society's expectations for political changes, Brazil still
presents a sad picture of fundamental rights violation. With
the election of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva for president,
people's movements strengthened their organizations looking
for answers to historical demands, such as land reform, legalization
of Indigenous territories, access to education, housing, healthcare,
work and social justice.
2003, we saw a raise in the number of murders of rural workers
and Indigenous leaders. From January to October 2003, the
Conselho Indigenista Missionário (Indigenous Missionary
Council, CIMI) recorded 22 murders and one missing Indigenous
leader. This was the highest number in the last 10 years.
In 2002, seven indigenous people were murdered. The Indigenous
movement expects the government to deal with land conflicts,
and the revocation of Decree 4.412/2002, which allows the
installation of military and police units inside Indigenous
year 2003 will be remembered for the strong violence against
landless workers. According to the Comissão Pastoral
da Terra (Pastoral Land Commission, CPT), 61 peasants were
murdered between January and November-35 of them in the State
of Pará. In 2001, 29 murders of rural workers occurred,
and in 2002, this number raised to 43. These communities live
under permanent threat of aggressions by the police or private
is one of the main causes of this violence. Between 1985 and
2002, 1.280 murders were registered among rural workers, lawyers,
technicians, religious and worker's organizations leaders
who were engaged in the legal fight for land. From this number
of 1.280, only 121 had a trial. Only 14 of the people responsible
for the murders were judged, and only seven were found guilty.
kind of aggression against MST (Landless Workers Movement)
is arbitrary imprisonment. Between August 2002 and November
2003, judge Átis de Araújo Oliveira, from the
City of Teodoro Sampaio, in Pontal do Paranapanema, signed
12 prison decrees involving 46 members of the movement. All
these decisions were annulled by superior courts.
Paulo Medina, from the Supreme Court of Justice, freed Valmir
Rodrigues Chaves and Mário Barreto, members of MST
in Pontal do Paranapanema, and declared that "these rural
members of the MST fight and sacrifice themselves for more
reasonable means of living, where social dignity may only
be restored when the real, necessary and essential land reform
is done in Brazil".
concern of rural workers is the guarantee of food sovereignity.
The possible monopoly of seeds by big multinational corporations
like Monsanto, through the legalization of GMOs, would have
a negative effect for farmers and for the population in general.
According to Flavia Londres, from the Campanha por um Brasil
Livre de Transgênicos (Campaign for a GMO-free Brazil),
the government should fight the "omission to perform
the control on the smuggling, sowing and illegal commerce
of genetically modified seeds".
2003, grassroots organizations strongly criticized Lula's
government for bending towards big businesses interests and
liberate the illegal genetically modified soy crops. The government
ignored its previous commitment of observing the "precaution
principle", which means demanding the confirmation that
the GMOs do not cause any harm to human health or the environment.
landowners are still very powerful. Brazil has one of the
highest levels of land concentrations in the world. Nearly
1% of landowners hold 46% of all arable lands. From the 400
million hectares registered as private property, only 60 million
are used to grow crops. Data from Incra (Agrarian Reform Institute)
show that nearly 100 million hectares are unproductive.
In urban centers, the main focus of violence is also concentrated
among low-income communities that suffer from police violence
and actions by death squads. According to Fermino Fechio,
ex-police investigation officer in São Paulo, "suspicious
of participation of police officers in executions of teenagers
in the State of São Paulo are not new".
January to May 2003, Military Police of the State of São
Paulo killed 435 people - an average of 3 homicides per day.
This number reveals a raise of 51% compared to the same period
causes of violation of civil and political rights are related
to the non-compliance with economical, social and cultural
rights. "Social exclusion has increased 11% in Brazil
between 1980 and 2000. In these two decades, the number of
people below the poverty line raised from 51 million (42.6%
of a population of 120 million inhabitants) to 80 million
(47.3% of a population of 170 million), says Marcio Pochmann,
Secretary of Development and Labor of the City of São
than 42 million Brazilians over 10 years old are not able
to read and write. This means 31.4% of the population of this
age. A research carried out in 53 slums in Rio de Janeiro
reveals that 62% of youth did not complete first grade education,
and only 1% had 12 years of study. Data from IBGE show that
illiteracy reaches 20% of the black population and 8.3% of
the white population.
housing deficit in Brazil is over 6 million homes. In the
City of São Paulo, the number of people living in slums
raised from 1.2 million in 1990 to nearly 2 million in 2000.
According to the Centro de Estudo da Metrópole (Metropolis
Study Center), the city sees the birth of a new shantytown
every week. From 1991 to 2000, 464 new shantytowns were built.
This means an average of 74 people becoming a slum resident
population living in the streets of São Paulo is estimated
in 15 thousand people. On the other hand, the Movimento Sem
Teto do Centro (Homeless Movement from the Center) counted
more than 400 buildings and closed landsites in downtown.
is one of the main concerns, especially reaching women and
black people. In August 2003, DIEESE registered an unemployment
rate of 23.6% for women, and 16.5% for men in São Paulo.
Since the beginning of 2003, 300 thousand women left the job
market. Differences in wages were found in all sectors. Women
with up to 3 years of study received amounts equivalent to
61% of a man's salary. Those with 11 years of study or more
received 57.1% of a man's income.
on slave labor in 2003 are alarming. In the first 9.5 months
of the year, the Pastoral Land Commission (CPT) registered
229 cases involving 7623 workers in the states of Pará,
Mato Grosso, Tocantins and Maranhão. During the same
period of 2002, the CPT documented 127 cases involving 5089
workers. "Rescue of workers made till the end of September
represented almost twice of the total in 2002, though insufficient
considering the number of requests", explains Fr. Xavier
Plassat, Coordinator of the CPT's Campaign against Slave Labor.
According to the Organização Internacional do
Trabalho (International Labor Organization) there are more
than 40 thousand slave workers in Brazil.
government created programs to assist the rescued workers,
includeing professional training and payment of unemployment
assistance wages. The Public Ministry of Labor and Employment
has been playing an important role by imposing large fines
to companies that use slave labor. One of the most important
measures of Lula administration was the elaboration of a comprehensive
project for slave labor eradication, including expropriation
of land and suspension of public financing where slave labor
is used. However, these measures have not been implemented
is in the sixth position among the countries with the highest
levels of income inequality. That is why it is not enough
to denounce violations of civil and political rights. Compliance
with international human rights treaties as well as with the
Brazilian legislation will only be possible after structural
changes that can ensure economical and social justice. The
defense of basic human rights depends on a policy to end inequalities.