Author: Marcello Bonatto

Blog, Culture, National Politics, Society

What do you know about the military regime in Brazil?

by Mario Saraiva, MPA-DP candidate 2018 at SIPA

We need to talk about the military regime. I don’t think the issue has received the attention it deserves. Some stories from the period of dictatorship in Brazil are famous, such as the kidnapping of the American ambassador by the communist guerrilla, and how the US was a key supporter of the regime. However, many Brazilians are still unaware of the atrocities that happened from 1964 to 1985.  Our neighbors, Argentina and Chile, have publicly examined the crimes committed against human rights during their dictatorships regimes but Brazil…let’s just say Brazil is not there yet. Open dialogue about the military regime remains limited and consequently, my generation—born after 1985—is at risk of forgetting what we as a nation have been through.

 “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” George Santayana words carry a timely lesson for Brazil as the country approaches the one-year countdown for its 2018 presidential election.



In the end, who won gold?

by Camila Jordan, Co-Editor and Writer at Brazil Talk

Post Rio 2016 Olympics reflection on the Legacy left by the Olympics

Hosting the Olympics games is sold to the general population as if hosts cities would continue to benefit from investments and improvements made specifically for them. Proponents of the games will say, for example, that investments made for the mega event will bring benefits across the social spectrum through the building of infrastructures, such as public transportation[1], social housing[2], and cleanup of polluted areas[3]. However, this is not the whole truth. Some improvements do happen, but the final balance[4] is not positive, as this last edition in Rio de Janeiro has once again proven.

Rio’s metropolitan area has a serious housing deficit problem[5], and hosting big events like the World Cup and the Olympics exacerbated the issue, forcing more than 22.000 families[6] out of their homes, often through provisional and inhuman housing solutions. Under Mayor Eduardo Paes, Rio suffered the biggest displacement operation in its history[7], with the eviction of around 77.200 people. In the beginning of the removals, families were given one week’s notice to move out with merely R$6.000[8] compensation. Violence was used if the families offered resistance causing deep trauma. Some people even moved back to their longtime communities after evictions, exposing themselves to dangerous situations[9].

At the same time, much needed social housing projects are not coming into fruition. Some of the evicted communities have been in place for over 40 years[10], during which time were abandoned and ignored by the government.

According to the World Cup and Olympics Popular Committee of Rio the mega-events were used as an excuse by the government and big construction companies to “clean up” favelas located in extremely valuable areas, aiming to profit from real estate appreciation and transportation improvements in the region.

Furthermore, many people have been questioning why there always seems to be a lack of investment in education, health, and other pressing issues. In the past years, sports facilities in underprivileged communities have been closed. The Célio de Barros Stadium, that had the best training tracks in the city, closed in January 2013 leaving hundreds of children and Olympic athletes without a place to practice. After popular manifestations the city government decided to remodel it, construction is planned to be concluded in 2017[11].

In spite of these problems, Brazil was able to deliver two mega events leaving an overall positive image to the world. However, do Brazilians question themselves about the not so surprising misallocation of resources and capability? Brazil has the tools and resources to end poverty and inequality, unfortunately, big interests, aka corruption, prevent structural changes, keeping the poor away from opportunities of participating fully in society, not being able to fulfill their rights and duties as citizens.

“This is a missed opportunity. We are not showcasing ourselves. With all these economic and political crises, with all these scandals, it is not the best moment to be in the eyes of the world. This is bad.”

– Former Mayor Eduardo Paes

The Olympics was another chance Rio and Brazil missed. This was even admitted by the former Mayor[12], although he did not acknowledge any responsibility on, for example, all human rights violations committed in the name of the event during that period. In addition, the infrastructure built for the event will have an annual cost of R$ 59 million, of which the federal state that filed for bankruptcy[13] and had its governor arrested on corruption charges[14] pledged to pay R$ 46 million.

The Olympics are over and Rio’s image sold across the world as an inclusive city has washed away on the still polluted beaches of Copacabana.

A famous Brazilian artist once said that “Brazil is not for amateurs”. Indeed, learning how to navigate Rio is not an easy task. After the euphoria of the games and despite everything mentioned above, I personally feel that people’s awareness has grown. The games shed light on issues that beforehand, were easily dismissed over who won the latest football match. Many social movements were born out of these difficulties and injustices, and their legacy will remain and they will continue fighting for long lasting inclusive change in the city.

[1] “Dossiê do Comitê Popular da Copa e Olimpíadas do Rio de Janeiro” (Nov 2015)

[2] “Como no Rio, Vila dos Atletas de Tóquio 2020 irá privilegiar luxo em vez de moradia social, diz diretor”, (Ago 2016)

[3] “Promessas ambientais ficaram no papel” (Jun 2016)

[4] “Em vários países, a população já percebeu quem realmente ganha ao se sediar a Olimpíada” (Ago 2015)

[5] “A explosão do déficit habitacional no Rio” (Apr 2014)

[6] “Dossiê do Comitê Popular da Copa e Olimpíadas do Rio de Janeiro” (Nov 2015, Portuguese version) | Mega-Events and Human Rights Violations in Rio de Janeiro Dossier (Nov 2015, English version)

[7] [8] “Remoções na Vila Autódromo expõem o lado B das Olimpíadas do Rio” (Ago 2015)

[9] “The Never-Ending Eviction” (Jan 2014)

[10] “Vida removida: a luta pela permanência na Vila Autódromo” (Jun 2016)

[11]  “Novo estádio Celio de Barros ficará pronto em 2017” (Set 2015)

[12] “Rio mayor Eduardo Paes: ‘The Olympics are a missed opportunity for Brazil’” (Jul 2016)

[13] “Hosting Olympics Bankrupts Another Place: Rio de Janeiro Declares Financial Disaster” (Jun 2016)

[14] “Sérgio Cabral, Ex-Governor of Rio de Janeiro, Arrested on Corruption Charges” (Nov 2017)


Institution-building, Governance and Compliance in Brazil: Politics, Policy and Business

On February 6-7, the Lemann Center for Brazilian Studies at Columbia University and the Janey Program in Latin American Studies at the New School for Social Research, in New York will bring together leading practitioners, scholars and high-profile public officers to discuss the effects of Carwash Operation in Brazil’s current and future institutional framework. What has changed so far in terms of political, policy and business practices? For how long? Is there room for further institutional improvements? Is the system reformable? How is the Operation helping to support a market-based development agenda grounded on the rule of law? How are national and foreign investors reacting to these changes and challenges? What comes next for Brazil?

Featured Guest Speakers

Cármen Lúcia Antunes Rocha 
is the Chief Justice of the Brazilian Supreme Court.

Sérgio Fernando Moro is a Brazilian federal judge who has gained national and international fame for commanding the prosecution of the crimes identified in the investigation nicknamed Operação Lava-Jato (Carwash, in English), a corruption probe involving government officials and business executives.

Paulo Roberto Galvão is a Brazilian federal prosecutor, member of the Carwash Operation Task Force which negotiates plea bargains with high-profile politicians and businessmen accused of wrongdoings.

  • RSVP for February 6th at Columbia University here
  • RSVP for February 7th at the New School here

For more information please visit the event’s official page: 

Education, Society

Bullying and Education: Do Schools Make Students Angry?

by Ana Carolina C D’Agostini

We all know deep in our hearts that wearing uniforms is a method of control. One of the aims of school is to get you used to the idea of obeying orders and to make you biddable. Sitting in rows, getting there on time, changing activity every 40 minutes, were useful if you were going to cannon fodder of factory fodder or office fodder. But it isn’t so useful these days, when there is more call for creativity.[1]

Bullying embodies a common phenomenon which can be extremely damaging for students’ mental health and academic accomplishment. Bullying is centered on a “subset of aggressive behavior that has potential to cause physical or psychological harm to the recipient”[2] and it includes “noxious and constant actions by one individual against another that can be even not so easily recognizable, as it comprises exclusion and repudiation from a group”[3]. A range of existing work and theories depict bullies and victims as part of childhood and adolescence, especially in schools. In addition, common sense seems to dictate that “few individuals navigate their way through adolescence without being teased and bullied”[4].

This phenomenon has not been well investigated in research in Brazil as the predominant assumption is that bullying within relationships between children is inescapable. A closer examination of this matter can broaden our understanding that it might not be mere coincidence that bullying, as a form of violence, frequently occurs in schools. The current findings and theories on bullying bring to light the difficulty of explaining bullying behavior, particularly when addressing why would bullies act violently against their victims in an environment that was supposedly created for their education, development and well-being.

Bullying is an intense attitude among early adolescents because “students who bully do so to attain social position and maintain control over others”[5]. Moreover, there is a solid relationship between anger and bullying behavior, as there is also the absence of being capable of making use of “nonviolent strategies, such as talking out a disagreement, as well as lack of intentions to use those strategies”. [6]

This initial description about bullying fosters the debate into those aspects related to violence and to hatred. Data shows that more than 20.8% of elementary, middle school and high school students have suffered bullying at school in Brazil[7]. Like other forms of aggression, bullying occurs in a social context. This raises an important point to further investigate what is it so particular about schools that makes this kind of violence arise?

Schools have consistently been the instrument of society’s need to convert children into adults with most definite and objective means and leave childhood behind. As an ultimate goal, children need to have to conform to adulthood that intends “to direct them away from childhood freedoms and toward adult beliefs and practices”[8],  and to follow standards which “have little to do with the child but rather what the child must become”[9]. Along the same lines, schooling throughout history has regularly presented a steadfast battle “between education for control in order to produce citizens and workers who were conformist, passive and politically docile” opposed to educating for “critical consciousness, individual liberation and participatory democracy” [10].

A significant number of students feel unsafe at school due to bullying but do not seek assistance because they have the impression that teachers and administrators will not do anything about the aggression. This piece of evidence calls attention to the fundamental role that school’s staff play in preventing bullying behavior, as victims can “be taught appropriate self-assertion techniques and interactive skills”. Bullies need to be aware of the implication of public policies that should be made known to all students and parents before school begins, such as “bullying is a social process that requires a concerted reaction from teachers, parents and other pupils”[11].

An analysis of how the educational system was implemented and the significance of schools showed that such places have consistently been instruments of control that “clearly our Puritan ancestors utilized schools such as they were to contain the potentially disastrous inclinations of youth”[12].  Similarly, authoritarianism can be seen as a basis on which most schools function, “where pupil’s rights, needs and feelings can too readily be ignored or suppressed and where it is difficult for teachers and pupils to act independently and to critique and challenge dominant social and political orthodoxies”[13].  On the same line of thought, education in a more extensive sense shows the presence of power as a source of symbolic violence, which includes the “imposition of a cultural arbitrary by an arbitrary power”[14], a pedagogic authority. In a concurrent view, there is strong evidence that most schools function in an authoritarian rather than democratic form, and that “education in democracy, human rights and critical awareness is not a primary characteristic of the majority of schooling”[15].

As an alternative to this problem, a “pedagogy of discomfort” aims to invite students and educators to examine the fear of change in the educational environment that activates emotions and discomforts arising from questioning old assumptions. As a result, adjustments and changes in the educational system are slowed. To solve this issue, a collective critical inquiry from both educators and students, could help them “engage in collective self-reflection regarding the reasons for our emotions”[16].

In addressing bullying, the notions of peace education were implemented in one project in England and the authors concluded that this model offered an interesting perspective to violence in schools as it proposed the acquisition of learning interpersonal skills to reduce violence and hatred. This model points out to the importance of establishing goals to discuss the appropriate “values for the practice of conflict resolution, communication and co-operation in relation to issues of peace, war, violence, conflict and injustice”[17].

Putting things together, there are a number of different approaches to troubling questions about bullying. These questions concern authority and arbitrary power as frequent themes when discussing conditions that can produce violence at school. Authoritarianism and arbitrary power leave no space for discussion and dialogue of student’s learning processes, as the adult-centered perspective yield absolute power and uncontested knowledge. Furthermore, the shortened childhood and the difficulty in addressing student’s feelings at schools are potential roots of manifestations of violence in the educational systems.

Bullying is a prevailing phenomenon that should not be underestimated. Despite the many rather simplistic views in society that bullying is “normal” and expected to take place during school years, the fact is that this complex scenario may contribute to the understanding that students may have reasons to be “angry” with schools.

Ana Carolina C D’Agostini holds a degree in Psychology and Education. She is currently a Master’s student in Psychology in Education at Columbia University. She believes education is the most crucial area to accelerate social change and for the development of Brazil.

[1] Times Educational Supplement, UK,  3/10/2003

[2] Bosworth, Espelage and Simon, 1999, p.343

[3] Olweus, 1991

[4] Leary, Kowalski, Smith and Phillips, 2003, p.211

[5] Bosworth et al.,1999, p.358

[6] Bosworth et al.,1999, p.358

[7] Ministério da Saúde e do Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística (IBGE), 2015

[8] Zucherman, 1997, p.127

[9] Zucherman, 1997, p.127

[10] Harber and Sackade, 2009, p.173

[11]  Batsche and Knoff, 1994, p.80

[12] Zuckerman, p.1997, p.133

[13] Harber, 2004, p.20

[14] Bourdieu and Passeron, 1990, p.05

[15] Harber et al. , 2009, p.172

[16] Boler, 1999, p.192

[17] Harber et al., 2009, p.174