in Brazil increased more since 2014 than in any other country in Latin America, and there were record unemployment and labor force levels,” the report said.
According to Freedom House, the Brazilian government’s aid program reduced poverty rates in 2020, but “did not include structural changes to contain the trend of greater inequality.”
For Sarah Repucci, chief of the analysis department at Freedom House, and analyst Amy Slipowitz, the pandemic “has shifted the international balance in favor of tyranny”: “Current leaders are increasingly using force to crush the opponents and settle their scores, in the name of public health ”.
In addition to the greater number of non-free countries, the scores of these countries have declined on average by around 15%. Democratic activists have been arrested, tortured or killed in various places, while most of the public was mobilized to fight the health emergency, according to the organization.
Among the countries that have retreated into freedom, the one that has suffered the biggest loss is Belarus, which since August 2020 has imposed a severe crackdown on opponents of dictator Alexandr Lukachenko. The European country, which has detained tens of thousands of people and has more than 200 political prisoners this month, has lost eight points out of a possible 100 in 2020.
According to the report’s authors, last year’s ranking shows that “the long democratic recession is deepening.” They claim that the changes precipitated by the pandemic have left many societies – with different types of regimes, income levels and demographics – in worse political conditions, with more pronounced racial, ethnic and gender inequalities and freedoms more vulnerable. long-term effects.
The organization says nearly 75% of the world’s population lived in a country that became less democratic in 2020, a number heavily influenced by two of the most populous countries on the planet, China and India. In the Chinese case, the clearest evidence of hardening has been the siege against freedoms and legal autonomy in Hong Kong.
Analysts also point out that the Asian country has used the United States’ retirement during the administration of former President Donald Trump to increase its influence in multilateral institutions, such as the Human Rights Council. UN.
India, which was once considered the most populous democracy in the world, was also downgraded in Freedom House’s analysis, a move that had already been detected by other global clues, like DeMax’s. During the reign of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the country went from free to partially free.
“The ruling Hindu nationalist movement encouraged the use of Muslims as scapegoats during the pandemic, blaming them disproportionately for the spread of the virus and exposing them to vigilante attack,” the report said. Journalists covering the protests were also cracked down.
Analysts said the invasion of the U.S. Congress in early 2021 was a visible symptom of the U.S. democratic deterioration of the previous year, prompted by Trump’s refusal to admit defeat in the November election.
Chile, the third freest in the Americas, behind Canada and Uruguay, is cited as an example of a country where protest movements have led to democratic improvements, but this is an exception.
Less than 20% of the world’s population now live in free countries, the lowest proportion since 1995 in Freedom House surveillance. Of the 35 American countries and territories analyzed by the entity, 21 are considered free. Brazil is in 20th position.