Brazil: Reforms Fail to End Torture

July 28, 2014

Human Rights Watch, 7/28/2014

Torture remains a serious problem in Brazil despite recent measures to curb the practice, Human Rights Watch said today in a letter to the Brazilian Congress. Congress should approve a bill that would safeguard against ill-treatment of detainees by requiring officials to physically present them before a judge for a “custody hearing” within 24 hours of arrest.

Human Rights Watch found compelling evidence in 64 cases of alleged abuse since 2010 that security forces or prison authorities engaged in cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment against people in their custody. In 40 of these cases, the evidence supported the conclusion that the abuse rose to the level of torture. While these abuses often occur in the first 24 hours in police custody, detainees typically must wait for three months or more before they see a judge to whom they can directly report the abuse.

“Brazil has taken important steps to confront the problem of torture, but much more is needed,” said Maria Laura Canineu, Brazil director at Human Rights Watch. “So long as detainees wait months to see a judge, they’re far less likely to report the abuses they’ve suffered – and by then, the physical evidence may well have disappeared.”

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Andres Oppenheimer: World Cup has been a failure for Brazil

June 23, 2014

Andres Oppenheimer – Miami Herald, 6/21/2014

The World Cup is far from over, but it’s not too early to declare it a failure for Brazil: The country has missed a golden opportunity to rebrand itself as an emerging technological power, and to upgrade its stereotype of being the nation of carnival, beaches and soccer.

Here are some of the stories you are not hearing from the more than 5,000 journalists from 70 countries who have traveled to Brazil to cover the world’s biggest sporting event, and who in recent weeks — before the opening of the games — have written extensively about the country:

• Brazil is one of the world’s leading aircraft manufacturers. It’s Embraer aircraft maker is the world leader in production of mid-size passenger planes, which it sells to American Airlines, United Airlines, Air France, Lufthansa and nearly 80 other commercial airlines.

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Brazilian congress to investigate ballooning World Cup costs

July 18, 2013

Reuters, 07/17/2013

The Brazilian Congress will investigate the billions of dollars spent on soccer stadiums for next year’s World Cup, one of the main complaints that fueled massive street protests last month against the country’s political establishment.

Lawmakers gathered enough signatures to establish a joint investigation by both chambers of Congress that will look into cost overruns and allegations of corruption in the building or overhaul of 12 stadiums that will host the global soccer event.

The signatures still have to be verified and the petition confirmed by both chambers, which will not happen until August, allowing time for the government to convince lawmakers to withdraw their support and scuttle the probe.

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Farmers v Ameridians

June 13, 2013

The Economist, 06/15/2013

WHEN Brazil’s constitution was adopted in 1988, five years was meant to be enough to decide which areas should be declared Amerindian tribal lands. Nearly 25 years later, the country has 557 indigenous territories covering 13% of its area, most of them in the Amazon. But more than 100 others are still being considered. The delay is causing conflict in long-farmed regions farther south.

In the past month several Terena Indians have been injured and one killed in confrontations with police and farmers in Sidrolândia in Mato Grosso do Sul (see map). It is just the latest flashpoint in a heavily agricultural state that is home to less than a tenth of Brazil’s 900,000 Indians, but more than half of those murdered since 2003. Federal security forces have been sent to keep the peace at Sidrolândia. Funai, the agency that advises the federal government on demarcation, is under fire in Congress and faces losing some of its powers. On June 7th its boss stepped down, citing ill health.

In the past month several Terena Indians have been injured and one killed in confrontations with police and farmers in Sidrolândia in Mato Grosso do Sul (see map). It is just the latest flashpoint in a heavily agricultural state that is home to less than a tenth of Brazil’s 900,000 Indians, but more than half of those murdered since 2003. Federal security forces have been sent to keep the peace at Sidrolândia. Funai, the agency that advises the federal government on demarcation, is under fire in Congress and faces losing some of its powers. On June 7th its boss stepped down, citing ill health.

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Brazil grapples with dysfunctional Congress

April 11, 2013

Joe Leahy – The Washington Post/Financial Times, 04/10/2013

The YouTube video of Marcos Feliciano, a Brazilian evangelical pastor and federal congressman, would be funny were it not so tragic.

In it, the preacher derides a member of his congregation for giving him a credit card without the PIN number during collection time.

“This is the last time I’ll say it, Samuel de Souza gave his card but not the password. That doesn’t count,” he scowls, as other brethren hand in checks for 500 to 1,000 real ($250 to $500) and even a motorbike.

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A richer Brazil grants its maids daycare, overtime

March 28, 2013

Brad Haynes – Reuters, 03/27/2013

After decades as second-class citizens under Brazil’s constitution, maids and caretakers have finally won an equal seat at the table.

A constitutional amendment that Congress passed late Tuesday will remove a clause treating domestic servants as a distinct category of worker – a striking reminder of how an economic boom over the past decade has chipped away at Brazil’s vast inequalities.

“We are finally burying the slave quarters,” Senator Antonio Carlos Valadares told his colleagues from the floor of the chamber before they unanimously approved the amendment.

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Cuban dissident blogger inflames splits in Brazil’s Congress

February 21, 2013

Anthony Boadle – Reuters, 02/20/2013

Cold War politics appeared to take over Brazil’s Congress on Wednesday during a visit by Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez, with leftists heckling her as a pawn of U.S. imperialism and others praising her for standing up to Cuba’s communist government.

Sanchez, Cuba’s best-known dissident, has been followed by boisterous sympathizers of the Cuban government since she arrived in Brazil on Monday on her first trip abroad since receiving a passport to leave the Caribbean island.

After the screening of a documentary about Cuba that she was due to attend in northeastern Brazil was disrupted by demonstrators, Brazilian opposition politicians invited Sanchez to the capital Brasilia for a showing of the documentary in Congress.

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