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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The mythology of racial democracy in Brazil

Ana Lucia Araujo – Open Democracy, 6/22/2015

Brazil’s government has taken important steps to combat racial inequalities over the past two decades. Afro-Brazilian populations nevertheless remain socially and economically excluded, continuing patterns that began with legal slavery.

Brazil has been in the news a great deal of late, especially in association with the 2014 FIFA World Cup. The most popular images involve football, carnival, samba, sunny beaches, and tanned women in bikinis. Less well known is the history of slavery and racism, which continues to have a profound impact upon Brazilian society.

Brazil has the dubious distinction of having imported the largest number of enslaved Africans—more than five million—of all countries of the Americas. The slave trade from Africa to Brazil was outlawed in 1831, but an illegal trade continued until 1851 before being outlawed for a second time. In contrast, legal slavery persisted until 1888, making Brazil the last country to abolish slavery in the western hemisphere. Today, 53 percent of the Brazilian population self-identify as black or pardo (brown, or mixed race). These terms as established by the Census refer to colour and not ancestry.

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Brazil senators flee Venezuela attack

BBC News, 6/19/2015

A group of eight Brazilian senators on a visit to Venezuela to meet a jailed opposition leader say they had to flee after their bus was attacked.

The Brazilian opposition politicians were trying to meet Leopoldo Lopez, who is in jail accused of inciting violence during protests. The group said the bus was stoned as it travelled from Caracas airport.

Brazil’s foreign ministry says it will seek an explanation from the Venezuelan government. One of the senators, Ronaldo Caiado, tweeted: “Our bus was under siege; they were beating and trying to break it. I filmed them throwing stones against the bus.”

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Brazil passes femicide law to curb domestic violence

Donna Bowater and Priscilla Moraes – Al Jazeera America, 5/10/2015

RIO DE JANEIRO — “My best hope is that he dies,” the tall, slight and articulate 45-year-old speech therapist said calmly of her husband. “I know that he can kill me.”

The woman, who asked not to be identified, had gone to the courts in Rio de Janeiro to seek protection from her husband of 22 years.

After her husband suffered a psychiatric breakdown in 2001, she said, he became violent and threatened to kill her, their daughter and himself. “I learned that between him and me, it’s me first,” she said.

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Brazil’s tough laws on violence against women stymied by social norms

Melanie Hargreaves – The Guardian, 5/12/2015

As the negotiations continue towards agreeing a set of sustainable development goals (SDGs) to come into effect next year, tackling gender inequality remains high on the agenda.

The current draft of the SDGs contains a standalone goal on the issue, which includes a specific target to “eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation”.

It’s a welcome move – and certainly more hard-hitting than the gender equality requirements of the millennium development goals, which saw donor countries target aid at education and health in developing countries, while ignoring other areas crucial to women’s rights, such as countering gender-based violence.

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On Mother’s Day, Brazil Is Sending Its Convicts Home to See Their Moms

Benjamin Soloway – Foreign Policy, 5/10/2015

All over the world, people are forgetting to call their mothers on this second Sunday of May. Get on that, if you live in one of the dozens of countries celebrating Mother’s Day on May 10 this year. In Brazil, Dia das Mães is an unusually big deal. Families gather for celebrations and meals. The retail sector sees a spike in business topped only by Christmas. And thousands of prisoners are released temporarily so that they can go home to visit the women who raised them.

Prisoners in Brazil who demonstrate good behavior and meet other requirements are allowed to take five breaks from prison per year: Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Children’s Day, Christmas, and one additional, flexible day. During the Christmas furlough two years ago, 47,531 inmates across Brazil left prison on temporary release. Some 2,400 never bothered to return. The Department of Corrections in São Paulo did not respond immediately to questions regarding the size of this year’s mass furlough.

More than 550,000 Brazilians are behind bars — the fourth largest prison population in the world, after the United States, China, and Russia. By most measures, Brazil’s prisons are in horrid shape, plagued by severe overcrowding and rampant violence. In 2013, nearly 60 inmates were murdered — in a single prison. An investigation uncovered that gang leaders were systematically raping inmate’s wives during conjugal visits there as well. In another facility, three prisoners were beheaded during a riot. And beneath the searing horrors that make international headlines, ordinary prisoners face terrible miscarriages of justice, often waiting for years in overcrowded group cells just to stand trial. While spared some of the violence male inmates face, women prisoners also contend with harsh conditions of confinement and abusive treatment, according to Human Rights Watch.

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Brazil’s Senate Tells Maduro to Defend Human Rights

PanAm Post, 5/6/2015

The Brazilian Senate passed a vote of no-confidence on Tuesday against Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro over the “arbitrary detention” of members of the opposition.

The text, written by Senator Roberto Jucá of the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB), “rejects” the arrests of the mayor of Caracas, Antonio Ledezma — imprisoned since February— and opposition leader Leopoldo López, who has been in jail for 14 months, as well as the detention of other dissidents.

The body approved the text on the eve of a visit by López’s and Ledezma’s wives, Mitzy Capriles and Lilian Tintori respectively, to the Brazilian Congress to present allegations of human-rights violations in Venezuela.

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