Lessons for Brazil from US prison mistakes

Maria Laura Canineu and Cesar Munoz – Human Rights Watch, 10/31/2015

The United States is providing early release this weekend for 6,000 inmates who have been serving federal sentences for non-violent drug crimes — the biggest one-time release of inmates in US history. It’s a sign of a tectonic shift occurring in the United States, which keeps more people locked up than any other county. US politicians from both parties and even police chiefs have come to agree that mass incarceration does not enhance public safety.

It’s a move Brazil should examine closely.

Brazil holds the dubious distinction of incarcerating the world’s fourth-biggest prison population. While the number of people behind bars has gone down in the top three countries since 2008, Brazil is heading in the opposite direction. Its prison population has multiplied almost sevenfold in a quarter of a century, to more than 600,000 inmates, who are held in facilities with a total capacity of 377,000.

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VW negotiating torture reparations in Brazil

DW, 11/2/2015

A Brazilian newspaper has reported that VW is negotiating a settlement for allowing the torture of employees during the military dictatorship. However, a company official says VW is in the early stage of discussions.

On Sunday, the daily “O Estado de Sao Paulo” reported that Volkswagen was moving toward paying reparations in response to a suit against the company for allowing official persecution and torture of employees at its plant from the 1960s to 1980s. The newspaper cited an email reportedly from Manfred Grieger, who handles historical communications for Volkswagen and visited Brazil in October to meet with justice officials.

“It was the beginning of a discussion on how to reach an agreement on that matter,” Grieger wrote in the email, the newspaper reported on Sunday. “One idea would be to develop a memorial with Brazilian institutions such as unions … We want to look at the pros and cons of the next steps to be taken.”

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Feared Brazil ex-army intelligence chief Brilhante Ustra dies

BBC News, 10/15/2015

The retired army Colonel, Carlos Alberto Brilhante Ustra, has been accused by human rights groups of ordering the illegal arrest and torture of some 500 left-wing activists.

He lead the feared Doi-Codi intelligence service from 1970 to 1974, when Brazil was under military rule. “I fought terrorism,” he said at a Truth Commission hearing in May 2013.

The army prevented Brazil from becoming a “dictatorship of the proletariat,” he said.

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Brazil convicts Odebrecht Group for slavery-like practices in Angola

Jeb Blount – Reuters, 9/01/2015

A Brazilian labor court convicted units of Brazil’s Odebrecht Group of holding workers in conditions akin to slavery at an ethanol refinery construction project in Angola, Brazilian prosecutors said in a statement on Tuesday.

Judge Carlos Alberto Frigieri of the 2nd Part of the Labor Court of Araraquara, Brazil, ordered Odebrecht to pay 50 million reais ($13 million) in damages.

The ruling comes as Odebrecht’s chief executive, Marcelo Odebrecht, is in jail as part of a giant corruption probe in Brazil. According to Brazilian courts and prosecutors, Odebrecht helped form part of a cartel of construction and engineering companies that defrauded Brazilian state-owned oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA of billion of dollars through a contract-rigging, bribery and political kickback scheme.

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Child marriage accepted in Brazil to escape abuse at home: researchers

Anastasia Moloney – Reuters, 7/15/2015

Child marriage is widely accepted in Brazil, where girls seek older husbands to escape from sexual and other violence in the home, or because of teenage pregnancies or the lack of job opportunities, according to new research.

There has been scant research in Brazil on child marriage, and little has been done to tackle it, researchers from Plan International, Brazil’s Federal University of Para and the gender equality charity Promundo said.

“Child marriage in Brazil is very normalized and accepted,” said Alice Taylor, lead author of the report, whose researchers say it is the first study of its kind in Brazil.

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Brazil ready to meet growing global demand for food, OECD says

Jeffrey T. Lewis – The Wall Street Journal, 7/01/2015

Brazil is ready to meet rising global demand for food that is coming mostly from Asia, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said on Wednesday.

Growth in Brazil’s food supply is projected to increase as productivity increases, pasture fields are converted to cropland and livestock production methods become more intensive, the OECD said in report.

Much of the increase in agricultural production in Brazil, the world’s second-biggest supplier of food and agricultural products, can come using sustainable methods, the Paris-based organization said.

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Brazil tries to rebuild relations with U.S. after NSA spying scandal

Jackie Northam – NPR, 6/30/2015

It’s rare that a world leader will cancel a planned state visit to the White House, but that’s what happened two years ago when Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff found out that the U.S. had been spying on her and her top aides.

The Brazilian leader is now trying to let bygones be bygones, and is in Washington, D.C., to visit with President Obama.

Rousseff’s decision to cancel the state visit — with its formal dinners and high-profile meetings — threw a strong and robust bilateral relationship into disarray, says Eric Farnsworth of the Council of the Americas and Americas Society.

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