Brazil is a significant UK arms customer and a growing arms producer. While Brazil's external relations are peaceful, extreme police violence against mostly black communities is rampant. Violence by illegal mining and foresting operators against indigenous peoples and environmental activists is also a serious problem, although the current government is increasing efforts to tackle this.

Last updated 25 August 2023


Brazil was under direct military rule until 1985, when it started gradually moving towards a democratic government. President ‘Lula’ da Silva of the left-wing Worker’s Party, once fiercely opposed by the military, was elected in 2002.

In January 2018, far-right President Jair Bolsonaro was elected – a fascist who is openly sexist, homophobic and racist. He has talked about his hatred for Brazilians of African descent and indigenous Brazilians, and promised to “cleanse” Brazil of people with opposing, left-wing politics. In the 2022 presidential election, Bolsonaro was defeated by former President Lula, who took office in January 2023. Bolsonaro and his fascist movement remain major political players in Brazil.

Bolsonaro spoke proudly of Brazil’s brutal military dictatorship of the past, which saw thousands tortured and murdered, saying they did not go far enough, and promising to further militarise the police. The police and army inflict violence on Brazil’s poor communities and people of colour, especially in the barrios of Rio de Janeiro, killing hundreds of people every year. Police killings increased to record levels in 2019.

Brazil’s indigenous people were already facing violence because of illegal logging and gold mining in the Amazon, as well as by Government security forces. Police violence and attacks on indigenous people worsened under Bolsonaro’s rule, while deforestation increased and legal protections against mining in the Amazon were stripped. The new administration of President Lula has, however, started to reverse many of Bolsonaro’s policies, leading to greatly reduced deforestation, and stronger efforts to protect indigenous people.

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By Victormferreira CC BY-SA 4.0 on Wikimedia Commons

Jair Bolsonaro

Jair Bolsonaro is a fascist. His election has given rise to grave fears among large sections of Brazilian society, and threatens to undermine Brazil's democratic progress since the end of military rule in 1985.

Posters on a pavement about repression in Brazil

Repression in the Favelas

Many poor, urban communities in Brazil, especially the Favelas of Rio de Janeiro, have been subject to severe armed violence at the hands of drug gangs, paramilitary militias formed in opposition to these gangs, and the police and armed forces.

Credit: Darren Johnson

Indigenous rights in Brazil

Brazil is home to around 900,000 indigenous people. Indigenous people still face discrimination and repression in a variety of ways and are under continual pressure from the powerful agribusiness and other industry lobbies. The election of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro threatens potential catastrophe for Brazil’s indigenous population.

Activist holding up image of a person wearing red lipstick and sunflowers on a yellow background

Brazilian Women Against Fascism

A group of immigrant Latina women from Brazil living in the UK, Brazilian Women Against Fascism UK was created to fight the rise of fascism in Brazil, after the election of new president Jair Bolsonaro.


UK arms sales to Brazil

Brazil has traditionally bought only a small proportion of its weapons from the UK. Between 2018-22, the UK approved £454 million worth of

Two major exports authorized in 2018 were:

  • 8 Super Lynx anti-submarine warfare helicopters, for £106 million, from a deal agreed in 2014, upgrading Brazil’s existing Lynx Mk21 helicopters;
  • The Royal Navy helicopter carrier HMS Ocean was sold to Brazil in February 2018 for £84 million, and delivered in September.

More recently, £63 million worth of military helicopters were licenced in 2020, and a further £50m of military helicopters and components for military training aircraft in 2022.

Most other UK exports to Brazil have been for aircraft and components, and military electronics. There are also major UK components in the Saab Gripen fighter aircraft, 36 of which were ordered by Brazil from Sweden for $5.8 billion in 2015, including the radar system and the landing gear.

Brazil's arms industry and suppliers

Credit: Alexandre Durão/Revista Força Aérea CC BY-SA 2.0 on Flickr

Brazil’s arms suppliers

Brazil's arms come from a range of international suppliers, as well as its domestic arms industry. It was the 35th biggest importer of major conventional weapons between 2009-2018.

Dozens of used tear gas canisters with Condor markings visible lying on ground.

Brazil’s arms industry

Brazil has a substantial domestic arms industry, and was the 24th biggest exporter of major conventional weapons between 2008-2017. It hosts a major biennial arms fair, LAAD Defence and Security, which is strongly supported by the Brazilian government and armed forces.


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