Brazil Religion

Brazil Religion

In Brazil there are more Roman Catholics than in any other country in the world. However, the Catholic Church is losing ground to fast-growing revivalist Christian communities. Freedom of religion is enshrined in the Constitution and respected by the state power.

The proportion of Catholics in the population has dropped rapidly. In a 2016 survey, half of the residents identified themselves as Catholics, significantly fewer than the nearly two-thirds of the population that resulted in a census in 2010. More than a quarter of Brazilians today claim to be part of a wide range of evangelical communities. The proportion that does not identify with any religion at all has also increased, to 14 percent of the population.

Catholicism is often mixed with African religions and spiritualism (Macumba with a common name), where Afro-Brazilian religious rites such as Umbanda, Candomblé and Cardecism occur. The rites include media that speak to the spirits of the dead, food and animal sacrifices to the gods, and some “magic”. There are also West African and Native American religions as well as modern sects.

During the period of the military rule 1964–1985 (see Modern history) the so-called liberation theology became of great importance among Brazilian Catholics. Under the impression of this doctrine, local church so-called base groups waged an everyday struggle against poverty and oppression. It gave radical priests a strong popular support, while the regime persecuted them. With the return of democracy, the importance of liberation theology diminished. The church replaced radical bishops with conservatives, but has continued to speak for example street children and landless farmers.

Brazil Population Pyramid 2020

Through the growth of the Protestant churches, so-called success theology has in recent years taken root among many poor, a doctrine that Christian faith, among other things, brings financial success. The Pentecostal movement is, by default, set to the Afro-Brazilian religious expressions, which it is believed do not belong in today’s society, and it has happened that it has relied on its representatives by force.

  • Countryaah: Population statistics for 2020 and next 30 years in Brazil, covering demographics, population graphs, and official data for growth rates, population density, and death rates.



President’s son refuses to launder money

December 19

President Jair Bolsonaro’s eldest son Flávio denies charges of having laundered money that should have been misappropriated from public funds. The charges have been strengthened since properties were searched by Flávio Bolsonaro, several former advisers and relatives of one of Jair Bolsonaro’s former wives. Among other things, corruption investigators searched for a chocolate shop in Rio de Janeiro that Flávio Bolsonaro is a partner in. Flávio Bolsonaro is suspected of laundering money by buying apartments in cash, worth around $ 157,000. Prosecutors are investigating allegations of “ghost employees” who receive a salary without having any other task than to pay back part of the salary to their employer. Suspicions against the president’s son were discovered a year ago.January 2019).

The United States threatens with tariffs on steel and aluminum

December 2

US President Donald Trump announces via Twitter that tariffs are to be imposed on steel and aluminum from Brazil and Argentina, which escaped when such duties were introduced for, among others, the EU 2018. Trump accuses both countries of devaluing their currencies in a way that disadvantages American companies. President Bolsonaro says he will speak to Trump and hope to gain an understanding of Brazil’s dependence on commodity exports. Brazil is the second largest exporter of steel to the United States, after Canada. So far, both Brazil and Argentina have benefited from the US trade war against China in particular, as they have been able to increase agricultural exports there when American farmers are shut out.


Belo Monte power plant is inaugurated

November 27th

President Jair Bolsonaro is in place when the world’s fourth largest hydropower plant, Belo Monte, is inaugurated. The ceremony takes place in Vitória do Xingu in the state of Pará, in the Amazon. Construction of the disputed dam began in 2011 and has cost around $ 9.5 billion. The power plant has 24 turbines with a capacity of 11,200 megawatts.

Bolsonaro leaves his party

November 12

President Jair Bolsonaro states that he is leaving the Social Liberal Party (PSL) to form a new party. The message comes after several weeks of internal confrontations about who controls the party. Bolsonaro has tried to take control by appointing his party leader, but encountered stubborn opposition from PSL leader Luciano Bivar. Bolsonaro says he intends to form the Alliance for Brazil, which in that case will be his ninth party since he entered politics. The electoral law requires at least 500,000 signatures in at least nine states to register a party.

Lula is released after HD statements

November 8

Imprisoned ex-President Lula da Silva is set free on the day following a general decision in the Supreme Court affecting up to 5,000 people. Lula is met by cheering supporters and gives a speech accusing President Sair Jair Bolsonaro of making life difficult for a common man in Brazil. Bolsonaro tweets that Lula is guilty, even though he is now free. The Supreme Court’s decision means that prison sentences need not be served as long as a judgment can be appealed. This enabled Lula to go free after one and a half years in prison, despite having several years to serve (see April 23, 2019). The court’s decision, which was passed by six votes to five, tears up a three-year-old decision that the prisoner should start serving the sentence immediately.

Cultivation ban is lifted

November 6

President Jair Bolsonaro repeals a 2009 ban on sugar cane cultivation in the Amazon and Pantanal. This is happening despite protests from environmental groups who claim that the ban is needed to protect the sensitive tropical wetland areas. Sugarcane is used in Brazil for the production of ethanol. The ban on sugarcane cultivation in the Amazon and Pantanal was adopted in 2009, under the left president Lula da Silva. The purpose was to prevent deforestation and protect land that can be used for food production.


Record fire in Pantanal

October 31st

A five-mile wide fire then sweeps over the wetlands of Pantanal for a week and has destroyed 50,000 hectares of vegetation. According to the governor’s office in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, the fire is the largest seen in the area, which is one of the richest in the world. So far this year, 8,000 fires have been detected in Pantanal, which is an increase of 462 percent compared to the same period last year. More than 167,000 forest and land fires have been detected throughout Brazil so far this year.

The president puts down ambassador plans

22 October

President Jair Bolsonaro’s son announces that he is abandoning attempts to be approved as Brazil’s ambassador to the United States. Eduardo Bolsonaro, a congressman, states as a reason that he does not have enough support. The prosecutor in August took action to prevent the disputed appointment, requesting that a federal court decide on what is required in terms of background and experience if a non-diplomat is appointed as ambassador. Congress members from the opposition also demanded that the Supreme Court stop the appointment, which they believed was a rash policy. Eduardo Bolsonaro, who has often published photos of himself with world leaders such as US President Donald Trump and Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has recently turned 35, which is the minimum age for Brazilian ambassadors. President Bolsonaro has announced that Trump has approved the nomination.

Polisrazzia against government party

15 October

Federal police conduct a series of raids as a result of a campaign finance scandal, including at the home of party leader PSL government party, Luciano Bivar. The other eight places where raids are made include PSL’s headquarters, which, like Bivar’s home, is located in Recife. PSL is accused of having mainly female fake candidates in the 2018 election, with the aim of getting state funds for the party treasury. The charges are troublesome for President Jair Bolsonaros, who went to the PSL election with promises to eradicate corruption. In February, the president fired his adviser and former PSL leader Gustavo Bebianno, in connection with the scandal being revealed. Tourism Minister Marcelo Alvaro Antonio, also a PSL member, has been accused of involvement in the financing fraud.


Bolsonaro: “The media is lying about the Amazon”

September 25

In a speech to the UN General Assembly, President Jair Bolsonaro says the media is lying about fires in the Amazon and he is accusing other countries of having a “colonialist spirit”. He also questions the notion that the rainforest belongs to humanity and that it constitutes “the earth’s lung,” which is often the description. Bolsonaro reiterates his criticism of France for President Emmanuel Macron’s threat of sanctions. Both France and Ireland have threatened to block the EU- Mercosur FTA (see June 2019) due to environmental policy in Brazil. In the UN speech, Bolsonoaro expresses his gratitude to US President Donald Trump and his respect for the “freedom and sovereignty” of other countries. According to official figures, the deforestation rate in Brazil doubled during the first eight months of the year, compared with the same period in 2018. It has been identified as a major cause of a sharp increase in the number of forest fires, which is now reported to amount to 124,000. until it burns.


Prohibition to set fires

August 29th

A ban on setting fires in the next two months will take effect. The decree signed by President Jair Bolsonaro is a reaction to growing international criticism of the government’s way of dealing with the crisis, which risks seriously damaging Brazil’s reputation abroad. France and Ireland have threatened to withdraw their support for the EU trade agreement with Mercosur if no measures are taken to prevent the fires, and from Finland there has been a threat of boycott of Brazilian goods. The government has also deployed military in firefighting. The number of fires is now reported to be close to 85,000.

“No thanks to fire support”

August 26th

The government says that Brazil does not intend to receive $ 20 million offered by the G7 countries to deal with the fires in the Amazon. French President Emmanuel Macron, who just hosted a G7 meeting, has announced plans for the support. No reason for the denial is stated, but President Jair Bolsonaro has accused France of treating Brazil as a colony. The funds should be used to replant forest in Europe instead, it says.

Amazon fires are becoming big politics

22 August

Earlier this week, the data on record fires in the Amazon provide echoes worldwide, with great concern about the impact on the global climate. President Bolsonaro hardly casts oil on the waves when he claims that environmental groups have set fires. He then storms off against his French colleague Emmanuel Macron and accuses him of having a “colonialist mentality”. This has happened since Macron, before a forthcoming G7 meeting, has said that the fires in the Amazon are an “international crisis” that should be at the top of the agenda. “Our house is burning” was Macron’s message on Twitter. Bolsonaro calls it “sensationalism” and says Macron is only looking for political points. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has also expressed “deep concern” over the fires.

Many record fires

August 19th

The number of forest fires in the Amazon has increased by 83 percent during the first eight months of the year compared to the same period in 2018, to almost 73,000. The National Space Research Institute (Inpe) reports. One reason is considered to be the increased rate of deforestation. The fires have led to heavy smoke reaching several cities – including the Sao Paulo metropolis, 270 miles away.

Deforestation leads to canceled assistance

August 15th

Norway, as before, is doing Germany and stopping aid to the Amazon Fund, which aims to protect the rainforest, after the Brazilian government has broken an agreement to prevent deforestation. President Bolsonaro reacts with angry comments about Norwegian election hunting.


Bolsonaro questions the Truth Commission

July 30

President Jair Bolsonaro stirs up strong emotions with a statement that calls into question the Truth Commission, which in a 2014 report outlined human rights violations during the 1964-1985 military dictatorship. Bolsonaro notes that the Commission was appointed by left-wing President Dilma Rousseff and that its report is not to be trusted. The day before, Bolsonaro has mocked the Brazilian lawyer’s head whose father disappeared during the dictatorship, saying that he himself knows what happened to his father but “he doesn’t want to know.” A few days later he appoints a new commission to investigate abuse during the dictatorship.


Mercosur concludes free trade agreement with EU

June 28

Brazil and the other Mercosur countries reach a free trade agreement with the EU after 20 years of negotiations. However, in order to enter into force, the agreement must be approved by the European Parliament and all individual EU states, which can prove difficult due to increasing protectionism and opposition to free trade. The agreement is the second largest EU agreement, covering 780 million people and a quarter of the world’s GDP. Both environmental organizations and farmers in the EU are critical to the agreement.

Third Minister kicked

June 13th

President Jair Bolsonaro kicks a third minister since he took office almost six months ago. This time, it is former General Carlos Alberto dos Santos Cruz who is allowed to leave his post as minister in what is known as the Department of Government following clashes with Bolsanaro’s sons and with US-based writer Olavo de Carvalho, who is often called the president’s ideological “guru”. Carvalho has been running a dirt campaign against Santos Cruz online, not least since he proposed network restrictions. New minister becomes another army general, Luiz Eduardo Ramos Baptista Pereira.

Homophobia is criminalized

June 13th

With the numbers 8–3, the Supreme Court decides that discrimination against homosexuals is criminal. The Court ruled that anti-racism legislation should be applied until Congress adopts specific legislation on the expression of homophobia. Earlier, there were laws against discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation in about half of the states, but not at the federal level.

“Ex-President Lula convicted for political reasons”

June 8

Former Justice Minister Sérgio Moro worked with former prosecutor colleagues to convict former President Lula da Silva of corruption, with the aim of excluding him from the 2018 presidential election – according to the investigative journalist site The Intercept, which relies on recorded audio and images. Among other things, there must be evidence that prosecutors did not consider that there was evidence sufficient to convict Lula. Sérgio Moro was the judge who first sentenced Lula to prison in 2017, which meant he could not stand in the presidential election the following year. Investigators in “Operation Car Wash” admit that hackers have accessed their material but do not know the extent of the leak. Ex-President Lula who has been sentenced to prison (see April 2019)) has repeatedly claimed that he is innocent and has been sentenced for political reasons. Sérgio Moro accuses The Intercept of having come across the material illegally, and denies that he would have participated in a conspiracy to block Lula from the election.


Nearly 1,000 murder suspects are arrested

May 28

Police carry out an extensive operation in almost every state and arrest 968 suspected murderers in one day. This is phase two of an operation that started in August, when almost 3,000 people were arrested for murder or domestic violence.

Many prisoners killed in gang war

Violence that lasts for two days in a prison complex in the Amazon leads to the murder of 55 prisoners. Most have been strangled with sheets or chopped with sharpened toothbrushes. According to the authorities, it appears to have been settlements within a criminal organization. Around 100 soldiers are sent to strengthen the security at the prison. Concerns are great for revenge campaigns at other prisons and out in the community.

Mass demonstration against cuts

May 17

Tens of thousands of students and teachers are demonstrating in around 200 cities against a proposal for a 30 percent cut in funding for federal universities. The severe tightening is a result of the budget ceiling that was enacted in the constitution in December 2016. It is the first mass protest against the government since Jair Bolsonaro took office as President at the New Year. Bolsonaro takes an aggressive stance, calling the protesters “useful idiots and bad guys” while Education Minister Abraham Weintraub accuses the universities of not using their funds effectively and the students to just party.

Further liberalization of gun laws

May 7

A new presidential decree gives a wide range of professionals the right to carry loaded weapons in the service (see also January 15, 2019). Lawyers, truck drivers, politicians, farmers and journalists are some of the occupational categories that get the right to arm. Anyone who registers as a hunter or sports shooter is also entitled to carry weapons. Critics believe the change in the law contravenes the Constitution and fears that it will lead to an increase in deadly violence. The amendment to the law also means great relief regarding the import of weapons and in rules on how much ammunition a person may hold. After protests, Bolsanaro revises its decreeafter a couple of weeks, so that it no longer includes automatic weapons. But the protests continue and eventually Bolsonaro withdraws the decree and leaves Congress to legislate on the matter instead.

Ex-environment ministers protest against Bolsonaro

May 8

Eight Brazilian former environment ministers are protesting President Bolsonaro’s environmental policy and in particular the dismantling of rainforest protection. According to the ministers, the government is trying to systematically destroy the environmental protection that they have helped build up over 30 years with both left and right presidents. They note that the Amazon is invaluable for biodiversity and has a central impact on the world’s climate. Among the ministers are both Marina Silva who sat in Lula’s government and José Sarney Filho who served both Michel Temer and Fernando Henrique Cardoso.

Bolsonaro cancels US visits

May 3

President Jair Bolsonaro cancels a planned visit to New York because of extensive protests there against him. The Brazilian-US Chamber of Commerce had planned to honor him, but several sponsors and conceived venues for the ceremony have withdrawn following extensive protests. It is activists mainly for environmental issues and the rights of gays who have organized resistance to Bolsonaro. The president’s spokesman criticized New York’s Mayor Bill de Blasio and “interest groups” for canceling the visit.


Ex-President Lula receives a reduced sentence

April 23

An appeals court cuts former President Lula da Silva’s first prison sentence for bribery, from twelve years to eight years and ten months. It is slightly lower than the original penalty, which was increased after an initial appeal (see January 24, 2018). The four judges also reduce the fine Lula was fined, to a fraction of the previous amounts. According to Lula’s lawyers, the work will continue to get Lula completely acquitted, even in the case of the second verdict against him (see February 6, 2019).

Indigenous people warn of “apocalypse”

April 10

Indigenous people of the Amazon feel more threatened to life than in decades since President Bolsonaro took office. It claims an alliance representing 13 groups in the French newspaper Le Monde. They write that the first steps have been taken towards an “apocalypse” where the indigenous peoples become the first victims. Particular mention is made of Bolsonaro’s promises to allow more agriculture and forest harvesting in the Amazon, as well as to facilitate more mining and dam construction.

The Minister of Education is being kicked

April 8

President Jair Bolsonaro dismisses his Minister of Education, the ultra-conservative Ricardo Vélez Rodríguez, who has criticized, among other things, by proposing that the school books be rewritten so that the takeover of power in 1964 is not called a military coup. About 20 high-ranking people in the Ministry of Education have resigned during Rodríguez’s brief term as minister. Rodríguez becomes the second minister to leave: in February, Bolsonaro dismissed his Secretary-General Gustavo Bebianno, who was accused of cheating with campaign finance.


Order to celebrate the military coup

March 25th

President Jair Bolsonaro orders the Department of Defense and the Armed Forces to appropriately celebrate the military takeover on March 31, 1964. Bolsonaro’s spokesman says the president does not consider it a military coup, but a way for civilians and the military to save the country.

A new regional forum is formed

March 22

President Jair Bolsonaro and seven other South American presidents, during a meeting in Chile, launch the new Regional Forum for the Progress of South America (Prosur) which is intended to replace Unasur – a regional body that has effectively ceased to function. Prosecur will mainly support democracy and the market economy, it says. The initiative has been taken by the presidents of Chile and Colombia, and the other participating countries are Argentina, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay and Peru. Representatives of the left-wing governments in Bolivia, Surinam and Uruguay attend the meeting, but those countries do not join Prosur. Venezuela was not invited.

Ex-President Temer seizes

21 March

Former President Michel Temer is arrested on charges of corruption suspicions against him (see also December 2018). The federal prosecutor accuses Temer of being the leader of a criminal organization dedicated to embezzlement and money laundering for decades. Among other things, half a billion dollars should have been paid for a nuclear construction that was never completed. Former Minister of Mines and Energy Moreira Franco is also arrested, as are several other people. Temer is placed in preventive detention, but a judge puts him on leave a few days later. In May, however, an appeals court decides that Temer should be remanded in custody, but another judge will soon make sure he gets out again.

Two arrests for politician murder

the 12th of March

Nearly a year after the assassination of politician and activist Marielle Franco (see March 13, 2018), two men, both former military police, are arrested. One man is arrested in his home, located in the property that President Bolsonaro lives in while in Rio de Janeiro. The other man is said to have had a picture of himself and Bolsonaro on his Facebook page, although the page then disappears. The links with the president are attracting much attention, but according to the police, this is a coincidence.


New prison sentence against ex-president Lula

6th of February

Former President Lula da Silva is sentenced to a further close to 13 years in prison, again for corruption. The Curitiba court finds that Lula has been renovated by a construction company that is deeply involved in a corruption legacy. The company must have renovated a house that Lula frequently visited, worth about $ 270,000. Lula rejects the charges and says he does not own the house, but according to Judge Gabriela Hardt he has visited the house much more often than the owner and ordered the work himself. Hardt has taken over as head of the criminal investigation Operation Car Wash after Sérgio Moro (see January 1, 2019). Lula, who has already been sentenced to twelve years in prison (see January 24, 2018), is now sentenced to another twelve years and eleven months.


New dust disaster requires hundreds of lives

January 25

A dam at a mine in Brumhadinho in the state of Minas Gerais bursts, causing hundreds of people to be buried under clay. Some can be saved, but a total of around 270 people are killed. It is the deadliest mining accident in the country’s history. The dam is owned by the mining company Vale, which is already facing major claims for damages following an earlier dust disaster (see November 2015). Vale is the world’s largest iron ore producer.

Growing scandal surrounding the president’s son

January 21st

President Jair Bolsonaro is setting up a scheduled press conference in Davos, Switzerland, where he will give talks to the global finance team in the World Economic Forum, in order to avoid answering questions about his son Flávio’s financial progress. The Brazilian eco-crime agency Coaf has discovered that 48 deposits totaling $ 30,000 were made in Flávio Bolsonaro’s bank account in 2017, over a five-day period. Each deposit was below the threshold for when the person paying the money had to identify himself. Flávio Bolsonaro claims that the money involved an apartment deal. But questions have also been raised about transactions in excess of $ 300,000 that were discovered in an account belonging to his former driver and bodyguard, Fabrício Queiroz police. Some of that money was later transferred to Jair Bolsonaro’s wife’s account.

Less restrictive gun laws

January 15

President Bolsonaro fulfills a key electoral promise when he, through a decree, facilitates gun laws so that “good” citizens can arm themselves and fight criminals. In practice, all adults over the age of 25 who are not in the criminal record are allowed to buy weapons and store them at home. Critics fear that the less restrictive gun laws will lead to increased violence.

Soldiers should stop worry in the Northeast

January 8

The government sends hundreds of soldiers to the state of Ceara in the northeast, where criminal gangs have launched a wave of vandalism after a newly incarcerated prison chief decided to seize the interns’ cell phones. The gang sets fire to buses, service establishments, banks and businesses and also tries to destroy roads and bridges. A total of 500 soldiers from a federal police force are dispatched to the state to stop the unrest. The events in Ceara will be a first challenge for President Bolsonaro, who has promised tough times to cope with the extensive violence in the country.

Political cleansing among state entrepreneurs

January 3rd

The government announces that it has started a purge of contractors who work on behalf of the state but who are not considered to have the right ideological attitude, ie entrepreneurs who sympathize with the Labor Party that ruled the country from 2003 to 2016. Hundreds of contracts are terminated. Chief of Staff Onyx Lorenzoni says that “the house must be cleaned” in order for the new government to implement its program.

Bolsonaro occupies the presidential palace

January 1st

Right-wing nationalist Jair Bolsonaro takes over as president. In his installation speech, Bolsonaro says he will “liberate Brazil from socialism” and promises a crusade against crime and corruption. Justice ministers in the new government will be the judge who was the leader in the huge corruption investigation into Operation Car Wash, Sérgio Moro. He is also given responsibility for public safety, since the two ministries are merged. Moro’s appointment has diluted accusations that he was politically motivated in his work, which struck particularly hard against the Labor Party (PT). Seven of the 22 ministers are military. Only two ministers are women and none are black, even though half the country’s population is at least partly of African origin.

Brazil Religion