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January 20, 2023

Challenges to Democracy in Brazil and the Implications for Lula’s Presidency

Lula da Silva gives his inauguration speech.

On January 8, 2023, Brazilian democratic institutions came under attack from a group of former president Jair Bolsonaro’s supporters protesting the government of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who assumed office a week earlier after a contentious election rife with misinformation. What is the state of democracy in Brazil, and how did Lula’s government respond to the incident? What are the medium-term implications for governability in Brazil of the increase in polarization over the last decade? How will this attack impact Lula’s policies on food insecurity, education inequality, and the climate crisis amid slow economic growth and a Congress controlled by a conservative majority? To address these questions, the Georgetown Americas Institute welcomed Monica de Bolle, senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, and Matias Spektor, associate professor at the Brazilian Institute of International Relations at Fundação Getulio Vargas, for a conversation about the state of affairs in Brazil and what to expect from the new administration of Lula da Silva. The discussion was moderated by GAI Founding Director Alejandro Werner.

This event was be livestreamed on Youtube. Read the event summary here.


Monica de Bolle has been a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics since January 2017 and is former director for Latin American studies and emerging markets at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University. She focuses on macroeconomics, foreign exchange policy, monetary and fiscal policy, trade and inequality, financial regulation, and capital markets. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she has also expanded into public health research and specialized in immunology, genetics, and biochemistry at Harvard Medical School. De Bolle is currently pursuing an advanced graduate degree in infectious diseases and human immunology at Georgetown University. De Bolle has authored and coauthored a number of books on the global economy and Brazil's policy challenges including How to Kill the Blue Butterfly: A Chronicle of the Dilma Era (2016), The State of the World Economy, Challenges and Responses: Essays in Honor of Pedro S. Malan (2014), The Future of Brazilian Manufacturing: The Deindustrialization Debate (2013), and New Dilemmas in Economic Policy (2011). De Bolle obtained her B.A. in economics from the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro and holds a Ph.D. in economics from the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Matias Spektor is a senior fellow at the Brazilian Center of International Relations (CEBRI). Spektor is also an associate professor and founder of the School of International Relations at Fundação Getulio Vargas (FGV). He completed his doctorate at Oxford University and has held visiting positions at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the Council on Foreign Relations, the London School of Economics, and King’s College London. He is also a regular commentator on Brazilian politics and foreign affairs, contributing to outlets such as the New York Times, Financial Times, and Foreign Affairs. Between 2012 and 2019, he was a foreign policy columnist at Folha de S. Paulo, Brazil's leading daily newspaper.

Alejandro Werner (moderator) is the founding director of the Georgetown Americas Institute and a non-resident senior fellow at the Peterson Institute. He recently completed almost nine years as director of the Western Hemisphere Department at the International Monetary Fund. Prior to that appointment, he was undersecretary of finance and public credit in Mexico’s Finance Ministry and held several positions in that ministry and the Central Bank. He also taught at leading universities in Mexico, Spain, and the United States. He holds a Ph.D. in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a B.A. in economics from ITAM.