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The Human-Rights Movement Needs America

The recent inauguration of Jair Bolsonaro as Brazil’s president is just the latest setback for human rights around the world. America can once again play a pivotal role in advancing human rights – but only if it gets its own house in order first.

NEW YORK – These are disheartening times for international human-rights advocates. Even those of us who have promoted the human-rights cause for decades, and experienced many setbacks along the way, are deeply alarmed by recent developments around the world.

The latest was the inauguration of Jair Bolsonaro as Brazil’s president on January 1. Before launching his election campaign, Bolsonaro, an apparent admirer of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, joked about rape, expressed his disdain for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights, and made it clear that he would encourage police violence, which has long been widespread in Brazil. On his first day in office, he took significant steps to undercut protections for the country’s indigenous population and regulate non-governmental organizations.

Bolsonaro is not alone. The leaders of China, Russia, India, Turkey, and the United States also are largely hostile to human rights, as are many of their counterparts elsewhere. And governments still committed to human rights, notably Germany, often face domestic political opponents fueled by xenophobic nationalism.

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