Pagina Principal  

English Report


In 2006, the Report on Human Rights in Brazil reaches its seventh edition. Once more, the report brings a broad overview of human rights issues, and shows that fundamental rights are still violated in Brazil. It includes 29 articles containing important data and analysis about, for instance, the right to land, education, work, and social justice throughout recent years and especially in 2006.

As in 2005, this year too there is concern with violent and criminal attitudes of the Military Police against indigenous peoples, who are murdered, face aggression, and are humiliated. “The cover-up and impunity of all those acts of the police authority, even when cases are brought to the attention of public attorneys, draws even more concern” writes Paulo Maldos, Political Assistant of the Missionary Indigenous Council (CIMI). Between 2005 and 2006, more than 80 indigenous people were illegally sued for crimes related to land conflicts. Besides those, in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, the Dourados jail alone holds around 70 native people, held for various crimes. “All seems to point to the direction of a reactivation of prejudice, criminalization, ethnic hatred, and a total disrespect for indigenous rights, building up to the present scenario, which involves the judicial system and the police authority,” states the CIMI representative.

Data from the Pastoral Land Commission, concerning January through August 2006, point to a steady trend of diminishing actions by the social movements, and also to a reduction of the numbers related to violence. The number of murders through the end of August was 18.37% less than in the same period of 2005, when 29 individuals were murdered. The number of displaced families between January and August of 2005 lowered from 2,339 to 927 in the same period of 2006 – 60.37% less.  Repression by the Judiciary system was less frequent. There were 31.41% fewer evictions between January and August of 2006, or 11,065 families compared to 16,131 families in 2005. Between January and August of 2006, 749 people were arrested, 351.20% more than in the same period of 2005, or 166 people more than the total of previous years.  The peak is due mainly to the arrest of militants of the MLST (Movement for Liberation of Landless Workers) when they occupied the House of Representatives building.

Concerning agrarian reform, in the first four years of the Lula Administration, the results were minimum. According to Professor José Juliano de Carvalho Filho, studies show that the goals of the agrarian reform program were not reached, and that the data about settled families were released in a deceptive way. “Documents show that agrarian policy was executed mainly in public lands and in the Amazon,” he writes. “The agrarian policy implemented did not bother the large landowners, and even benefited agribusiness.”

The report also includes information about contemporary slave work. Father Ricardo Rezende Figueira, a coordinator of the research group on contemporary slavery at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, ponders that there was a positive attitude to attempt to solve the problem, “but old deadlocks persist, such as impunity, non-definition of competence to judge criminal activities, and non-approval of the legislation that determines the loss of property in case of slavery.” Furthermore, he adds, there is a lack of preventative measures to generate revenue for the population most vulnerable to slavery, and of efficient initiatives toward agrarian reform.

The situation of those whose lives are affected by dams is also evaluated in this book. According to Leandro Gaspar Scalabrin, a member of the Human Rights Section of the Movement of Dam-Affected People (MAB), the repression of MAB is one of the tactics used by large corporations to combat the movement, since it started denouncing the Brazilian energy model, where the price of the Kilowatt/hour paid by individual consumers is seven times higher than the price paid by large corporations. “Criminalization increased after the MAB started denouncing the abusive increases in price (more than 400% in the last ten years), which are paid mainly by the Brazilian population, and those affected by the dams – they are the ones who pay the bill of social and environmental impacts of the hydroelectric dams, which are being built to benefit large energy-intensive corporations.”

The book shows that, regarding education, it appears that in 2007 school registrations for childhood education, high school and also fundamental education[1] for people with ages above 14 will remain excluded from the resources of the Fund for the Maintenance and Development of Basic Education (Fundeb), which would be available to such applications. “According to the Institute of Applied Economic Research (IPEA), which is responsible for the ongoing evaluation process for the program Literate Brazil, the low impact of that initiative reveals that it is not focused enough on its target public – the portion of the population that is absolutely illiterate,” write Sérgio Haddad and Mariângela Graciano, from Ação Educativa. “For 2006, the Ministry of Education (MEC) defined as a priority for support those pedagogic plans that contemplate integration with initiatives that foster the continuity of studies, and that serve specific social segments. From 60,000 fishermen estimated by MEC as completely illiterate, only 6,045 (10%) attended the program in 2006. From 10,000 recyclable materials collectors, only 2,013 (20.1%) were participating. Only 1,356 (9%) of 15,000 quilombolas[2] and 3,238 (10,8%) of 30,000 inmates participated.

The traffic of people is another issue present in the Report. The anthropologist Márcia Anita Sprandel presents data from the US State Department Human Trafficking Report 2006, where Brazil is described as a country where women and girls are trafficked for sexual exploitation, domestically, as well as to South America, the Caribbean, Western Europe, Japan, United States and the Middle East. “The document states that roughly 70,000 Brazilians, mostly women, become prostitutes in foreign countries, many of them victims of traffic,” writes the researcher. “The main problem in Brazil, however, would be the small number of convictions of human traffickers.”

Another worrisome subject in the present report is the uranium mines in Caetité, in the state of Bahia. Towns in the backlands of this state are suffering the harmful social-environmental impact of Indústrias Nucleares do Brasil (INB), the company in charge of the Mineral-Industrial Complex Lagoa Real/Caetité, which produces uranium for Brazilian nuclear plants. “The residents of the area worry about the Brazilian energy policy-makers’ announcement of a reactivation of the nuclear program, including the construction of plants in the Northeast,” writes journalist Zoraide Villasboas, from the Paulo Jackson Movement for Ethics, Justice, and Citizenship. “More than a dozen ‘usual nuclear events’ and many interruptions in production – adding up to maybe two years of inactivity – expose the technical and managerial challenges that INB has been facing to operate safely and profitably. Furthermore, these facts feed doubt about the scientific competence of the company to deal with such a dangerous product.”

Professor Márcio Pochmann, from the Economics Institute of the University of Campinas (Unicamp), writes about unemployment in the country. He believes that, while the rate of economic growth remains low, Brazil tends to specialize in the production and marketing of low value-added goods, limited technological content, and dependency on the low cost of labor. “In that sense, economic growth may demand more workers but the profile of employees tends to be associated with low compensation and precarious work conditions, not always accessible to those with superior professional qualifications and education,” he writes. Pochmann deems it necessary that the national economy grow at least 5% per year just to absorb the 2.3 million individuals who annually enter the job market. “Without it, competition in the job market, even for the simplest positions, will end up driving a reduction of wages and mass unemployment.”

The situation of migrants and sugarcane workers is also presented in this book. The Pastoral Migrants’ Service estimates that between 150,000 and 200,000 Bolivians live in an irregular situation in the city of São Paulo. More than 90% of them work in small sewing plants owned by Koreans, Brazilians, and other Bolivians. “They work up to 18 hours a day and are paid $30 cents of a real (14¢ USD) for each sewed piece of clothing,” write Luis Bassegio and Luciane Udovic. “Their workplaces, where they also usually live, are dark, wet, totally unhealthy. Many acquire respiratory problems and tuberculosis.”

Professor Maria Aparecida de Moraes Silva, from the University of the State of São Paulo (Unesp), analyzes the work on sugarcane plantations. She reports that the majority of sugarcane workers are migrants from the Northeastern states and the Jequitinhonha Valley in Minas Gerais. “Usually, when they migrate, they are transported by gatos,[3] travel in clandestine buses, and sometimes are submitted to conditions analogous to slavery, according to the Attorney General office, the Ministry of Work, and the Pastoral Migrants’ Service, whose denunciations were published in the local, regional, national, and even international press,” she writes. From 2004 to 2006, the Pastoral Migrants’ Service recorded 17 deaths resulting from excessive workload. According to the professor, the testimony of doctors shows that sudorosis, an illness caused by the loss of potassium, may lead to a cardio-respiratory arrest. Other cases result in aneurism, due to the rupture of brain veins. “In some places, workers call birola, the death caused by an excessive workload. The minimum wage for that kind of work is R$ 410.00 (US$187) per month, but the wages are defined by productivity levels.”

International policies and human rights are the subject of the last chapter of this Report. Some issues presented are the negative impacts of the land credit program of the World Bank in Brazil; external and internal debts, and their impact on human rights; as well as the consequences of US military presence in Paraguay.

[1] Childhood education or pre-education is for toddlers, before elementary school; “fundamental education” corresponds to approximately eight years of schooling, involving elementary and middle schools.

[2] “Quilombolas” are the descendents of fugitive slaves, who founded villages or small towns known as “quilombos.”

[3] Men hired by landowners to find and hire workers.