Elisângela Mendonça

I'm a trilingual, London-based Brazilian journalist with over 13 years of experience in reporting, production, research, communications, fact-checking and investigations. Passionate about the democratic role of journalism, my core interests are impact journalism, human rights and environmental issues.

Before moving to London in 2018 to have my MA in International Journalism at City University, I spent three years producing in-depth, creative, ambitious multimedia projects in Rio de Janeiro for the Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail. I was in charge of the production of projects that have won international recognition – looking at everything from Amazonian deforestation to the spread of the Lava Jato corruption crisis across Latin America.

I speak Portuguese, English and Spanish. Currently Environment Reporter at The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, in London. Cat lady.

2020 State Street Institutional Press Awards - Covid-19 Commentary Winner


Reign of fire: blazes surge on ‘protected’ Amazon land under Bolsonaro

Devastating fires on legally protected land in the Amazon rainforest have surged under Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro, the Bureau can reveal. The Bureau’s investigation also found that beef from farmers accused of illegal deforestation – and subsequently sanctioned with embargoes – has still been making its way into global supply chains, including those serving at least two of the world’s biggest meat companies, JBS and Marfrig.

After a mine killed their river, a Brazil tribe fights for a new home

One year after a tailings dam collapsed in Brazil’s southwestern state of Minas Gerais, unleashing 12 million cubic meters (424 million cubic feet) of toxic mud that killed at least 259 people, a group of indigenous Pataxó and Pataxó Ha-ha-hãe are still fighting for relocation as the polluted waters of the Paraopeba River can no longer support their existence. “The river is dead, but we are fighting to stay alive,” says shaman Angohó Ha-ha-hãe, one of the leaders of Nahô Xohã community.

Rural slave descendants risk all to fight for land in Brazil

"I can't be afraid. I'm not just fighting for something for me. I'm fighting for something for all of us" MARIA JOAQUINA QUILOMBO - Rejane Maria da Costa has fallen out with neighbors and faced repeated death threats in her battle for Brazil to recognise her community's claim to the land their ancestors inhabited. Yet the 42-year-old, who makes a meager living growing cassava on a small patch of land behind her single-story home, is determined to keep up the fight for the rights of  the small

Amazon fires trigger protests worldwide

SÃO PAULO AND LONDON — Thousands of protesters took to the streets in cities across Brazil and around the world on August 23, urging effective action from far-right President Jair Bolsonaro to contain tens of thousands of active fires ravaging the Brazilian Amazon in recent weeks. Demonstrators blocked off roads, shouting slogans and holding placards reading: “Stop killing our Amazon” in cities that included São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Brasília, London, Geneva, Paris, Berlin and Toronto...

Enforce Brazilian laws to curb criminal Amazon deforestation: study

Brazil’s deforestation control agreements and environmental legislation — once considered strong and successful — now require an “urgent” upgrade as soy planters, cattle ranchers and timber merchants have found ways to easily circumvent regulations, experts warn in a recent scientific study. At the center of the problem are the country’s current inadequate enforcement and legal system — weakened first under President Michel Temer, and now further under Jair Bolsonaro — which provides multiple o

Bolsonaro’s Brazil unlikely to achieve Paris Agreement goals: experts

Brazil is still over a decade away from its pledged deadline for delivering on its Paris Climate Agreement carbon reduction commitments, but it may already be too late for the country to honor its promises, experts interviewed by Mongabay say. The surge in Amazon rainforest fires in August graphically illuminated how Brazil is moving in the opposite direction of its climate change targets, which include, among other criteria, zero illegal deforestation by 2030. “There is no chance, in my opini

The Judge Who Is Resisting Brazil’s Lava Jato

Brazil has a long tradition of politicized courts. But even in that context, Brazilian Supreme Court Judge Gilmar Mendes is unique, as he is both as an extreme manifestation of this tendency and a revealing case study in what this tendency means for the judicial system and the country. Consider: the senior 61-year-old judge counts the country’s most powerful politicians, including the president, among his close friends. His close and regular contact w

In Brazil’s crooked politics, is anybody playing fair? A search for an honest political player

Brazil's mammoth Lava Jato corruption investigation has ensnared what seems like the entire political class. All five of the country's living former presidents are under investigation. Forty-four of 81 senators, more than 155 members of Congress and a third of cabinet ministers are indicted or the subject of investigation, in Lava Jato or other cases it has spawned in the past th

Corruption beyond Brazil: Where the ‘Car Wash’ scandal has splashed across Latin America

The corruption scandal known as Lava Jato – or Car Wash, its police code name – began as a small-time money-laundering investigation in a southern Brazilian town three years ago, but has swelled to the point that it threatens the entire Brazilian political class. All five living former presidents and almost a third of cabinet ministers and the Senate have either been indicted or are under investigation in a mammoth scam that involved bribes for public works contracts and pro-business changes to


Highway of riches, road to ruin: Inside the Amazon's deforestation crisis

Brazil began to collect these images (on satellites belonging to NASA, China and India) in 2004, a key part of the country’s big push to stop the burning and the gouging. The pictures are sent to teams of field agents who head to the sites of fires and patches of newly denuded land, to make arrests, levy fines and destroy the equipment of loggers and miners and those who cleared the land for ranches and farms. And it worked. Between 2004 and 2014, Brazil drove deforestation down by 82 per cent.

Canada’s Indigenous child-suicide crisis is being mirrored on reserves in Brazil

In Guarani, they are called mokoi and gwyra. You can think of them like two small birds that fly to join you at the moment of birth and travel on your shoulder all your life. They are the guardians of your ayvu, your animating force, your soul. If you grow old, and your body wears out, then the birds depart for their natural home in the cosmos. That's a good death. But the birds can also be frightened off your shoulder, long before your body wears out. They can be dislodged by harsh words, or b

The illusion of Brazil’s income equality

Of all the things her family lost, what Nivia Caridade misses most is hope. Over the past decade, she got out of the habit of mistrusting good fortune, and allowed herself the luxury of optimism. That, it turns out, was a mistake. Today, Ms. Caridade, 39, wonders how she will feed and clothe her family, how she will buy medication for her severely disabled four-year-old daughter, what her teenage kids will ever make of themselves with just a basic education from a semi-functional public school

Brazil impeachment leader Eduardo Cunha jailed on corruption charges

Eduardo Cunha, the influential Brazilian politician who spearheaded the ouster of former president Dilma Rousseff and who for years seemed untouchable, has been arrested and jailed on corruption charges. Mr. Cunha, who stands accused of salting away millions of dollars in bribes in foreign bank accounts, is emblematic of the traditional power brokers here, a wealthy leader of the largest political party who cut deals with all parties as he rose to lead the lower house of Congress. He is the mo

A farewell to Brazil, country of broken dreams

Maria de Barros Araujo was late, and I was scared. She had told me to meet her when she got off work, and I was there, in the courtyard outside her small apartment, just after 5 o’clock. But Ms. Araujo didn’t turn up, and it got steadily darker, and I sat on a sharp slab of cement outside her door with my shoulders bunched, certain that at any moment I’d hear gunfire and wondering how I was going to get out of there, back down the hill to relative safety.

2020 XCity Award shortlisted


Guest - Lado B do Rio Podcast

I was interviewed about the experience of covering Brazil for a foreign audience.