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Brazil Human Rights - History

Brazil Human Rights - History


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Conditions in many prisons were poor and sometimes life threatening, mainly due to overcrowding. Abuse by prison guards, including sexual abuse, continued at many facilities, and poor working conditions and low pay for prison guards encouraged corruption.

Physical Conditions: Endemic overcrowding was a problem. According to the Ministry of Justice and Citizenship, as of November 2016, the prison population was 711,463 prisoners (including house arrests); the official capacity of the prison system was 393,953 prisoners at the beginning of the year. According to Human Rights Watch, women were often held in women’s wings of men’s prisons, and women’s prisons sometimes employed male guards. Female inmates complained of verbal and sexual harassment by male guards as well as lack of access to medical care, particularly prenatal and postnatal care.

Prisoners convicted of petty crimes frequently were held with murderers and other violent criminals. Authorities attempted to hold pretrial detainees separately from convicted prisoners, but lack of space often required placing convicted criminals in pretrial detention facilities. In many prisons, including those in the Federal District, officials attempted to separate violent offenders from other inmates and keep convicted drug traffickers in a wing apart from the rest of the prison population. Multiple sources reported adolescents were jailed with adults in poor and crowded conditions. In many juvenile detention centers, the number of inmates greatly exceeded capacity.

Violence was rampant in several prison facilities in the Northeast. In addition to overcrowding, poor administration of the prison system, the presence of gangs, and corruption contributed to violence within the penitentiary system. On January 1, in the privately run Anisio Jobim Penitentiary complex in Manaus, the capital of Amazonas State, conflict between the Amazonas-based Familia do Norte and Sao Paulo’s Primeiro Comando Capital criminal organizations ended with 56 prisoners killed by decapitation and burning.

Prisons suffered from insufficient staffing and lack of control over the prison population. Some prisons had a ratio of one guard on duty for every 200-300 prisoners, making it impossible to exercise control in the prisons. During a January riot at Alcacuz Prison in the state of Rio Grande do Norte, officials waited until daylight to enter the prison. In the meantime inmates climbed on to the prison’s roof bearing flags alluding to criminal factions and armed with sticks, stones, and knives.

According to data from the Ministry of Health, prisoners were 28 times more likely to contract tuberculosis, compared with the general public. A study of 58 prisons in the Rio de Janeiro penitentiary system conducted by the leading domestic web content company Universo Online found that, from January 2015 to August 2017, 14 times more deaths occurred as the result of treatable illnesses than from killings. During this period 517 prisoners died from treatable illnesses such as tuberculosis, leprosy, and skin infections, compared with 37 prisoner homicides.

During the year the Ministry of Justice’s National Mechanism for Preventing and Combatting Torture published the results of visits made in 2016 to 23 prisons in six states. The report noted the “shocking” growth of the size of the prison population with no resultant increase in the capacity of the prison system, lack of potable water for drinking and bathing, inadequate nutrition, rat and cockroach infestations, damp and dark cells, and beatings of inmates.

Administration: State-level ombudsman offices and the federal Secretariat of Human Rights monitored prison and detention center conditions and investigated credible allegations of inhuman conditions. Prisoners and detainees had access to visitors; however, human rights observers reported some visitors complained of screening procedures that at times included invasive and unsanitary physical exams.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted monitoring by independent nongovernmental observers, including the International Committee of the Red Cross, United Nations, and Organization of American States as well as local organizations, such as Mechanism for Torture Prevention and Global Justice. In July the president of the Supreme Court visited the Curado prison in Pernambuco State as part of a new nationwide initiative to investigate and improve the use of federal funds allocated for prison reform.

Improvements: In June officials reported a drop in the homicide rate at the Pedrinhas complex in the state of Maranhao from 17 deaths in 2014 to three in the first six months of year, attributing this to the implementation of reforms such as incarcerating rival gang leaders in separate facilities.


2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Brazil

ANNOUNCEMENT: The Department of State will release an addendum to this report in mid 2021 that expands the subsection on Women in Section 6 to include a broader range of issues related to reproductive rights.​

Brazil is a constitutional, multiparty republic governed by a democratically elected government. In 2018 voters chose the president, the vice president, and the bicameral national legislature in elections that international observers reported were free and fair.

The three national police forces–the Federal Police, Federal Highway Police, and Federal Railway Police–have domestic security responsibilities and report to the Ministry of Justice and Public Security (Ministry of Justice). There are two distinct units within the state police forces: the civil police, which performs an investigative role, and the military police, charged with maintaining law and order in the states and the Federal District. Despite the name, military police forces do not report to the Ministry of Defense. The armed forces also have some domestic security responsibilities and report to the Ministry of Defense. Civilian authorities at times did not maintain effective control over security forces. Members of the security forces committed numerous abuses.

Significant human rights issues included: reports of unlawful or arbitrary killings by police harsh and sometimes life-threatening prison conditions arbitrary arrest or detention violence against journalists widespread acts of corruption by officials lack of investigation of and accountability for violence against women violence or threats of violence motivated by anti-Semitism crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting members of racial minorities, human rights and environmental activists, indigenous peoples and other traditional populations, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or intersex persons.

The government prosecuted officials who committed abuses however, impunity and a lack of accountability for security forces was a problem, and an inefficient judicial process at times delayed justice for perpetrators as well as for victims.


Human Rights - Brazil 2018 Understanding the Issues

Brazil is a party to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which is committed to guaranteeing equality, dignity, and freedom for all people. Despite being a signatory, the domestic conditions for human rights are far from ideal in Brazil. Human right violations in Brazil include extrajudicial killings, dire prison conditions, violence against the LGBTQ+ population, violation of religious freedom, and the mistreatment of refugees, among others. Two main disadvantaged groups that span these issues stand out: women and people of color. Both groups are the demographic majority—women represent 51 percent of the population, and people of color represent 53 percent— and hence will play an important role in the upcoming elections. Yet, these groups remain at a disadvantage and vulnerable to human rights violations.

On average, an incident of rape is registered once every eleven minutes in Brazil nonetheless, rape cases remain underreported, with those reported accounting for a mere 10 percent of overall rape cases. Among cases registered with the police, only 15.7 percent result in the perpetrator’s arrest. In addition to sexual violence, women in Brazil are at high risk of domestic violence. On average, one woman suffers physical violence every 7.2 seconds. In 2017, 4,473 women were murdered in Brazil: 21 percent were femicide cases—violence due to gender, which is often committed by current or former partners. In spite of existing legislation against both domestic violence and femicide, aggressors often go unpunished. Women of color are especially at risk, with individuals who belong to two or more disadvantaged groups having experienced a 54 percent increase in homicide rates.

Young men of color are at highest risk of violence overall, with a 2.7 percent higher chance of being murdered than young white men. Afro-Brazilians are also the main victims of police brutality, accounting for 77 percent of police killings. Afro-Brazilian males are also the majority in Brazil’s overcrowded prison system—the fourth largest in the world—with 75 percent of all prisoners being young men of color. In addition to being more subjected to violence, the homicide rates for people of color increased 23 percent last year, even as it fell 6.8 percent for white Brazilians.

Although disadvantaged, these groups will likely play an important role in the upcoming elections—especially women. Women represent 52.5 percent of the electorate, and 42 percent of female voters are still undecided—a number that increases among lower class women, who tend to be Afro-Brazilian. These groups may be underrepresented in politics, but female and Afro-Brazilian votes alike will be decisive in this election. Candidates are mainly white and male and should consider adapting to include these groups’ policy concerns in order to garner their support. This includes revising their agendas to incorporate social programs—a priority for these groups—and public policy that protects their rights, as well as avoiding making offensive public statements.


Slavery in Brazil

On May 13, 1888, Brazilian Princess Isabel of Bragança signed Imperial Law number 3,353. Although it contained just 18 words, it is one of the most important pieces of legislation in Brazilian history. Called the “Golden Law,” it abolished slavery in all its forms.

For 350 years, slavery was the heart of the Brazilian economy. According to historian Emilia Viotti da Costa, 40 percent of the 10 million enslaved African brought to the New World ended up in Brazil. Enslaved persons were so pivotal to the economy that Ina von Binzer, a German educator who lived in Brazil in the late 1800s, wrote: “In this country, the Blacks occupy the main role. They are responsible for all the labor and produce all the wealth in this land. The white Brazilian just doesn’t work.”

By 1888, abolition had the support of most Brazilians—including several conservative sectors—the culmination of a long process of societal and economic changes. By the time slavery was abolished, the practice had already begun to decrease due to the modernization of agriculture and increasing migration towards Brazil’s cities from rural areas.

Yet the shift took nearly 70 years. Great Britain outlawed slavery in 1807, and subsequently began to pressure other nations to follow suit—including Brazil upon its independence from Portugal. However, in 1822, 1.5 million of 3.5 million people in Brazil were enslaved and the practice was not simply tolerated, but strongly supported by all segments of society, including the Catholic Church.

Yet in the years that followed, Great Britain ramped up efforts to outlaw the slave trade, seizing slave ships in the Atlantic Ocean, and even attacking a few ports in Brazil. As a result, the Brazilian government passed a law declaring that all enslaved persons were free upon reaching Brazilian soil, though the government did not enforce the law.

As British ships made life harder for slave traders, the supply of slave labor declined and enslaved persons became more expensive. Initially this forced owners to improve living and working conditions, as they could no longer afford the high mortality rates that previously characterized the practice of slavery in Brazil.

Landowners became increasingly aware that slave labor was making less and less economic sense. Paying low salaries to free men was in fact cheaper than maintaining slaves, for whom the owners were responsible. Thus, the Brazilian government began implementing policies aimed at gradually reducing slavery, although it moved slowly to avoid disturbing owners’ economic interests.

The Gradual Abolition

In 1871, the Brazilian Parliament passed the so-called “Free Womb Law,” declaring that all children born to enslaved women would be free. However, children had to work for their parents’ owners until they were adults in order to “compensate” the owners. At the time, many notaries–with the knowledge of local parishes–forged birth certificates to prove that child slaves were born before the law had been passed. According to Joaquim Nabuco, a lawyer and abolitionist leader, thanks to this piece of legislation alone, slavery would remain in effect in Brazil until the 1930s.

In 1884, a new law came into effect that freed enslaved persons who were 60 years of age or older. More perverse than the latter, this law gave owners the power to abandon enslaved persons once they had become less productive and more susceptible to diseases. Moreover, it was rare that an enslaved person even made it to his or her 60th birthday.

The Catholic Church ended its support of slavery by 1887, and not long after the Portuguese Crown began to position itself against it. On May 13, 1888, the remaining 700,000 enslaved persons in Brazil were freed.


Slaves in Minas Gerais, 1880. Photo: Marc Ferrez, Instituto Moreira Salles, via Brazilian Report

Post-abolition Brazil

The legal end of slavery in Brazil did little to change the lives of many Afro-Brazilians. Brazil’s abolitionist movement was timid and removed, in part because it was an urban movement at a time when most slaves worked on rural properties. Yet the abolitionst movement was also more concerned with freeing the white population from what had come to be viewed as the burden of slavery. Abolitionist leaders were unconcerned with the aftermath of abolition. There were no policies to promote integration, or plans to help former enslaved persons become full citizens through providing access to education, land, or employment.

Indeed, Brazilian elites largely opposed to the idea that Brazil would have a majority Afro-Brazilian citizenry. After slavery was formally abolished as a legal institution, the government implemented a policy of branqueamento, or “whitening”—a state-sponsored attempt to “improve the bloodline” through immigration: Brazil was to accept only white Europeans or Asian immigrants. Meanwhile, with nowhere to go and no other way to earn a living, many freed slaves entered into informal agreements with their former owners. These amounted to food and shelter in exchange for free labor, thereby maintaining the status quo.

Today, vestiges of the slave system can still be witnessed in Brazilian society. It is not a coincidence that only 53 percent of the Brazilian population identify as Afro-Brazilian or mixed, but make up two-thirds of incarcerated individuals and 76 percent of the poorest segment of the population. More than any other nation in the Americas, Brazil was profoundly shaped by slavery—a legacy that the country still struggles to address more than 350 years after the first enslaved African landed on its shores.

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Contents

  • 1830: Dom Pedro I signed into law the Imperial Penal Code. It eliminated all references to sodomy. [27]
  • 1979: O Lampião, a gay magazine, with contributions by many famous authors, like João Silvério Trevisan, Aguinaldo Silva and Luiz Mott, was launched. It survived for just a year.
  • 1980: Grupo Gay da Bahia, the oldest gay rights organization in Brazil, was founded in the city of Salvador, together with SOMOS, another organization in the city of São Paulo.
  • 1989: The constitutions of Mato Grosso and Sergipe states are signed into law. They explicitly forbid discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation. [28][29]
  • 1995: Congresswoman Marta Suplicy proposed Bill project No. 1151 concerning civil unions.
  • 1995: Brazil's first pride parade on Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro [30]
  • 1997: G Magazine, the first gay-oriented erotic magazine, was published enjoying large and national distribution until its final issue in 2013.
  • 2004: Rio Grande do Sul began allowing same-sex partners to register civil unions in a generic civil law notary after a court decision in March 2004. [31]
  • 2006: A lesbian couple from Rio Grande do Sul was the first to successfully adopt. [32]
  • October, 2006: Fashion designer and television presenterClodovil Hernandes became the first openly gay person to be elected as a congressman in Brazil, with 494,000 votes. [33]
  • June 10, 2007: In its eleventh edition, the São Paulo Gay Pride Parade broke its own record as the biggest parade in the world and attracted 3.5 million people. [34]
  • June 25, 2007: The Richarlyson affair occurred in which a judge was brought before the Justice Council of São Paulo for stating in court that soccer is a "virile, masculine sport and not a homosexual one." However, afterwards, the same judge apologized and decided to annul the decision he wrote. [35]
  • 2008: A national LGBT conference was held. The event, the first in the world to be organized by a government, was a result of demands made by civil society and the Brazilian Government's support of LGBT rights. [36]
  • 2010: In a landmark trial, the 4th Class of the Superior Court of Justice of Brazil acknowledged, unanimously, that same-sex couples have the right to adopt children.
  • 2011: On May 5, the Supreme Federal Court unanimously extended stable unions (Portuguese: união estável) to same-sex couples nationwide by redefining the laic definition of the family and providing 112 rights to these couples. The extension of marriage was not discussed in this decision. [10][37][38][39]
  • 2011: On June 27, the first same-sex civil union was converted into a same-sex marriage in Brazil. The conversion was ordered by a São Paulo judge. Since this case, many other civil unions have been converted into full marriages. [40]
  • 2011: On October 25, the Superior Court of Justice declared that the legal union of two women who could be recognized as a marriage. Differently from the U.S. Supreme Court's "stare decisis", the Superior Court decision would only reach the authors of the demand, but stood as a precedent that could be followed in similar cases. [41]
  • 2013: On May 14, the Justice's National Council of Brazil legalized same-sex marriage in the entire country in a 14–1 vote by issuing a ruling that orders all civil registers of the country to perform same-sex marriages and convert any existing civil unions into marriages if such a couple desires.
  • 2018: On March 1, the Brazilian Supreme Court ruled that transgender people may change their legal gender without undergoing surgery, hormonal therapy or receiving a medical diagnosis.
  • 2018: In October, following the 2018 Brazilian general election, Fabiano Contarato was elected as the country's first openly gay senator and Érica Malunguinho as the first transwoman representative. [42]
  • 2019: On February 1, David Miranda, a black gay representative, replaced Jean Wyllys, as Wyllys announced in January 2019 that he had left the country due to death threats. This was the first time that a gay representative was replaced by another gay representative in Brazil. [43]
  • 2019: On June 13, the Brazilian Supreme Court ruled that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is a crime akin to racism. [8]
  • 2020: Supreme Court permits that MSM's to donate blood with no deferral period.

On May 14, 2013, the Justice's National Council of Brazil legalized same-sex marriage (Portuguese: casamento homoafetivo [kazɐˈmẽtu õmu.afeˈtʃivu] , also commonly casamento gay, casamento igualitário [iɡʷaliˈtaɾi.u] ) in the entire country in a 14–1 vote by issuing a ruling that orders all civil registers of the country to perform same-sex marriages and convert any existing civil unions into marriages if such a couple desires. [11] [12] [13] [16] [44] Joaquim Barbosa, president of the Council of Justice and the highest court of constitutional law in Brazil - the Supreme Federal Court - said in the decision that notaries cannot continue to refuse to "perform a civil wedding or the conversion of a stable civil union into a marriage between persons of the same sex." [7]

On December 16, 2003, Brazil announced that it would recognize legal same-sex unions performed abroad for immigration purposes. Couples who are married in other countries can use their union certificate to apply for immigration benefits to Brazil. It was the first legal action to the recognition of same-sex couples. [45] [46]

According to the Grupo Gay da Bahia (Gay Group of Bahia GGB), the Instituto Nacional de Segurança Social (National Institute of Social Security INSS) recognizes stable unions as a means for sharing inheritance, receiving a pension, and other rights similar to marriage. [47]

Many Brazilian cities have also instituted a Register of Homosexual Stable Union. [48] In 2009, one of the offices of the city of São Paulo recorded 202 same-sex stable unions. Stable unions grant many legal rights, such as the right to be recognized as a couple in legal issues, common ownership of property acquired jointly, including transmittance and inheritance, recognition of the partner as a dependent at the National Institute of Social Security, on health plans and with insurers. Also included is the right to transfer the bank account of one partner to another in case of death or illness of the holder. [49]

De facto unions may be registered at a civil law notary throughout the country (there are specific ordinances about it in Rio Grande do Sul, Roraima and Piauí, but the right is federal and registration is possible in others places too). [50]

Prior to the nationwide legalisation of same-sex marriage, several binational same-sex couples won the right to live permanently in Brazil. One such case is the case of a binational couple who was forced to leave Brazil and move to Chicago so they could live together. U.S. citizen Chris Bohlander won the right to live permanently in Brazil with his partner Zemir Magalhães. The couple left Chicago three years prior to live together in Goiânia. A Brazilian judge allowed Bohlander to obtain a permanent residency visa, which is normally only given to the foreign spouse of a Brazilian, based on their civil union, which was recognized by a Goiás judge in 2008. In Brazil, the couple's victory was seen as important especially because the ruling is based on the fundamental rights and protections guaranteed under the country's Constitution. [51]

Same-sex couple rights Edit

A bill was proposed in National Congress of Brazil in 1995 to change federal law and allow the recognition of same-sex unions, but it faced strong opposition and was not voted on. Since the late 1990s, however, many concessions have been granted to same-sex couples. Same-sex couples were determined to be de facto partners by the Superior Justice Tribunal in 2006. This gave some rights to same-sex couples through stable unions.

Many independent judicial decisions in Brazil since 1998 have recognized same-sex partnerships in this category under common law and granted various rights to the individuals concerned. There is no actual definition or consensus on what constitutes a stable union. In the state of Rio de Janeiro, the partners of government employees receive the same benefits as married couples. In the state of Rio Grande do Sul in Southern Brazil, judges have determined that same-sex relationships should also be legally recognised. All judges and justices of the peace are now bound to approve civil unions "between persons of sound mind and independent sexual orientation" in the state.

Same-sex adoption is legal in Brazil, because Brazilian laws do not specifically prohibit it. Consequently, several judges have given favorable rulings for adoptions by same-sex couples. [52]

In 2010, in a landmark trial, the 4th Class of the Superior Court of Justice of Brazil (STJ) acknowledged, unanimously, that same-sex couples have the right to adopt children. The court, consisting of five judges, discussed a case of two women who had been given the right to adopt by the Federal Court of Rio Grande do Sul. The State Public Prosecutor, however, appealed to the STJ. The court denied the public prosecutor's request, saying that for such cases, the child's will must be respected. "This trial is historic because it gives to human dignity, the dignity of minors and the two women", said the reporter, Luis Felipe Solomon. "We affirm that this decision is an orientation that in cases like that, you should always serve the interests of the child, that is being adopted", the minister João Otávio de Noronha said. [53] The Superior Court of Justice decision creates a legal precedent that allows same-sex couples to apply to adopt and foster children.

For attorney Adriana Galvão, counsellor of the "Ordem dos Advogados do Brasil" (Bar Association of Brazil), and part of the study group of the institution about sexual diversity, the opinion demonstrates a legal and also social advancement. "It was a new interpretation. The Supreme Court found that it can break paradigms and demonstrated that the judiciary is trying to open their vision to our social reality in order to guarantee the rights of people," she said. [54]

In 2010, Minister Marco Aurélio Mello, of the Supremo Tribunal Federal (Supreme Federal Court of Brazil), ruled in favor of a binational English-Brazilian same-sex couple in the state of Paraná, allowing the couple to adopt any child, regardless of the age or sex of the child. The decision of the Supreme Federal Court opens the way for other same-sex couples to receive the same rights in the country. [55]

The states of Brazil are prohibited from creating discriminatory laws, according to the national Constitution. While the Constitution prohibits discrimination on a variety of characteristics, such as "origin, race, sex, colour [and] age", sexual orientation is not explicitly mentioned. The Constitution does forbid "any other forms of discrimination". [56]

Traditional images of Latin America "machismo" and the resulting homophobia are changing now that individual rights, including one's right in accordance with one's sexual orientation, enjoy the protection of the law. Brazil adopted a liberal Constitution in 1988, and continues to provide more protections for all of its citizens. Shortly after electing Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva as Brazil's president, various states took serious measures ensuring that no one would be discriminated against because of their sexual orientation. As of 2003, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation was prohibited in 73 municipal statutes. Provisions were later enacted in the laws and regulations of the states of Acre (2017), [57] Alagoas (2001/13), [58] [59] Amapá (2009), [60] Amazonas (2006), [61] Bahia (2007/14), [62] [63] the Brazilian Federal District (1997/17), [64] [65] [66] [67] Ceará (2009/14), [68] [69] Espírito Santo (2012/16), [70] [71] Goiás (2008), [72] Mato Grosso (1989/17), [73] Mato Grosso do Sul (2005), [65] [74] Maranhão (2006), [75] Minas Gerais (2002), [76] Pará (2007), [77] Paraíba (2003/17), [65] [78] Paraná (2013), [79] Pernambuco (2012/13), [80] [81] Piauí (2004/17), [82] [83] Rio de Janeiro (2000/10), [65] [84] Rio Grande do Norte (2007), [85] Rio Grande do Sul (2002/16), [86] [87] Rondônia (2018), [88] Roraima (2013), [89] Santa Catarina (2002), [90] [91] São Paulo (2001), [65] Sergipe (1989), and Tocantins (2013). [92] [74] [93] [94] [95] These policies vary by state. Some states (Alagoas, Bahia, [96] the Brazilian Federal District, Ceará, Espírito Santo, Mato Grosso, Pará, Santa Catarina, and Sergipe) list sexual orientation among the non-discrimination grounds in their state constitutions. Several states have also established public taskforces and commissions to investigate reports of discrimination. Legal prohibitions of discrimination against transgender people varies from state to state. Many states enacted protections for gender identity at the same time as for sexual orientation, while others did so some years later. As of 2019, Amapá, Minas Gerais, Pará, Santa Catarina and Sergipe do not address discrimination against transgender people.

. the law shall include penalties of an administrative, economic and financial nature for entities that discriminate based on national origin, race, color, sex, age, marital status, religious belief, sexual orientation or political or philosophical beliefs, or any other status, regardless of the judicial measures provided for by law. [a]

The State and Municipalities shall ensure, within their territory and within the limits of their competence, the fullness and guarantee of the rights and social principles provided for in the Federal Constitution and in the international treaties in force in [Brazil], including those concerning urban, rural workers and public servants, as well as the prohibition of discrimination based on religious belief or sexual orientation. [b]

No one shall be discriminated against or harmed by reason of birth, age, ethnicity, race, color, sex, genetic characteristics, marital status, rural or urban work, religion, political or philosophical beliefs, sexual orientation, physical, immunological, sensory or mental disability, in accordance with the Federal Constitution. [c]

On November 30, 2000, the City Council of Niterói, in the state of Rio de Janeiro, passed an ordinance prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation in public places and institutions as well as in businesses. Many Brazilian cities and states have anti-discriminatory legislation that explicitly includes sexual orientation. Some of them provide specific sanctions and penalties for those who engage in discrimination. [97]

In 2007, the Ministry of Labour and Employment issued Executive Order (Portaria) No. 41/2007, which prohibits employers from requesting documents or information related to an employee's sexuality. [98]

A 2008 survey found that 70% of Brazilians were in favour of banning discrimination against LGBT people. Divided by religion, 54% of Evangelicals supported banning such discrimination, while 70% of Catholics and 79% of atheists also expressed support. Those aged between 16 and 30 were also more likely to support legislation to ban LGBT discrimination. [99]

As of 2019, a federal anti-discrimination law is pending approval on the Brazilian Senate. [100] The Constitution does not have any specific laws on discrimination based on sexual orientation, but it does have a generic anti-discrimination article that can be considered to include such cases. This fact is constantly used by the opposition of the anti-discrimination law to show that there is no need for specific laws. The defenders of the new law, however, argue that without clear designation, this will still be considered somewhat of a lesser crime. Some conservative Catholic and Protestant senators argue that the law would be an aggression on religious freedom granted by the Constitution. Senator Fátima Cleide (PT–RO) said that the law should be approved because "the country has the tragic mark that a homosexual is murdered every two days." Former Evangelical priest and Senator Marcelo Crivella (PRB–RJ) criticized the text, saying homosexuals will receive a protection that "should have been given to women, the elderly and children." [101] In March 2018, the Senate Constitution and Justice Commission approved the federal anti-discrimination law. The bill would need to be approved by the full Senate and Chamber of Deputies before becoming law. [102]

In February 2019, the Federal Supreme Court (Supremo Tribunal Federal) began proceedings to criminalize homophobia and transphobia. [103] The court handed down its ruling on May 23, criminalizing homophobia and transphobia under the country's anti-racism law (Portuguese: Lei do Crime Racial - Lei n.º 7.716/1989). Six of the Supreme Court's 11 judges voted in favor of the measure, while the five other judges were granted more time to make their decision. Eventually, on 13 June, the Supreme Court issued its final ruling, in an 8–3 vote. [8] [104] Judge Luiz Fux described homophobic crimes as "alarming" and an "epidemic". [105]

In schools Edit

Multiple states and schools have established guidelines and policies regarding LGBT students. These include, among others, preventing and prohibiting bullying, creating support programmes and using a transgender student's preferred name. [106] The 2004 government initiative, Brasil Sem Homophobia, seeks to further protect LGBT students from discrimination. [107]

In August 2018, the Supreme Federal Court struck down a Palmas law which banned "gender and sexuality courses" in schools. [108]

In June 2021, the PSL-led government of Santa Catarina issued a decree banning the use of gender-neutral language in official documents by public and private schools. [109]

While the term transgender as used in the United States and Europe has come to encompass all gender-variant individuals, including female-to-male transsexuals, drag queens and kings, and intersex individuals, in Brazil the social phenomenon of "transgênero" largely consists of individuals who were assigned male at birth and identify as women [ citation needed ] . Transgender women in Brazil fall into two categories: "travestis" and transsexuals, although for Brazilians the two terms are interchangeable [ citation needed ] . To the extent that the latter insist on distinguishing themselves from transvestites, it is because transsexuals consider that they were born into the wrong body, whereas transvestites do not experience as deeply internal conflicts in relation to their male bodies. [110]

The formal labor market is largely closed to transgender people. An extremely small minority of transvestites have university educations or professional qualifications. With few exceptions, the only professions open to them are nursing, domestic service, hairdressing, gay entertainment, and prostitution. In some cases, even those who work as hairdressers, gay nightclub artists and domestic servants also double as sex workers. In the central, north and northeastern regions of Brazil, transgender people from extremely poor families sometimes begin working as prostitutes as early as 12 years of age, especially if they have been expelled from home by their families. [111]

In the south and southeastern regions and in the major capitals, such as São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, it is common to find transvestites as young as 16 or 17 working in the streets. Despite being included in Brazil's acronym in the struggle for LGBT rights, transgender people receive little outreach from the more mainstream gay and lesbian groups. There are, however, associations of transgender people in several Brazilian states and cities. One program in Rio de Janeiro focuses on the reintegration of transvestites into society through training and employment opportunities. [110]

Brazil's public health system provides free sex reassignment surgery. Federal prosecutors from the state of Rio Grande do Sul had argued that sex reassignment surgery is covered under a constitutional clause guaranteeing medical care as a basic right. In 2007, the 4th Regional Federal Court agreed, saying in its ruling that "from the biomedical perspective, transsexuality can be described as a sexual identity disturbance where individuals need to change their sexual designation or face serious consequences in their lives, including intense suffering, mutilation and suicide." The Health Ministry said it would be up to local health officials to decide who qualifies for the surgery and what priority it will be given compared with other operations within the public health system. Patients must be at least 21 years old and diagnosed as transsexuals with no other personality disorders and must undergo a psychological evaluation for at least two years, the ministry said. Gay activists applauded the decision. So far, the measure has not prompted any opposition. Brazil's public health system offers free health care to all Brazilians, including a variety of surgeries and free AIDS medication. But long lines and poorly equipped facilities mean that those who can afford it usually choose to pay for private hospitals and clinics. The Health Ministry said that since 2000 through 2007, about 250 sex reassignment surgeries had been performed at three university hospitals. [112]

March 2018 rulings Edit

Two landmark transgender rights rulings were handed down on 1 March 2018. First, the Superior Electoral Court ruled that transgender people may run in an election under their preferred name. Transgender advocates hailed the decision, as elections were held in October 2018. Second, the Brazilian Supreme Court unanimously ruled that transgender people may change their legal gender without undergoing surgery or hormonal therapy, which were previously requirements. A transgender individual seeking to change their gender to reflect their gender identity can now simply apply to do so at a registry post in the country, without the need of a judicial document or any medical report. [113]

There is no law forbidding LGBT people from serving in the Brazilian Armed Forces. Sexual orientation cannot be an obstacle for entry into the police force or the military in Brazil. All sexual acts are disallowed between members of the forces, be it heterosexual or homosexual. [114]

The Constitution of Brazil prohibits any form of discrimination in the country. The Brazilian Armed Forces do not permit desertion, sexual acts or congeners in the military, whether heterosexual or homosexual. They claim that it is not a homophobic rule, but a rule of discipline that also includes the opposite sex. [115]

In 2008, during a disappearance of a military gay couple, the Ministry of Defence of Brazil spoke: the sergeant is to be questioned about alleged desertion from the military and there is no question of discrimination." The two soldiers said they had been in a stable relationship for ten years in the Brazilian military. [116] In 2012, was published an official note by Brazilian Armed Forces: "The Brazilian army does not discriminate against (. ) sexual orientation (. ). [117]

Following the Supreme Federal Tribunal decision in favor of civil unions, Defense Minister Nelson Jobim guaranteed the Ministry's compliance with the decision and mentioned that spousal benefits can be accorded to same-sex spouses of military personnel. [118] [119] [120]

According to a survey conducted by the Institute of Applied Economic Research (IPEA) in 2012, 63.7% of Brazilians supported the entry of LGBT people in the Brazilian Armed Forces. [121]

Conversion therapy has been forbidden by the Federal Psychology Council since 1999. [122] In September 2017, a federal judge in Brasília approved the use of conversion therapy by a psychologist to “cure” people of homosexuality, overruling the 1999 decision. [123] However, in December 2017, the same judge changed his decision, keeping the “treatment” banned. [124] In January 2018, the Federal Psychology Council established norms of performance for psychologists in relation to transsexual and transvestite people, also banning any conversion therapy. [125]

Prior to 2020, under Ministry of Health guidelines, gay and bisexual men were only allowed to donate blood after 12 months without same-sex sexual activity.

However, in May 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Federal Supreme Court ("Supremo Tribunal Federal") declared the limitation unconstitutional and struck out the restrictions. Consequently, Brazil became one of the first Latin American countries to permit gay and bisexual men to donate blood under terms equal to heterosexual men. [126] [127]

In 2010, a survey conducted by Rio de Janeiro State University and University of Campinas revealed that by age of 18, 95% of homosexual youth in Brazil had already revealed their homosexuality, with many acknowledging it by the time they were 16. For the 1980s generation, homosexuality was usually revealed after they were 21 years old. Prejudice had also decreased according to data from a survey of Ibope. The same survey found that 60% of Brazilians considered homosexuality as natural. [128]

In 2009, a survey conducted by University of São Paulo in ten state capitals, showed that the Brazilian gay male population was of 7.8% and the bisexual male population was 2.6% (total of 10.4% of the total male population). The lesbian population was of 4.9% and the bisexual women another 1.4% (total of 6.3% of the female population). [20]

The male population of the city of Rio de Janeiro was 19.3% of gays and bisexual males. And the female population of the city of Manaus had 10.2% of lesbians and women bisexuals. [129]

By proportion Edit

Selected cities to the research:

To Brazil Edit

A watershed decision issued on November 25, 2003 by Brazilian Judge Ana Carolina Morozowski of the 5th Civil Court of Curitiba, Paraná recognized the same-sex relationship of national gay activist Toni Reis with British citizen David Ian Harrad, granting Harrad permanent residency in Brazil. A week later, the National Immigration Council instituted the Administrative Resolution Number 3, 2003, which "disposes of the criteria for the concession of temporary or permanent visa, or of definitive permanence to the male or female partner, without distinction of sex."

In the city of Florianópolis, Judge Marjôrie Cristina Freiberger Ribeiro da Silva of the 1st Civil Court prevented the Brazilian immigration departments from deporting an Italian citizen who had lived more than ten years in a stable relationship with a lesbian Brazilian. The judge said she believed that "homosexual union creates the same rights as a union between man and woman." [130]

Brazil was the first country in Latin America to recognize same-sex unions for immigration benefits. Following Brazil's example, other countries in South America have made major advances in the recognition of same-sex relationships, including immigration rights, for example, Colombia in 2009.

However, the Brazilian Government was slow in cabling its consulates regarding this decision. Thus, many same-sex couples who sought to move to Brazil to take advantage of this new policy were left confused by the lack of clarity by the Government and unable to receive the benefits this policy was intended to provide. In February 2004, in a joint meeting at the Brazilian consulate in New York, Immigration Equality and the Brazilian Rainbow Group asked the consular officials to clarify the application procedures regarding the new immigration policy. Despite ongoing confusion, the Brazilian Rainbow Group obtained copies of Administrative Resolution No. 3 and accompanying regulations that clarify the rules for same-sex binational couples where one partner is a Brazilian citizen. [131]

We are thrilled to report that clear procedures are now available to binational same-sex couples who seek to immigrate to Brazil, says Eryck Duran, Executive Director of the Brazilian Rainbow Group, and he adds: We are proud that Brazilis committed to end discrimination of gays and lesbians as the government has recognized that extending immigration to same-sex partners or spouses of Brazilian citizens is licit and sanctioned by the Constitution.

In Brazil Edit

Historically, migration by homosexuals from other parts of the country to larger cities has been a common phenomenon, even discounting economic factors in the towns and cities of origin. Factors driving this migration include the perception of increased liberty and independence in large cities as well as many options of entertainment for this demographic. The cities of São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, Brasília, Belo Horizonte, Recife, Porto Alegre, Curitiba, and others, receive large influxes annually. [132]

Anti-LGBT violence Edit

In 2004, the Grupo Gay da Bahia released a list with the names of 159 murdered members of the LGBT community that year. [133] There is also a list with the names of people that allegedly suffered from human rights abuses that same year some deaths caused directly by homophobia. [134] In 2012, 77% of Brazilians supported the explicit criminalization of homophobia. [135]

In mid-2006, Brazil launched Brazil Against Homophobia, an anti-homophobia campaign including television advertisement and billboards. According to a 2007 BBC article, activists estimate that between 1980 and 2006 some 2,680 gay people were murdered in Brazil, the majority thought to have been killed because of their sexuality. [136]

Brazil has been rated as one of the countries where the most gay people are killed. According to the report "Epidemic of Hate", published in 1996 by the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, at least 1,200 gays, lesbians and transsexuals were killed in Brazil alone in a decade. There have been more than 3,000 gay and lesbian people murdered in Brazil since the late 1980s, which has been deemed as a "Homocaust" by Brazilian gay activists. [137] According to the Grupo Gay da Bahia (GGB), Brazil's largest and most active gay organization, a gay, lesbian or transvestite is brutally murdered every two days due to homophobia, with a total of 130 in one year alone. According to GGB's statistics, only 2% of these attacks are on lesbians, but "Love Sees No Borders" believes this number is grossly underestimated for two main reasons. First, a vast percentage of homophobia-related crimes go unreported. Second, a large number of hate crimes in Brazil are committed by police officers, thus elevating the number of people unwilling to report a crime. Moreover, brutality against lesbians can often take the form of violent rape if a victim comes forward, the charge will be rape, not a hate crime against a lesbian. [138]

Sexualidade e Crimes de Ódio (Sexuality and Hate Crimes), produced by Vagner de Almeida and Richard Parker, is the first documentary film about brutalities committed against homosexuals in Brazil. In the directors' view, the hate crimes come from different segments of society, and that the Catholic Church and radical evangelical groups are also responsible for the rising intolerance, when they actively fight against the civil rights of non-heterosexuals. The film exposes life in metropolitan Rio de Janeiro, where various perpetrators murder members of the LGBT community with impunity. [139] In the first months of 2008, there were 45 officially registered homicides against gays some of the crimes included mutilations. Among the victims were gay men and lesbians, but also a large number of transsexuals.

The numbers produced by the Grupo Gay da Bahia (GGB) have occasionally been contested on the grounds that they include all murders of LGBT people reported in the media – that is, not only those motivated by prejudice against homosexuals. Reinaldo de Azevedo, columnist of the right-wing Veja magazine, Brazil's most-read weekly publication, called the GGB's methodology "unscientific" based on the above objection. [140]

A Brazilian gay blog that has investigated a few of the murders of gay people reported in the media – including some used by the GGB in its national statistic report – determined that the majority of murders from their chosen sample were committed by the partners of the victims or those who were otherwise sexually involved with them (e.g., male prostitutes), with some others being killed due to unpaid debts with gangs involved in drug trafficking. [141] The blog also criticized the GGB for not publishing the names of all of the victims the GGB includes in its report to calculate the murder rate so that the motives of the crimes could be independently assessed.

According to Grupo Gay da Bahia, 343 LGBT people were murdered in Brazil in 2016, 387 in 2017, and 420 in 2018. This was an increase compared to 2001 (130 murders) and 2008 (187 murders). Of the 420 victims in 2018, 39% were gay men, 36% were transsexuals, 12% were lesbians and 2% were bisexuals. When divided by race, 213 were white (58.4%), 107 were mestizo (29.3%) and 45 were black (12.3%). Firearms were the most commonly used instruments in these crimes. The northern and central-western parts of Brazil recorded the most homicides, with the state of Alagoas registering the highest percentage of murders. [142]

According to association Transgender Europe, Brazil has the highest number of murdered transgender people, with 900 homicides between 2008 and 2016, far ahead of Mexico (271), and nearly half of 2.264 registered murders in the world. [143]

There are many pro-LGBT political parties in Brazil the most influential are the Socialism and Liberty Party, the Workers' Party and the Communist Party of Brazil. The most influential pro-LGBT politicians in Brazil are Marta Suplicy Smith, Eduardo Suplicy and Jean Wyllys. During the 2010 presidential elections in Brazil, all five presidential candidates were favorable to same-sex civil unions, including the elected President Dilma Rousseff. [145] [146]

In 2010, there were 190 political candidates who signed the Brazilian Association of Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals and Transsexuals's "Declaration of Commitment". Those elected included 1 governor, 1 senator, 17 congressmen/congresswomen and 25 state representatives. [147]

The Brazilian executive power has guaranteed many rights to LGBT Brazilians, such as the same social security pension benefits that heterosexual couples receive [148] the creation of the federal LGBT Council [149] prison visitation by same-sex couples [150] same income tax benefits that heterosexual couples receive [151] federal government recognition of same-sex marriages or same-sex civil unions for immigration purposes [152] health benefits for same-sex couples and mandatory health plans in the country [153] and LGBT people have a special place in Brazilian prisons, separate from other prisoners. Transsexuals have the right to be called by social name and not by birth name and be forwarded to women's prisons. LGBT people in prisons also have the right to choose male or female clothing. [154]

One of the candidates for the City Council of Salvador, Bahia, the third largest city in Brazil, was Leo Kret (Republican Party (PR-BA)), a transvestite club dancer who was the most voted for of the candidates. When she took office, she defied the dress code norms insisting that her wardrobe would be strictly feminine and insisted on using the women's restroom. [155] Leo Kret received 12,861 votes in the city in the municipal elections of 2008. [156] On election day, she said that she will defend LGBT rights. [157] She has aspirations to become the President of Brazil one day. [158]

Moacyr Sélia, a transvestite hairdresser, sought reelection as a Nova Venécia councilmember, in the north of the state of Espírito Santo, representing the Republican Party. She was already the president of the Chamber of Parliament in two occasions. [159]

President Jair Bolsonaro, elected to the Brazilian presidency in October 2018, has drawn controversy for his homophobic rhetoric. As "a self-declared homophobe", Bolsonaro has said he would prefer a dead son than a gay one. [160] On January 2, 2019, just hours after his inauguration, he removed concerns regarding the LGBT community from being considered by the Human Rights Ministry and named no other federal agency to consider such issues. [161] Bolsonaro also removed the HIV prevention task force after they began a campaign towards educating transgender Brazilians. [162] There is also a risk that Bolsonaro will attempt to remove the 2013 decision to legalize same-sex marriage as he declared the decision "a blow to family unity and family values." [163]

Following the 2018 Brazilian general election, Fabiano Contarato was elected as the first openly gay federal senator and Érica Malunguinho as the first trans woman representative. [42] On February 1, 2019, David Miranda, a black gay representative, replaced Jean Wyllys, as Wyllys announced in January 2019 that he had left the country due to death threats. [43]

LGBT plan and conference Edit

Plan Edit

The Federal Government of Brazil released in 2009 the National Plan of Promotion of the Citizenship and Human Rights of LGBT (Plano Nacional de Promoção da Cidadania e Direitos Humanos de LGBT), a groundbreaking national plan to promote the rights of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people.

The plan may also play an important role in the approval of a law which would criminalize homophobic acts. The plan is composed of 51 key policies developed in June 2008 at the National LGBT Conference. It includes: [164]

  • The legalization of adoption rights by homosexual couples, and the equality of civil rights of homosexual couples
  • The development of a sexual diversity educational program in the curriculum of military and police officers
  • The revision of the current restriction for homosexuals to donate blood
  • The right to automatically change name and sex without having to file a lawsuit in the case of transgender individuals
  • Rating television programming which contains homophobic content as inappropriate for children and adolescents
  • Adding homosexual families as a theme to educational books.

Conference Edit

The first National Conference for Lesbians, Gay Men, Bisexuals, Transvestites and Transsexuals (LGBT) was launched in 2008 by Brazilian Government, in the federal capital of Brasília. The event, the first in the world to be convened by a government, is a result of demands made by civil society and the Brazilian Government's support of LGBT rights. The Conference adopted the theme "Human rights and public policies: the way forward for guaranteeing the citizenship of Lesbians, Gay Men, Bisexuals, Transvestites and Transsexuals."

During the conference, public policies were defined for this segment of the population and a National Plan for the Promotion of LGBT Citizenship and Human Rights was prepared. An evaluation was made of the 2004 federal government programme Brazil Without Homophobia to combat violence and discrimination against the LGBT population. [165]

The holding of the conference coincided with the commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and reaffirmed the Federal Government's commitment to the issue of LGBT human rights. Marta Suplicy, Tourism Minister and a longstanding supporter of LGBT rights, commemorated the initiative. "At long last, after so many years, we are finally able to hold this Conference. It's a giant's stride forward for Brazil." For the Justice Minister, Tarso Genro, the LGBT Conference was a demonstration of respect for human rights. "A human rights agenda that does not contemplate this issue is incomplete," he declared. Also present at the opening ceremony were the Minister of the Special Department for Human Rights, Paulo Vannuchi, Senator Fátima Cleide of the Parliamentary Front for LGBT Citizenship, Minister of the Department for Racial Equality Policies Edson Santos, Minister of the Special Department for Women's Policies Nilcéa Freire, and the directors of the Ministry of Health's National Sexually Transmitted Disease and AIDS Programme, Mariângela Simão and Eduardo Barbosa. [166]

The conference was convened by a decree issued by Brazil's president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, and published in the Official Federal Gazette. Approximately 700 delegates took part with 60% civil society participation and 40% governmental participation. There were a further 300 observers. 16 ministries collaborated with the process of drafting the base-text document on public policies discussed during the event.

Prior to the National Conference, conferences were held in Brazil's 27 states, convened by the state governors, in order to develop complementary proposals for the national policy document, define state-level policies and elect the delegates to the National Conference. More than 100 conferences were held at a municipal level. [167]

Brazil is a secular state, in which there exists a separation of church and state. The country's most followed religion is Catholicism. [168]

The Catholic Church teaches that homosexual acts are disordered and immoral, but some more progressive bishops in Brazil have a hard time divulging it publicly. [169] Many Protestant churches hold the same basic position as the Catholic Church. [169] In mainline liberal Protestant denominations, there is an effort to avoid homophobia. [170]

And while most of the conservative churches keep silent on the issue, Brazil has seen the growth of gay-friendly churches such as the Metropolitan Community Church, a denomination which originated in the United States. Apart from religious people, moral disapproval of homosexuality has been rare, because of the social pressures condemning prejudice and homophobia.

Among evangelicals, there are some campaigns to reach out to homosexual men and women. Movimento pela Sexualidade Sadia (Social Movement for a Healthy Sexuality), an evangelical group headed by an ex-homosexual, leads efforts to evangelize in gay parades, talking about Christianity to participants and delivering leaflets featuring the testimonials of "ex-gays" and "ex-lesbians". [169]

There may be a religious factor in Brazilian homosexuality. A minority of the Brazilian population adheres to Candomblé and other Afro-Brazilian religions (similar to Santería), where homosexuality is commonly accepted. For a comparison, there are some 19,000 recognized Catholic parishes in Brazil. Informal Candomblé temples are supposed to number some 12,000 in Rio de Janeiro alone. In Candomblé, many priests and priestesses are homosexual. Luiz Mott, the leader of the gay movement in Brazil, is a firm adherent of Candomblé. Many famous Brazilians turn to Afro-Brazilian religions in search of miracles to solve personal or family problems. Even former President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, though an atheist, had sympathy for and sometimes visited Candomblé rituals. [171] Another minority of the Brazilian LGBT population adheres to alternative pagan groups, like Wicca, where homosexuality is also accepted.

In June 2018, the General Synod of Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil voted to change its marriage canon to allow same-sex couples to get married. [172]

Opposition Edit

The main opponents of the advances of the gay rights movement in Brazil have generally been conservatives. Religion is the most cited reason for opposing gay rights. Regionally, opposition to the gay rights movement has been strongest in rural interior regions.

A national study from 2005 found that 80% of the Brazilian population opposed homosexuality and another survey in 2010 found that 63% of the population opposed civil unions between homosexual couples. [173] Followers of the Catholic and Protestant faiths, specifically the Pentecostal and historical Protestant denominations, are the most likely to oppose homosexuality. However, followers of spiritist or Afro-Brazilian, along with religious "nones" are the least likely to oppose homosexuality and homosexual civil unions. [174]

Catholic and evangelical politicians have also been trying to counter gay rights through the introduction of bills. Among them were Bill 2279/03 put forward by Representative Elimar Damasceno. It strove to ban public kissing between people of the same sex. Bill 2177/03, authored by Representative Neucimar Fraga, would have created an assistance program for sexual reorientation of persons who voluntarily opt for changing their sexual orientation from homosexuality to heterosexuality.

State representative Edino Fonseca, an Assembly of God government minister, introduced a bill in the Legislative Assembly of Rio de Janeiro to establish social services to support men and women wanting to "leave" homosexuality. He also introduced a bill to protect evangelical groups offering assistance to such men and women from discrimination and harassment. The latter bill faced severe opposition as well. It says: "No divulging of information on the possibility of support and/or the possibility of sexual reorientation of homosexuals is to be considered prejudice." [175]


The Inversion of Human Rights in Brazil

A dictatorship-era torturer is suing one of his victims in Brazil in a stark reminder of how Bolsonaro emboldens rights abusers.

A luízio Palmar, a Brazilian journalist, human rights activist, and former political prisoner, is being sued for defamation by his own torturer. The physical and psychological torture happened 40 years ago, when Palmar was imprisoned by the military dictatorship that ruled Brazil from 1964 to 1985. But it was only last month, in a climate defined by Brazil’s right-wing president Jair Bolsonaro, that Palmar’s abuser felt emboldened to file the suit.

Like thousands of others under the military regime, Palmar was subjected to various forms of torture: electrocution, simulated drowning, and the infamous “parrots perch” where he was strung up on a pole with his hands and feet tied together, his body dangling below, crouched and suspended in the air. Palmar was tortured by several different officers in the four detention centers where he was held between 1969 and 1971. One of his abusers always stood out: Lieutenant Mário Espedito Ostrovski.

When Palmar was imprisoned, his wife was pregnant with their child. Ostrovski knew this and during interrogation sessions—which included physical abuse—the lieutenant brought up Palmar’s family. “He told me he’d go arrest my wife, that he’d make her lose the baby we were expecting,” Palmar recalled. Ostrovski taunted Palmar and scolded him for making his child a political subversive, even before birth: “He told me that ideology is passed down through blood.”

Now, the 76-year-old Palmar is involved in a lawsuit with Ostrovski. In a cruel twist, it is not a case of the victim seeking justice from his abuser. Instead, Ostrovski—who became a lawyer after his military service—has sued Palmar for defamation of character and “moral damages” over his efforts to bring public attention to Ostrovski’s crimes. At a moment when human rights activists are facing increasing dangers in Brazil under a president who both glorifies and normalizes Brazil’s violent history, a victim of torture is being sued for libel by the man who tortured him.

Ostrovski’s human rights abuses have been well-documented, including in the 1984 report on torture titled Brasil: Nunca Mais (Brazil: Never Again) and also in the 2014 National Truth Commission, the largest effort to-date to elucidate the repression of Brazil’s military regime. In these reports, multiple victims testified to Ostrovski’s acts of torture.

Despite this evidence, Ostrovski has never stood trial. Nor, for that matter, has anyone in Brazil been held accountable for the cruelty of dictatorship. Unlike in neighboring Chile and Argentina where limited trials did take place, not a single member of the Brazilian military has faced criminal charges.

The lack of legal justice for Brazil’s human rights abusers helps explain the lawsuit against Palmar. Since the 1980s, Palmar has been an ardent human rights activist and journalist. He has co-founded a political newspaper, written a book on the forced disappearances of six Brazilian dissidents, maintained a website that publishes declassified documents, and established the Center for Human Rights and Popular Memory in the city of Foz do Iguaçu.

So although there has been a concerted absence of political and institutional justice, Palmar and countless Brazilians like him have fought to keep the memory of the past alive. One of these initiatives took place in 2013 and stands as the crux of the current lawsuit.

As part of the investigations for the National Truth Commission, Palmar and three other torture victims testified in a public hearing. In the aftermath of this testimony, protestors engaged in a political action common in Latin America known as an escrache: to expose Ostrovisky—who had been living in relatively anonymity—the crowd marched to his law office and held a noisy rally to “out” him as a torturer. Palmar himself did not take part in the protest, but he did publicize the event on Facebook.

And it is precisely Palmar’s act of sharing the protest on Facebook that Ostroviski is now citing in his claim for legal and financial restitution. But if the event in question took place in 2013, why is the lawsuit only now being brought forth?

The answer ties directly to Brazil’s current political landscape. Since Bolsonaro’s election in October 2018, a long-standing culture of impunity has become even more brazen. An army captain in the final years of the dictatorship, Bolsonaro has built his political career on an unapologetic nostalgia for military rule. Among his many headline-grabbing statements, Bolsonaro invoked the dictatorship’s most notorious torturer in voting to impeach the former president Dilma Rousseff—herself a torture victim—and he has stated that the regime’s murder of some 500 citizens did not go far enough.

Carla Luciana Silva, a professor of history at the State University of Western Paraná, sees both Bolsonaro’s presidency and Ostrovski’s lawsuit as the result of Brazil’s disjointed transition from military to civilian rule, where many of the dictatorship-era policies remained in place even after the official return of democracy. In particular, she notes the legacy of the 1979 Amnesty Law that has made it nearly impossible to bring perpetrators to justice.

“Since 1979, torturers have been protected by a law that is interpreted as impunity for them,” Luciana Silva said. “Now they are sheltered by an irresponsible president, who clearly governs for only a portion of the population. The torturer felt comfortable suing his victim as if nothing were going to happen.”

As both a journalist and a human rights activist, Palmar embodies two of the sectors of civil society most under threat in Bolsonaro’s Brazil. Between early December and early January alone, multiple journalists and media outlets in Brazil have suffered abuse, including two reporters in Rondônia receiving suspended jail time in a defamation case and a radio station’s antennae being destroyed by arson. Bolsonaro himself recently renewed his antagonism against the press: When asked in December about the growing corruption scandal surrounding his family, he deflected by verbally assaulted the journalist: “You look terribly like a homosexual.” These threats contribute to a dangerous reality where since 2010, 22 journalists in Brazil have been killed.

And according to the NGO Frontline Defenders, Brazil is also one of the deadliest places on earth for human rights activists, with a frightening increase in the threats, arrests, and physical attacks on activists, particularly around environmental, Indigenous, and LGBTQI+ rights. In 2019, the number of Indigenous leaders and activists killed reached the highest rate in two decades, and the Bolsonaro regime continues to skirt any responsibility to solve the 2018 assassination of Marielle Franco, a city councilwoman, gay Black feminist, and human rights activist. Bolsonaro also lashed out against the media when evidence emerged of apparent links between his family and Franco’s suspected killers.

Palmar’s situation is symptomatic of how human rights are being inverted in Brazil. There is a double injustice at play: Not only is a survivor of torture being preyed on once again by his former abuser, but the lack of accountability over the past 40 years is now being compounded to such a degree that a torturer feels as though his rights are being abused. In Bolsonaro’s Brazil, torturers like Ostrovski can pervert the legal system to not only silence victims and critics, but to attempt to redefine whose rights actually matter.

Before Bolsonaro, the torturers and human rights abusers of Brazil’s recent past had largely hidden from public view. As part of the National Truth Commission, the accused perpetrators were called to testify. Ostrovski, like so many others, refused to come forward.

Aluízio Palmar offers an unambiguous reason for why Ostrovski has now re-emerged to sue him.

“With Bolsonaro in power, [these abusers] feel free,” Palmar said. “They feel free to go around threatening us, to commit a form of terrorism. And more and more they’re putting Brazilian democracy itself in danger. There is a real enemy, and it’s going to set us back a long time.”

To help bring attention to Bolsonaro’s assault on human rights, the international community must expose the lawsuit against Aluízio Palmar as a baseless attempt to silence a victim and intimidate a journalist. If left unchecked, torturers like Ostrovski and their enablers in power will continue their efforts to turn back the clock and return Brazil to its authoritarian past.

Jacob Blanc is a history professor at the University of Edinburgh.


Human Rights Violations in Brazil: Report of the National Truth Commission

By Clemént Doleac, Research Associate at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs
Editorial credit: Ronn Pineo, Senior Research Fellow at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, and Professor and Chair of the Department of History, Towson University.

After two years and seven months of investigation, the Brazilian National Truth Commission (Comissão Nacional da Verdade, CNV) delivered on December 10 its final report on human rights violations during the time of the military dictatorship, 1964 to 1985. Drawing upon 1,116 interviews, the 4,328 page report concluded that there were 434 politically-motivated murderers during this dark period.[1] The Truth Commission listed the names of the nearly 300 military, ex-military, and police officers who carried out the crimes.[2] The report has brought a stunning day of reckoning for Brazil.

Two Decades of State Terrorism

In the years since the end of the dictatorship those responsible for Brazil’s human rights violations had tried to maintain that what they did was just an inevitable and ultimately necessary part of the “war against terrorism.”[3] However, the report of the Truth Commission demonstrates that these declarations are patently false: torture and human rights violations were part of a systematic decision to impose state terrorism in Brazil.[4]

Many Brazilians suffered grievously during these years at the hands of their own government. One was “Estela,” a 22 year old Marxist guerrillera who had joined the struggle against the dictatorship, calling for freedom, democracy, and social justice. “Estela” was Dilma Roussef, current Brazilian president, reelected this past October. After her capture Roussef spent three years in jail, 1970 to 1973. She was suspended naked for hours, bound wrists and ankles in the infamous “parrot’s perch” position, and tortured with electric shocks to her feet and ears.[5] As the Truth Commission’s report carefully documents, thousands of Brazilians suffered a similar fate.[6]

Many of the 88 army generals and others named in the report as human rights criminals are now dead.[7] General Nilton Cerqueira, one of those still alive struck a common theme of defense. Only following orders, General Cerqueira explained, he simply was applying the law against terrorism during the dictatorship’s years. Cerqueira expressed considerable dismay with the fact that those he regarded as terrorists are currently leading the country.[8] He expressed no regrets for his actions.

The U.S. Role

The Brazilian military of course bears the responsibility for these acts, but it was clearly backed in these years by the U.S. government. While the U.S.offered support at the time of the coup, in the years between 1954 and 1985, more than 300 Brazilian military members spent time at the School of the Americas . This infamous military training facility was operated by the U.S. government. There officers and cadets from across Latin America attended classes, and some of the training they received, we now know, included instruction in how to administrate torture.[9] As researcher Hayes Brown notes, a Pentagon manual “recommended interrogation techniques like torture, execution, blackmail and arresting the relatives of those being questioned.”[10]

Beginning in the 1960s, the School of the Americas turned its training focus to dealing with the perceived threat of internal enemies. This counter-insurgency doctrine received its most direct inspiration from the French use of torture in the Algerian war of independence and then modeled from the CIA practices used during the Vietnam War.[11] Indeed, Nazi war criminals were actually hired by the CIA in its network throughout Latin America and many have been implicated in teaching Latin American army officials in the use of torture. The CIA made obtaining an American visa possible in the direct post-war period for thousands of ex-Nazi officials, and many of them were employed during the Cold War as spies in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and in Latin America.[12] Despite the Brazilian military’s refusal to collaborate with the government investigation, it has been also established that they also provided advanced training in torture, exporting experts to other like-minded Latin American dictatorships to lend friendly counsel in setting up their own torture regimens.

The Brazilian Army, far from being composed only of torturers, was also a victim of these practices. Members of the army were persecuted, taken prisoner, and tortured. The leading Brazilian daily newspaper, O Globo, has reported that nearly 6,500 members of the military were tortured after their refusal to support the 1964 coup against President João Goulart.[13]

No Justice, No Peace

Of the 377 named by the Brazilian Truth Commission for human rights violations, 190 are still alive.[14] The Commission has called for justice, recommending that the matters to placed before the nation’s criminal justice system. But in Brazil, as with the other former military dictatorships, the price for the restoration of democracy was a free pass for human rights violators, laws the military enshrined in the constitution before returning to the barracks. The amnesty laws forgave decades of terror.

But now that the Brazilian government has formally acknowledged these crimes, one question remains: will the murderers be judged? And one more question: will those in the U.S. government who assisted in the execution of these crimes be judged at some point, a point before they go to their graves?[15] For it would be good if some worldly punishment could proceed any eternal one.

By Clemént Doleac, Research Associate at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs
Editorial credit: Ronn Pineo, Senior Research Fellow at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, Professor and Chair of the Department of History, Towson University.

Please accept this article as a free contribution from COHA, but if re-posting, please afford authorial and institutional attribution. Exclusive rights can be negotiated. For additional news and analysis on Latin America, please go to: LatinNews.com and Rights Action.

Featured image by Antonio Cruz/Agência Brasil.
From: http://www.ebc.com.br/cidadania/galeria/imagens/2014/12/dilma-rousseff-recebe-relatorio-final-da-comissao-nacional-da

[1] Associated Press, “Brazil Truth Commission Delivers Final Report on Dictatorship’s Brutality, Seeks Amnesty’s End” in Fox News, published December 10, 2014. Consulted on http://www.foxnews.com/world/2014/12/10/brazil-truth-commission-delivers-final-report-on-dictatorship-brutality-seeks/ on December 11, 2014.

[2] Associated Press, “Brazil Truth Commission Issues Damning Report Against Country’s Former Military Dictatorship » in CBC, published on December 10, 2014. Consulted on http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/brazil-truth-commission-issues-damning-report-against-country-s-former-military-dictatorship-1.2867062 on December 11, 2014.

[3] Eric Nepomuceno, “Brasil busca la memoria callada sobre 21 años de dictadura ,” published on December 10, 2014, in La Jornada. Consulted on http://www.jornada.unam.mx/ultimas/2014/12/10/brasil-busca-la-memoria-callada-6346.html on December 11, 2014.

[5] Darius Rejali, Torture and Democracy, Princeton University Press, 2007.


Contents

From 1964 to 1985 Brazil fell under the influence of a military regime that killed or “disappeared” political activists and trade unionists and tortured many others. The numbers of those killed and “disappeared” are smaller than those of neighboring countries like Argentina, which also fell to military dictatorships. [7] Brazil's military regime ruled Brazil by rotating military presidents, held elections, and kept Congress open. However, in reality, the elections held were heavily manipulated and the military openly threatened Congress if it began to operate against the views and wishes of the regime. [8] In 1979 the Brazilian government passed an amnesty law that allowed all exiled activists to return to Brazil but also protected officials involved in the military regime from any prosecution for human rights violations committed prior to 1979. Because of this law, no military perpetrators of crimes have been tried and convicted for their offenses. [9] As 1985 began to unfold, the regime began to slowly and peacefully transfer governmental power to civilians, avoiding a tumultuous end that might instigate negative feelings about the regime or aggressive prosecution of any leaders of the military. [7] This chapter of Brazil's past created what researcher Nina Schneider describes as a “politics of silence”, [8] where atrocities and entire decades of Brazil's history have been swept under the carpet.

Brazil: Nunca Mais Edit

In 1985 the Archdiocese of São Paulo headed by Archbishop Cardinal Paulo Evaristo Arns and supported by the World Council of Churches published a report called Brasil: Nunca Mais (Brazil: Never Again, or Torture in Brazil) about the widespread use of torture during Brazil's military regime. Working from 1979–1982, while the military was still in power, lawyers and other researchers sought to investigate to what extent the regime used torture as a form of punishment for their political opponents, secretly copying documents from military trial transcripts from 1964–1979 and gathering testimony from political prisoners. The report's publication and release was delayed until after March 1985 to ensure that a new civilian president and government were in place. This project did not have an official mandate, although unofficially one of the participants said that they were working to preserve the military records and inform society about the abuses suffered by Brazilians under the dictatorship. The report concluded that the military regime used torture in its judicial system, and that judicial authorities knew that these torture methods were taking place to elicit confessions. Its recommendations for Brazil were vague, calling Brazilians to ensure “that the violence, the infamy, the injustice, and the persecution of Brazil’s recent past should never again be repeated”, [10] and that citizens should be able to participate in politics to ensure that the government is held accountable for its actions. [10] This report, however, failed to effect much change in Brazil as the 1979 Amnesty law protected the perpetrators of human rights violations during the regime and the project never had any governmental backing to legitimize it.

The Special Commission on Political Deaths and Disappearances Edit

In 1995 Law No. 9.410, known as the Law of the Disappeared, allowed for the creation of a Special Commission on Political Deaths and Disappearances (the CEMDP), established and installed in the Ministry of Justice of Brazil and sanctioned by the president of Brazil, Fernando Henrique Cardoso. [11]

This law marks the first time that the State accepted responsibility for the illicit acts of the military regime, including kidnapping, torture, imprisonment, forced disappearance, murder, and violations against foreigners living in Brazil. With this law came the option for families affected by the illicit activities of the military regime to request the death certificates of those disappeared and receive compensation. After this law came into effect, another commission was tasked with investigating deaths that were politically motivated while in police custody. [12]

Many families criticized this law because it did not mandate the State to identify and hold responsible the perpetrators of those criminal acts, and because the burden of proof was placed on the families of victims. Additional complaints were founded on the fact that due to the Amnesty Law, the state could not examine the circumstances of the deaths. These families also disapproved of the state treating deaths like they were only family issues, not ones of society, since only family members of victims could file requests for acknowledgement of State responsibility. [12] After eleven years of work, the CEMDP had disbursed nearly 40 million reais to the families of more than 300 persons killed by the military regime, with the average payment coming to approximately 120,000 reais, almost 120,000 dollars at the exchange rate of the time. In addition to these reparations, the CEMDP in September 2006 began collecting blood samples from families of people killed during the regime to create a DNA database to identify the remains of victims. [12]

In 2007, during the second term of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the book Direito à memória e à verdade (Right to memory and to truth) was published. This book outlined the results of eleven years of labor by the CEMDP, serving as the first official report by the Brazilian State to directly accuse members of the military for crimes such as torture, dismemberment, decapitation, rape, concealing bodies, and murder. Paulo Vannuchi, one of the authors of Brazil: Nunca Mais, helped to complete this book. This book proved that the majority of opponents to the military regime were arrested, tortured, and killed, and was highly critical of the amnesty awarded to military officials. This book called military officials and those involved in illicit acts to uncover the truth of what happened during the regime. [12]

Subsequent Truth and Justice projects Edit

Since 2007, memorials titled “Indispensible People” have been erected around Brazil, helping to restore some of the history of those political dissidents who died during the military regime. [12]

The federal government of Brazil in May 2009 launched the online project “Revealed Memories”, also known as the “Reference Center for the Political Struggles in Brazil (1964-1985)”. This reference center makes available information to the public about the political history of Brazil, and is run under the supervision of the National Archives, an organization that reports directly to the Office of the Chief of Staff of the Presidency of the Republic. [12]

In 1979, Brazil passed a law which granted amnesty for political crimes and crimes with a political nexus committed by members of the armed forces or member of the government between 2 September 1961 and 15 August 1979. [13]

Recently, a western human rights court and Brazilian lawyers ordered Brazil to overturn the 1979 amnesty law so the perpetrators could be prosecuted in the criminal court. However Brazil still declined to overturn the law, perhaps meaning a change to this law in the near future is unlikely. Although international pressure wants the law overturned, supreme court chairman Cezar Peluso says, “If it’s true that every people, according to its own culture, solves its own historical problems in its own manner, then Brazil has chosen the way of harmony.” However journalist Fernando Rodriguez stated it's more of a, “fear to lay hands on the shameful episodes of the past”. [14]

In April 2010, in a controversial ruling, the Brazilian court upheld the use of the amnesty law during the military regime. However, a few months later in November 2010, the Inter American Court of Human Rights found in the Gomez Lund case that the amnesty law was not compatible with the American Convention, meaning that the law lacked legal effect and therefore should not be an obstacle in the prosecution of the human rights abuses. [15] Marking a crucial moment in Brazil's history, the federal courts launched an investigation into a past human rights violation. On 24 March 2012, federal prosecutors charged Colonel Carlos Alberto Brilhante Ustra and Police Chief Dirceu Garvina, with the kidnapping of a union leader Aluzio Palhano Pedreira Ferreira in 1971. Although the amnesty law would normally come into play here, the absence of the victim, makes it so the crime is deemed to continue beyond 1979 and thus not covered by the amnesty. [15] Even with the amnesty law, prosecutors are starting to find “loopholes” in the law. With increasing international pressure on this law, it will be interesting to see how this unfolds.

The Amnesty Law, organized into five chapters (which was considered highly satisfactory by the victims of political persecution) guarantees the following amnesty rights: the declaration of the status of political amnesty recipient financial reparations assurance, for all official purposes, that the period of time in which they were forced to stop their professional activities due to punishment or threat of punishment will count as valid the conclusion of courses interrupted due to punishment or the validation of diplomas obtained by those who completed courses at teaching institutes outside the country and the right to reinstatement for punished civil servants and public employees. In the sole paragraph of article 1, the law guarantees those who were removed from their jobs by administrative cases, based on emergency legislation, without the right to contest the case or defend themselves, and prevented from knowing the motives and grounds for the decision, reinstatement to their positions (due to the age of the claimants, this reinstatement has occurred, in practice, in retirement).

The law also lists in detail all the punishments that entitle victims to the status of recipients of political amnesty, and it states that financial reparations, provided for in chapter III, may be paid in two different ways: in a single installment, consisting of the payment of 30 times the minimum monthly wage per year of punishment for those who cannot prove an employment relationship, and whose value may not, under any circumstances, exceed 100,000 reais or in permanent and continuous monthly installments, guaranteed to those who can prove an employment relationship. According to the law, each victim of political persecution has the right to receive the outstanding amounts up until five years before the date of their request claiming amnesty. [12]

Formation of the Commission Edit

The commission was proposed by the 3rd National Human Rights Program, a set of bills proposed by then President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in December 2009. [1] However, Lula dropped the truth commission proposal after members of the military threatened resignation. [16] Since then, its text was changed several times, mainly to address the complaints of the military, who feared a review of the Amnesty Law. [1] Most notably, the term "political repression" was abolished from the bill's text. [1] Since the commission will not have punitive powers against officers accused of torture, [1] it was criticized by human rights activists as a non-contribution for justice. [2] They also claim that the commission will have a very short term and not enough members to complete their work satisfactorily. [2] The military, on the other hand, complain that they will not be represented on the commission, which may not give due weight to crimes committed by leftist organizations. [2]

Structure of the Commission Edit

The Commission consists of 7 commissioners and an additional 14 employees. The commissioners include Gilson Dipp, José Carlos Dias, José Paulo Cavalcantí Filho, Maria Rita Kehl, Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, Pedro Dallari, and Rosa Maria Cardoso da Cunha. [17] [18] The commission has significant power in order to ascertain the factual and social truths of the nation's military dictatorship: it "can receive voluntarily provided information in the form of testimonies, data, and documents solicit information from public entities and organs convoke persons for interviews or testimonies authorize enquiries to collect or recover information hold public hearings request witness protection partner with public or private, national or international organs and organizations to exchange information and demand assistance from public entities and organs." [18] The commission's goals for reconciliation focus on documenting the truth and promoting restorative justice. [18] It hopes to help victims, find bodies of the disappeared, establish the policies and actions of the dictatorship, and recommend measures to prevent further human rights violations. [18] Although the Commission has been given the appropriate powers to ascertain information, it is questionable if it will be able to achieve its goals due to resistance in Brazil, particularly on the part of the military. [18]

Financial reparations Edit

The amnesty bill put into place in 1979, stated in article 11 that “This Law, beyond the rights expressed herein, does not generate any others, including those relating to remuneration, payments, salaries, income, restitution, dues, compensation, advances or reimbursements.” The law did not allow any reparations in any of the mentioned forms. Then in 2001, Fernando Henrique Cardoso passed a bill allowing financial compensation to those whose work was impeded by the military dictatorship. [12] In 2009 the Brazilian Justice Ministry awarded 142,000 reals, or 71,000 us dollars to 44 farmers each, as well as about 465 us dollars a month. When announcing the reparation payments Justice Minister Tarso Genro stated “This is a formal request for forgiveness by the Brazilian Government.” [19] However, offering reparations to 44 Brazilian farmers does not even begin to compensate for the human rights violations perpetrated by the military dictatorship. In 1996, the Dossier on the Missing and Assassinated originally published in 1984 by the Brazilian Committee for Amnesty, Rio Grande do Sul section, was updated referring to 217 victims of assassination and 152 victims of forced disappearance by state agents. [20] However, Law 9,140, a law allowing financial compensation to victim's families, only recognized 130 victims of forced disappearance and none of assassination. [21] Outside of major cases of reparations, the Brazilian government has provided financial compensation in 12,000 cases from 1995 to 2010. [22]

Current Developments Edit

After signing the law, Rousseff initially made little progress with the Truth Commission. Due to objections from both the military and human rights activists, Rousseff at first stepped back from the Truth Commission she signed into law in November 2011. [18] Nearly half a year after the formation of the commission, no commissioners had been appointed. [18] However, the commission eventually began with its inauguration in May 2013. [23] The inauguration featured the introduction of the seven commissioners and a speech by President Rousseff, in which she declared the event a “celebration of the transparency of truth.” [23] Since the inauguration in May 2012, the truth commission has held fifteen public hearings across nine states in Brazil. [17] In July 2013, the commission reported on their accomplishments in their first year of existence. [24] In a televised press conference, truth commissioner Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro detailed the year's successes. [24] In particular, he mentioned that the commission's information comes from three primary sources: archives of intelligence operations that existed during the military dictatorship, testimonies of suspects and surviving victims, and other documents supplied by the government of Brazil. [24] Furthermore, this emphasis on collecting factual and forensic truth has led to several significant findings of the commission. The first is that the use of torture was not only employed towards the end of the military dictatorship, but had been used as a common technique in interrogation as early as 1964. Additionally, the commission has established that the state of Brazil concealed information regarding missing persons. [24] While the commission took time to gain enough political support and fulfill the requirements of the mandate, there have been significant developments in the formation of a national truth in Brazil over the course of the last year.

Regional Truth Commissions Edit

As the national Truth Commission seemed to be at a virtual standstill in the beginning of 2012, the São Paulo state assembly decided to form an independent Truth Commission. The commission is composed of five commissioners who will investigate human rights abuses that occurred during the military dictatorship and offer a report in 2015. [25] Officially called the Rubens Paiva State Truth Commission (named after disappeared congressman Rubens Paiva) the commission hopes to contribute to “a nation-wide mobilization around the cause of memory, truth, and justice.” [24] Since the formation of the São Paulo truth commission, other states have followed their example. [25] A member of the house subcommittee on the national truth commission, Erika Kokay, argued in favor of the urgency expressed by the states’ initiatives for these regional commissions: “This country cannot bear to wait. Brazil has to know the truth.” [26] The various truth commissions are designed to report to and cooperate with the efforts of the national truth commission, despite their ability to conduct their own investigations. [24]

Human Rights Trial Edit

In December 2013, the case regarding the disappearance of Edgar de Aquino Duarte became the first criminal trial of state security agents Carlos Alberto Brilhante Ustra, Carlos Augusto, and Alcides Singello. The victim vanished in 1973 after being held and tortured at special intelligence offices in São Paulo. [24] Punitive justice has traditionally been challenging to accomplish in Brazil due to the amnesty law of 1979 and the subsequent upholding of this law by Brazil's supreme court. [27] The ministry of public affairs has been able to make the claim that cases such as that of Edgar de Aquino Duarte are exempt from the 1979 amnesty law because the victim is still missing, making the forced disappearance an ongoing crime. [24] While the amnesty law has prevented criminal trials in Brazil in the past, interpretations of the amnesty law may change as the impunity of Brazil's human rights violators crumbles. [28]

On January 11, 2013, the Comissão Nacional da Verdade (CNV) released its first torture allegation from outside the military dictatorship, during the government of Getúlio Vargas. [29] Eighty-four-year-old Boris Tabacof, former Secretary of Finance of Bahia, former director of the Safra Group and current president of the Board of Directors of Suzano, [30] denounced the torture he suffered in November 2012 to several members of the commission: Maria Rita Kehl, José Carlos Dias and Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro. Tabacof's testimony covered his torture, illustrating his arrest on October 20, 1952 and subsequent 400-day imprisonment. [31] Tabacof's testimony also illustrated a significant human rights violation that occurred in Brazil during the Estado Novo period (1937-1945). Despite the nature of Tabacof's testimony, the CNV's mandate only covers issues from between 1964 and 1988, preventing any further investigation of the claim.


U.S. Relations With Brazil

The United States and Brazil enjoy robust political and economic relations. The United States was the first country to recognize Brazil’s independence in 1822. As the two largest democracies and economies in the Western Hemisphere, the United States and Brazil have a partnership that is rooted in a shared commitment to expand economic growth and prosperity promote international peace, security, and respect for human rights and strengthen defense and security cooperation.

The United States and Brazil have a long history of deepening people-to-people ties through investment and exchanges in education, culture, energy, health, agriculture, science and technology, English language training, and innovation. Education cooperation continues to thrive with numerous initiatives for youth, educators, and professionals. For example, the bi-national Fulbright Commission, established in 1957, has supported study and research exchanges for thousands of scholars between the two countries. We have been strengthening the U.S.-Brazil strategic partnership through capacity building in English teaching and learning throughout the country – liaising with the Ministry of Education, State and Municipal Secretariats of public education, English teacher associations, public and private universities, and other partners – in order to offer professional development, educational exchange programs, and materials for English language teachers and students. Education USA helps Brazilian university students access information and opportunities to study in the United States at its 38 centers throughout Brazil. The government of Brazil continues to invest in Embassy-initiated exchange programs such as the Professional Development of Public School English Language Teachers (PDPI) in the United States, and a considerable expansion of the English Teaching Assistant Program in Brazil.

The two countries maintain extensive scientific exchanges at the individual researcher level, as well as bilateral collaborations with the U.S. Geological Survey, NASA, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. The two nations collaborate in weather monitoring, meteorology and standards, environmental impact monitoring, and an extensive range of public health efforts. Brazil is also home to the U.S. National Institute of Health’s (NIH) largest research portfolio in Latin America.

The United States and Brazil signed the United States-Brazil Joint Action Plan to Eliminate Racial and Ethnic Discrimination and Promote Equality (JAPER) in 2008. In March 2019, the Department launched an Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation grant to restore and preserve the Valongo Wharf archaeological site in Rio de Janeiro, which will ensure the appropriate infrastructure for wharf public visits and education outreach on the history and modern-day contributions of African Descendants in Brazil and beyond.

The United States and Brazil are working together on key global, multilateral, and regional issues. Brazil’s national space agency, AEB, is a member of NASA’s GLOBE science program, with 119 Brazilian schools participating in projects such as the GLOBE Mosquito Habitat Mapper (MHM) app that connects to the GLOBE database to help track mosquitoes that spread Zika and other diseases.

During President Bolsonaro’s March visit to Washington, the United States and Brazil signed the Technology Safeguards Agreement which, once ratified by the Brazilian congress, will guarantee that U.S. sensitive technologies are protected from unauthorized uses and will establish the safeguards to support the launch of U.S.-licensed satellites or space launch vehicles from the Alcantara Space Center in Brazil. This agreement has the potential to open new commercial opportunities for Americans and Brazilians in a range of advanced technologies related to space, including satellites. The visit also led to an agreement between NASA and the Brazilian Space Agency to launch a jointly developed research satellite in the near future.

The United States and Brazil are strengthening cooperation on defense issues, including research and development, technology security, and the acquisition and development of products and services. These agreements promote joint exercises and facilitate the sharing of sophisticated capabilities and technologies. In June 2019, President Trump designated Brazil as a Major Non-NATO Ally of the United States. Following the successful visit of Defense Minister Fernando Azevedo e Silva to Washington in March 2019, the third iteration of the U.S.-Brazil Defense Industry Dialogue took place in Rio de Janeiro in April 2019. This ongoing, public-private dialogue has generated important policy deliverables such as the March 2019 signing of the Technology Safeguards Agreement and spurred numerous industry collaborations since its launch in 2016.

U.S.-Brazil Bilateral Economic Relations

Brazil is the world’s ninth-largest economy and the United States is Brazil’s second-largest trading partner. Two-way trade in goods and services was $103.9 billion (70.7 billion in goods and 33.2 billion in services) in 2018. Last year, the United States had an overall trade surplus of $20.6 billion for goods and services, including an $8.3 billion trade surplus for goods alone. Brazil’s main imports from the United States are aircraft, machinery, petroleum products, electronics, and optical and medical instruments. The United States is Brazil’s second-largest export market. The primary products are crude oil, aircraft, iron and steel, and machinery. According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, the United States had invested $68.34 billion in Brazil as of 2017.

The United States welcomed more than 1.9 million visitors from Brazil in 2017, comprising the eighth-largest group of visitors. There were approximately 475,000 U.S. visitors to Brazil in 2017, comprising the second-largest source of visitors to Brazil. During his March 2019 visit to Washington, President Bolsonaro announced Brazil’s intent to exempt U.S. citizens from tourist visa requirements for travel to Brazil, and this went into force in June. The United States and Brazil conduct regular exchanges on trade facilitation, good regulatory practices, and standards. The 17 th plenary of the Commercial Dialogue will occur in September 2019, and regular exchanges at the working level between U.S. Department of Commerce, Brazil’s Ministry of Economy and other agencies and regulators continue throughout the year. Presidents Trump and Bolsonaro announced a new phase of the U.S. Brazil CEO Forum following their March 19, 2019 meeting. The Presidents also agreed to establish a United States-Brazil Energy Forum to facilitate energy-related trade and investment.

U.S. Assistance to Brazil

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) engages in a long-standing strategic bilateral partnership with the Government of Brazil across several joint priorities, including biodiversity conservation in the Amazon, trilateral technical assistance for other countries in targeted areas, and technical assistance for private sector partnerships to promote best practices and resources to stimulate development solutions for the conservation of biodiversity and sustainable socioeconomic livelihoods of the Amazon. In addition to these lines of effort, in response to the Venezuela regional crisis, USAID’s regional mission in Peru provides medium-to-long-term assistance to Brazil, Ecuador, and Peru to improve and facilitate the economic integration of Venezuelan migrants and refugees in major receptor communities in Peru, Ecuador and Brazil.

  • The Partnership for Conservation of Amazon Biodiversity (PCAB) is a multi-year (2016-2024), $80 million bilateral agreement with the Brazilian Cooperation Agency (ABC), the Ministry of Environment (MMA), the Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation (ICMBio), and the National Indigenous Foundation (FUNAI). The purpose of the partnership is to strengthen Brazil’s vast protected area systems, including indigenous territories, to support sustainable forest-friendly value chains, and to foster private sector leadership and engagement in joint solutions.
  • USAID works with Brazilian partners to advance innovative financing solutions for hard-to-reach forest and biodiversity-supportive businesses, and facilitate private-sector led collective action platforms, such as the Partnership Platform for the Amazon (PPA), which includes 20+ companies (a mix of Brazilian, American and international companies) that is generating private sector and market-led sustainable economic solutions designed to reduce deforestation, conserve biodiversity and improve community well-being.
  • Mais Unidos brings together U.S. companies that invest in science, and technology, as well as entrepreneurship and access to English language training for Brazilian youth over the last ten years.
  • In March 2019, USAID and Brazil’s Ministry of Environment signed a Letter of Intent to facilitate the first-ever biodiversity-focused impact-investment fund for the Brazilian Amazon that will mobilize $100 million in private sector financing for equity and loan investments for sustainable business ventures aligned with forest and biodiversity conservation.

USAID and the Government of Brazil work together to promote development in other countries, particularly in Africa and Latin America, through trilateral technical assistance. USAID and the Government of Brazil have implemented trilateral food security programs to increase agricultural productivity, improve food security, and address school nutrition in Honduras, Haiti, and Mozambique, and have teamed up to address the Fall Armyworm outbreak across Sub-Saharan Africa.

Brazil’s Membership in International Organizations

Brazil and the United States belong to a number of the same international organizations, including the United Nations, Organization of American States, Inter-American Development Bank, G-20, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and the World Trade Organization. Brazil traditionally has been a leader in the inter-American community, and is a member of the sub-regional MERCOSUR and UNASUR groups.

During President Bolsonaro’s March 2019 visit to Washington, President Trump stated his support for Brazil’s efforts to join the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Bilateral Representation

Principal U.S. embassy officials are listed in the Department’s Key Officers List.

Brazil maintains an embassy in the United States at 3006 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202-238-2700).

More information about Brazil is available from the Department of State and other sources, some of which are listed here:


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