Transparency’s Gestation at 9 Months – Does Bolsonaro Deliver?

Transparency for them, privacy for us! As its honeymoon draws to a close, the Bolsonaro government has revealed an insecure commitment to transparency. There are good reasons for feeling insecure. My research (here and here, and forthcoming book) has shown that few democratic regimes are as undecided about transparency as uncohesive minority governments, of which Bolsonaro’s is a prime example. Not only does Bolsonaro lack a reliable majority coalition in Congress, but his administration has been riveted by divisions among politicians...

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Legality, Legitimacy and Logic – Why Expanding Secrecy Makes No Sense

Published in O Globo, authored by Gregory Michener & Irene Niskier. While President Jair Bolsonaro spoke in Davos, his Vice President, Hamilton Mourão, and Chief of Staff, Onyx Lorenzoni, perpetrated a small change in Brazil’s freedom of information (FOI) law that will amount to big negative effects for transparency, the federal public administration, and the current administration. To recap, a secrecy decree (9690/2019) increased the number of authorities who can classify information as reserved, secret, and ultra-secret. The...

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Bolsonaro and generals

Bolsonaro’s Turn to Secrecy – Weakening Brazil’s Freedom of Information Law

Originally published in Folha de São Paulo, authored by Gregory Michener and Irene Niskier. President Jair Bolsonaro was elected based on two noble promises: advance the rule of law to fight crime and corruption, and strengthen Brazil’s fiscal position by creating a more efficient state. Transparency is a precondition for advancing both of these promises. So how does a decision to greatly expand secrecy (decree 9690) in government contribute to realizing Bolsonaro’s promises? It does not; it does exactly the opposite. What is...

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Brazil’s Next President – “O Maluco” v. “A Máfia” (The Madman v. The Mafia)

Tomorrow, people will be forced to decide whether to vote for what one group of voters is calling a “madman” (Jair Bolsonaro) and another group of voters often refer to as “a mafia” (the PT or Workers’ Party). There is no least of these worst choices  – they are both appalling. It is an anti-candidate election; the winner will be the candidate voters reject less, not the one viewed to be the better choice. It’s hard to predicate a solid democracy on a contest between “not him” and “not that party”...

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