Brazil is currently led by far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, who is openly sexist, homophobic and racist. The UK government is trying hard to increase arms sales to Brazil, despite the worsening political situation.

Last updated 8 January 2021


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.

Bolsonaro speaks 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 already 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 have worsened since Bolsonaro took office, while deforestation has increased and legal protections against mining in the Amazon have been stripped.

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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. However, the UK government is trying hard to change this, despite the worsening political situation in Brazil. UK arms sales to Brazil have increased substantially in recent years.

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.

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.

The UK government has also licensed the sale of nearly £4 million of small arms and accessories to both military and law enforcement end-users. It has reported delivering 872 submachine guns and 777 assault rifles to Brazil from 2013 to 2017. Such equipment is of particular relevance for repression and human rights abuses in the favelas and elsewhere.

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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