Brazil’s prison system faces ‘profound deterioration’ if youth crime law passes

Bruce Douglas – The Guardian, 6/29/2015

Brazil’s justice minister has described his country’s violent and overcrowded prison system as “terrible” and warned that it will only get worse if congress votes this week to lower the age of criminal responsibility.

José Eduardo Cardozo ordered the early publication of a justice ministry report on prison overcrowding ahead of a vote on Tuesday over legislation which would reduce the age of criminal responsibility from 18 to 16 for serious offences involving violence.

The new statistics show that Brazil’s prison population has doubled in the last 10 years and now contains more than 220,000 inmates over its capacity. Lowering the age of criminal responsibility will add up to 40,000 more inmates to the system, Cardozo said.

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Another defeat for Brazil’s kids

Vanessa Barbara – The New York Times, 6/25/2015

This month, public school teachers from the state of São Paulo announced the end of their three-month-long strike — without any of their demands having been met. For the first time since it began, the strike reached the front page of a major newspaper; it had been mostly neglected until then. The headline declared: “Defeated, São Paulo’s Teachers Put an End to Their Strike.”

It was the longest teachers’ strike in the state. They maintained to the end their demand of pay parity with other college-educated professionals — which would ultimately have meant a 75 percent salary increase. This is a steep rise in public salaries, but the parity principle is part of the National Educational Plan, a law adopted last year with support from President Dilma Rousseff. According to that plan, parity is to be achieved by 2020.

The teachers also demanded smaller classes, with at most 25 students. The secretary of education stipulates a maximum of 40 students in high school classes, but last February, at the beginning of the school year, there were accounts of classes with 85 or 95 enrolled students. As if that weren’t bad enough, the state government shut down more than 3,000 classes this year, according to the teachers’ union for São Paulo State.

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Violent clashes at Brazil teachers’ protest in Curitiba

BBC News, 4/30/2015

More than 200 people are reported to have been injured in clashes between police and teachers protesting in the Brazilian city of Curitiba.

Police fired rubber bullets and stun grenades at demonstrators in the southern city on Wednesday. Officers said they had been forced to act when a group of protesters tried to break through police lines around the state legislative assembly.

The teachers were protesting against proposed changes to their pension. Curitiba city officials said 213 people had been injured. The emergency services reported that eight were in a serious condition in hospital.

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Experts give their prescriptions for Brazil as the commodity boom ends

Joe Leahy – Financial Times, 3/25/2015

Brazil’s economy has slowed sharply. The brakes were applied by the end of the commodity supercycle that occurred in the first decade of the 21st century combined with rapid credit growth.

The debate in Brazil has returned to the vexed question of how to make one of the world’s most inward-looking economies more competitive.

The answer lies in improving education, streamlining taxation, simplifying bureaucracy in general, and fixing infrastructure. But beneath these concepts are complex questions that run as deep as Brazilian politics and culture itself.

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Brazil after the 2014 elections: a bumpy road ahead

Sergio Fausto – The German Marshall Fund of the United States, 2/27/2015

Brazil’s future prospects, and ability to harness its advantages, will hinge on its own policy choices over the next few years. Yet the outlook for meaningful change is unclear. At present, Brazil is in a weaker position than four years ago, from both an economic and a foreign policy standpoint. Even in a scenario where Brazil’s economy gradually returns to the course it was on until 2008, no major strategic changes are likely to happen in Rousseff’s four-year term.
Read full report here.

Brazil’s booming education sector loses shine as government intervenes

Asher Levine – Reuters, 1/16/2015

An unexpected regulatory change has taken the shine off Brazilian education companies in the new year, putting an end to a dizzying rally and raising questions about whether President Dilma Rousseff really has given up on interventionist policies.

The shares of education companies have skyrocketed over the past three years, despite a sharp slowdown in Brazil’s economy and a 12 percent drop in the benchmark Bovespa index. Investors saw the companies as a safe bet, given repressed demand for higher education among Brazil’s growing middle class and the government’s commitment to student loans and grants.

Two weeks ago, however, the government changed without warning the rules governing a college loan program known as Fies, which provides roughly half of the revenue of listed companies such as Kroton Educacional SA and Ser Educacional SA.

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Family Saga Shows Brazil Student Funds Curb Joblessness

Matthew Malinowski and Anna Edgerton – Bloomberg News, 8/27/2014

Francisco Melo started working at age seven to help feed his 10 brothers and sisters on a Brazilian farm and went to school for only a few days. Jefferson, his 17-year-old son, never worked and attends technical school.

Their saga ties in with the story of 11 million Brazilians who gained access to higher education through state-funded initiatives in the past decade. It’s behind the longest contraction in Brazil’s labor force in at least 12 years, explaining how the unemployment rate is at a record low under President Dilma Rousseff even as job creation slows.

Programs that provide free work training, scholarships and subsidized student loans are buoying Rousseff’s campaign as she runs for re-election in October after delivering the slowest growth of any Brazilian president in more than two decades. The initiatives are creating a windfall for education providers and are shielding Rousseff from attacks that her economic stewardship has failed as rivals creep up in polls.

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