Homophobia, fire and terror in Brazil

October 21, 2014

Pedro Henrique Leal – open Democracy, 10/21/2014

While specific horrific cases of homophobia are condemned, the overall mentality is not. Politicians wish the issue would disappear, and there is no education in schools.

Thirteen years afterwards, September 11 still brings forth memories of terror, violence and fire; to 24 year old Solange Ramires and 26 year old Sabriny Benites, a lesbian couple from Santana do Livramento, those feelings about it are very personal. The two women were to be wed in a local Gaucho Traditions Center (CTG) on September 13, along with 27 other couples. However, at 4 a.m. two days beforehand, the so eagerly awaited marriage was threatened when the CTG was set ablaze by molotov cocktails, in what has been called ‘a terror attack’.

This attack was not random: a month earlier, when news of the wedding first came out in the small Rio Grande do Sul city bordering Uruguay, both the local judge – Carine Labres – and the head of the CTG, city representative Gilberto “Xepa” Gisler, received death threats respecting their “immorality”. Alongside these were the sadly fulfilled threats of arson. According to Gisler, an anonymous caller said, “there was no way” the wedding would be allowed to happen – even if they had to “beat the crap out of this so called ‘Xepa’, get rid of the judge and set the CTG on fire”.

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Conservatives Gaining Force in Brazil Congress

October 20, 2014

AP – ABC News, 10/18/2014

With its Carnival reputation and skin-baring beach life, Brazil may look like a liberal bastion. But unease over a worsening economy and deteriorating public safety, plus a backlash against recent gay-rights gains, are propelling a conservative rise that will shape the next administration, regardless of who wins the presidency.

The general election held earlier this month saw a greater share of Brazil’s National Congress seats go to various conservative caucuses, which now control nearly 60 percent of the 513 seats in the lower house. They include evangelical lawmakers who oppose gay marriage or access to abortion; the “ruralistas” whose pro-agriculture positions counter environmentalists and indigenous groups; and a law-and-order faction that demands a crackdown on crime.

Ahead of the presidential runoff Oct. 26, there’s no doubt such conservatives are giving greater support to center-right challenger Aecio Neves over left-leaning President Dilma Rousseff. But it’s also clear that neither presidential candidate is as socially conservative as the increasingly powerful elements of Congress.

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Activists use GPS to track illegal loggers in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest

October 15, 2014

Damian Carrington – The Guardian, 10/14/2014

Covert GPS surveillance of timber trucks by Amazon campaigners has revealed how loggers are defeating attempts to halt deforestation in the world’s greatest rainforest. Raids by law enforcement officers are expected early on Wednesday morning, acting on the evidence handed to them by Greenpeace Brazil.

The activists went undercover in the remote and dangerous state of Pará to secretly place GPS tracking devices on trucks suspected of illegal logging, the first time the tactic has been used. It revealed 200-mile-long journeys deep into protected regions of rainforest to collect logs and return journeys under the cover of night to sawmills in the Amazon port of Santarém, from where timber is exported to Europe, the US, China, and Japan. Satellite and aerial images were also collected and analysed during the hi-tech operation.

Violence has frequently accompanied attempts to expose illegal logging but the leader of the Greenpeace operation told the Guardian he had been determined to succeed.

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Do Brazilian Women Really Reign Supreme?

October 3, 2014

Anna Petherick – Foreign Policy, 10/2/2014

There is a pejorative phrase in Brazil that is occasionally applied to female would-be politicians: They are called “orange candidates.” The phrase’s etymology is juicy, if muddled: By one account, an “orange” was prison slang for a target of fraud, a sucker or a mark. By another, bootleggers injected the fruits with liquor to evade the authorities during prohibition. What both versions have in common is the implication of fraud or alibi — reflecting the assumption that a woman on a list of candidates may have no real influence if her inclusion is merely to inch the party closer to its legally enshrined gender quota.

Yet Dilma Rousseff, the incumbent in this year’s Brazilian presidential election, and Marina Silva, her main competitor, could not be less orange. Though Rousseff was plucked by her illustrious predecessor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, to inherit the benefits of his colossal popularity, both she and Marina Silva are the primary authors of their own success. Both were ministers in the Lula government. Both became politically engaged — riskily so — in their youth. While Rousseff made her name as a militant activist in the fight against dictatorship, Silva founded a trade union movement with fellow rubber-tapper and environmentalist Chico Mendes, who was ultimately murdered for these activities. Rousseff’s lymphoma of five years ago, and Silva reoccurring bouts of the infectious diseases she acquired growing up dirt-poor on a plantation, attest to their bravery and determination.

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Rousseff Ahead, LGBT Rights in Focus in Brazil Election

September 30, 2014

Geoffrey Ramsey – Pan American Post, 09/30/2014

It appears that the Brazil observers who stuck with President Dilma Rousseff as the favorite to win the upcoming elections — despite Marina Silva’s rise in the polls — may turn out to be right in the end. Recent surveys have shown the incumbent making a rebound head of this weekend’s first round vote, and suggest she will come out ahead of Silva in a likely second-round matchup.

On Friday, Datafolha released a new survey showing that support for the president in the first round had risen from to 40 percent from 37 percent a week earlier, while Silva’s first-round support fell to 27 percent from 30 percent.  In a second round, Datafolha showed 47 percent for Rousseff and 43 for Silva.

Other, smaller pollsters have published figures that seem to support this trend to varying degrees, as Reuters reports. On Monday, polling firm MDA released a survey suggesting that the president would win a runoff with 47.7 percent of the votes, compared to 38.7 percent for Silva. Another survey, by Vox Populi, showed Rousseff beating Silva 46 to 39 percent in a runoff.

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Brazil’s silent abortion dilemma

September 30, 2014

Julia Carneiro – BBC News, 09/30/2014

The risks faced by Brazilian women seeking an abortion has been highlighted by the brutal death of a 27-year-old woman.

Abortion is only legal under the most exceptional circumstances in Brazil – a traditionally Catholic country.

A recent poll suggested around 79% of the population opposed legalisation but figures suggest that one in five women in the country have had an abortion by the age of 40.

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