Protected areas (PAs) are key elements for biodiversity conservation and ecosystem services. Brazil has the largest PA system in the world, covering approximately 220 million ha. This system expanded rapidly in the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s. Recent events in Brazil, however, have led to an increase in PA downgrading, downsizing, and degazettement (PADDD). Does this reflect a shift in the country's PA policy? We analyzed the occurrence, frequency, magnitude, type, spatial distribution, and causes of changes in PA boundaries and categories in Brazil. We identified 93 PADDD events from 1981 to 2012. Such events increased in frequency since 2008 and were ascribed primarily to generation and transmission of electricity in Amazonia. In Brazilian parks and reserves, 7.3 million ha were affected by PADDD events, and of these, 5.2 million ha were affected by downsizing or degazetting. Moreover, projects being considered by the Federal Congress may degazette 2.1 million ha of PA in Amazonia alone. Relaxing the protection status of existing PAs is proving to be politically easy in Brazil, and the recent increase in frequency and extension of PADDD reflects a change in governmental policy. By taking advantage of chronic deficiencies in financial and personnel resources and surveillance, disputes over land tenure, and the slowness of the Brazilian justice, government agencies have been implementing PADDD without consultation of civil society. If parks and reserves are to maintain their integrity, there will need to be investments in Brazilian PAs and a better understanding of the benefits PAs provide.