Society

National Politics, Society

Despite protests and widespread scrutiny, Brazil continues to face ‘giant’ dilemma


A culture of corruption and a weak judicial system hinder Petrobras probe

by Enrique Xavier López

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In Giant—George Stevens’ 1956 Hollywood blockbuster—oil tycoon Jett Rink, played by 24-year-old James Dean, is a man blinded by greed and corruption. In this classic rise-and-fall story, Rink is able to extend his wealth and influence beyond the oil business, where even the sitting governor and U.S. Senator of Texas are at his every beck and call. The climactic scene unfolds when Rink, who in his youth was a poor wildcatter, attends an Austin gala honoring his success. After a brief squabble with his longtime rival, Bick Benedict, Rink staggers into the party drunk, takes his seat at the head table, and then passes out. All the politicians and guests leave in disgust, and an almost incoherent Rink ends up speaking to an empty room.

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National Politics, Society

The Protests in Brazil: Dialogue as a Necessary Alternative


by Leonardo Petronilha

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photo by Marcelo Bonatto

March 15, 2015 was marked as a Sunday of protests all across Brazil against Dilma Rousseff’s—from the Partido dos Trabalhadores (Workers’ Party)—government. One of the most vaunted demands was for impeachment proceedings to be opened against the President of the Republic.

First, it’s important to call attention to the fact that we live in a “Democratic State of Law” in accord with the preamble of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Brazil, enacted on October 5, 1988. “Democracy,” in quotation marks, because our social and political culture is characterized—for example—by slavery, patrimonialism, and innumerable historical examples of authoritarianism, such as: repression, manipulation, and extermination of indigenous populations by our country’s explorers; blacks brought here as commodities and treated like animals; the Bahia and Minas Gerais conspiracies; the Sabinada revolt; the Balaida revolt; the Praieira revolt; Guerra dos Farrapos (The Ragamuffin War); the Canudos War; Revolta da Vacina (The Vaccine Revolt); Chibata (the Revolt of the Lash); and military dictatorship, amongst others. There are important traces of this history present in our social and political culture today. This is why it is important that we defend democracy, without quotation marks, and not “democracy,” in quotation marks, that still tortures, persecutes, promotes inequality, silences, controls, selects, represses, etc. To defend democracy is to try and remove the quotation marks.

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National Politics, Society

Police violence part of Brazil’s security problem


by Heidi Lipsanen

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photo by Heidi Lipsanen

On the morning of April 22nd 2014 the body of 26-year-old Douglas Pereira, the talented dancer of a popular television show, was found on the yard of a kindergarten in Rio de Janeiro’s Pavão-Pavãozinho slum. Locals and his family refused to believe the initial police statement according to which the injuries were compatible with a death caused by fall. Instead they took to the streets. Images of burning car tires and testimonies of gunfire between the police and the community spread like wildfire in international media. Another man lost his life during the disarray. The kick-off of the FIFA Word Cup was less than seven weeks away and the eyes of the world were fixed on Brazil.

The following day the uncomfortable truth behind Douglas’ death was announced. His slender body had been penetrated by a lethal bullet, which was later matched to a police firearm.

Nearly a year has passed since Douglas was murdered. Despite delays in the investigations his mother Maria de Fátima hopes the officer who triggered the killer weapon will be brought to justice. There is, however, a hint of despair in her voice on the other end of the phone line.

“The police was created to arrest, not to kill“, Maria de Fátima says and compares the Brazilian police to a combat force. “But the system is very corrupt and I just wonder how they will ever manage to pull these bad officers off the streets”, she adds and wishes that God will deliver justice in case the Brazilian judicial system fails to do so.

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Society

A democratic Brazil doesn’t need a military police force


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by Isabela Cunha

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Police officers enter Complexo do Alemao, a favela in Rio de Janeiro

September 18th, 2014. It is 5 pm in São Paulo. Carlos Braga, a street vendor, is shot in the head while trying to protect his friend from the pepper spray used during a police blitz. He was unarmed. The police officer is taken into custody, but released four days later. According to the judge responsible for the case there were not enough elements to justify the imprisonment. The other police officers who witnessed the incident declared it was accidental.  Other witnesses declared it was deliberate murder.

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