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February 27 2014

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February 13 2014

Web We Want Contest: Cartoonists Fight Back!

Anti-surveillance comic by Francisco

Anti-surveillance comic by Francisco “Fankiniano” Cardozo via Flickr (CC BY 4.0)

This post originally appeared on the World Wide Web Foundation blog.

A week ago, the Web We Want initiative challenged artists everywhere to produce cartoons on the topic of NSA surveillance, in support of #TheDayWeFightBack. We received more than 70 submissions from all over the world, and today we’re announcing the winners, as judged by the Web We Want team.  All submissions can be viewed on our Flickr photo stream here.

In first place, receiving a $1000 prize, is Francisco Javier “Frankiano” Cardozo Baudry. He is just 17 years old, a true digital native from Asunción, Paraguay. His contribution “Do Not Fear, I care about you” (above) shows how surveillance is invading each and every moment in the daily life of a young person these days. The PDF of this multi-frame cartoon can be downloaded here. We will ask him to make editable versions available so activists all over the world can easily translate, adapt and use his amazing material.

Anti-surveillance cartoon by Carlos Latuff via Flickr (CC BY 4.0)

Anti-surveillance cartoon by Carlos Latuff via Flickr (CC BY 4.0)

Second place goes to cartoonist Carlos Latuff from Brazil, who produced a piece (right) representing a single national leader monitoring the communications of the entire world. Third place goes to American cartoonist Jimmy Margulies, whose work highlighted wiretapping of foreign leaders.

A video (below) submitted by digital rights group Red PaTodos in Colombia deserves an honorary mention and we encourage them to upload it in a collaborative platform such as DotSub, including its script, so others can translate and add subtitles to it. It neatly explains current threats and challenges to online privacy.

The cartoons produced by activists and artists from different countries and contexts show a common pattern: They acknowledge the invasion of their private space, private life and daily activities by those in power. Intelligence agencies are pictured as dark forces by many of the authors and US President Obama is the main character in several submissions. The computer was not shown as the sole method of surveillance – there were also submissions related to telephone surveillance and CCTV cameras, parents spying on children, the military spying on users, physical surveillance and also the role of private corporations that use data collection and consumers habits as business models. One explained in simple terms what the NSA is currently doing, while others show how we interact and watch via our devices.

All the cartoons are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 4.0 License which will allow each and every activist, journalist, school teacher and creative around the world to use them, adapt them, modify them and remix them, keeping the content open.

The Web We Want promotes and defends the protection of personal user information and the right to communicate in private. Expect more soon!


Renata Avila is the campaign manager for the Web We Want.

February 11 2014

Brazilian Activists Fight Back Against Mass Surveillance

As the world comes together to take a stand against mass surveillance on February 11, 2014, Brazilian citizens, organizations and collectives are bringing momentum to #TheDayWeFightBack campaign.

Anti-surveillance collective (@antivigilancia on Twitter), one of the 15 Brazilian signatories of the International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance, has a website with complete information in Portuguese on how to participate in #TheDayWeFightBack, as well as several resources for the day of action, such as banners and memes.

Cartoon by Latuff with D'Incao (2013). Shared by WebWe Want on Flickr (BY SA 2.0)

Cartoon by Latuff with D'Incao (2013). Shared by WebWe Want on Flickr (BY SA 2.0)

Well-known Brazilian cartoonist Carlos Latuff took on the challenge launched by Web We Want early in February to create original visual works on digital surveillance and the right to privacy.

Cartoon by Latuff with Operamundi (2013). Shared by WebWe Want on Flickr (BY SA 2.0)

Cartoon by Latuff with Operamundi (2013). Shared by WebWe Want on Flickr (BY SA 2.0)

On Twitter, many Brazilians are linking the day of action with the country's pioneer bill of rights for Internet users, the “Marco Civil da Internet” (Civil Framework for the Internet), which will be brought to the floor in a plenary session [pt] in the House of Representatives today. A group of civil society organizations is expected to meet the Minister of Justice [pt] to voice “serious concerns” regarding the latest modifications to the bill, especially with respect to “the right to the inviolability and secrecy of the flow and content of private communications, the right to privacy and freedom of expression.”

Cartoon by Latuff with Operamundi (2013). Shared by WebWe Want on Flickr (BY SA 2.0)

Cartoon by Latuff with Operamundi (2013). Shared by WebWe Want on Flickr (BY SA 2.0)

 All submissions to the Web We Want contest are available on Flickr.

Reposted bycheg00 cheg00

Brazilian Activists Fight Back Against Mass Surveillance

The day the world has come together to take a stand against mass surveillance, on February 11, 2014, Brazilian citizens, organizations and collectives too are bringing momentum to #TheDayWeFightBack campaign.

Anti-surveillance collective (@antivigilancia on Twitter), one of the 15 Brazilian signatories of the International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance, has a website with complete information, in Portuguese, on how to participate in #TheDayWeFightBack, as well as several resources for the day of action, such as banners and memes.

Cartoon by Latuff with D'Incao (2013). Shared by WebWe Want on Flickr (BY SA 2.0)

Cartoon by Latuff with D'Incao (2013). Shared by WebWe Want on Flickr (BY SA 2.0)

Well-known Brazilian cartoonist Carlos Latuff took on the challenge launched by Web We Want early in February to create original visual works on online surveillance and the right to privacy. 

Cartoon by Latuff with Operamundi (2013). Shared by WebWe Want on Flickr (BY SA 2.0)

Cartoon by Latuff with Operamundi (2013). Shared by WebWe Want on Flickr (BY SA 2.0)

On Twitter, many Brazilians are linking the day of action with the country's pioneer bill of rights for Internet users, the “Marco Civil”, which is going to be discussed in a plenary session [pt] in the House of Representatives today. A group of civil society organizations is expected to meet the Minister of Justice [pt] to let him know of “serious concern” toward the latest modifications to the bill, especially with respect to “the right to the inviolability and secrecy of the flow and content of private communications, the right to privacy and freedom of expression.”

Cartoon by Latuff with Operamundi (2013). Shared by WebWe Want on Flickr (BY SA 2.0)

Cartoon by Latuff with Operamundi (2013). Shared by WebWe Want on Flickr (BY SA 2.0)

 All submissions to the Web We Want contest are available on Flickr.

Reposted bycheg00 cheg00

February 07 2014

Brazilian TV Comes Out of the Closet With Highly Anticipated Gay Kiss

[All links lead to Portuguese-language pages unless otherwise noted.]

Cena do beijo entre Felix e Niko.

Kissing scene between Felix and Niko in the last episode of the soap opera “Amor à Vida” (Love of Life)

Millions of Brazilians stayed home to watch the end of the soap opera “Amor à Vida” (Love of Life) from the major media outlet Rede Globo on Friday night, 31 January 2014. Even many who usually don't watch soap operas ended up waiting, anxious, for its last chapter. The reason? The so-called first gay kiss of the Brazilian television drama.

The kiss was the result of a massive campaign on social networks asking the author of the soap opera, Walcyr Carrasco, for the gay couple Felix (Mateus Solano) and Niko (Thiago Fragoso) to finally lock lips on camera. Tension [en] was palpable in the streets and on social networks, and despite the surreal scenes, the unrealistic plot and abrupt changes in script, the whole country waited with bated breath for the scene.

Undoubtedly, the kissing scene will not change the reality of Brazil, an openly homophobic country that has been considered number one in LGBT killings in the world, but it is a breakthrough in the struggle, a small victory after all the pressure exerted by the LGBT movement and its supporters. It is necessary to get us out of our comfort zone and face reality, show the world that gay people exist, and not only that, but that they are normal people who love like any other and have the same rights.

Every kiss is a political act, and as Professor Tulio Vianna commented:

Estou feliz por meus amigos e amigas LGBTs, mas estou feliz sobretudo por nós heterossexuais que nos tornamos um pouquinho menos opressores, com a violência simbólica que exercemos a todo dia para obrigar a todos a terem a mesma orientação sexual que a nossa. Este é um avanço não só para os LGBTs, mas para a laicidade e para toda a democracia.

I'm happy for my LGBT friends, but I'm especially happy for us heterosexuals who have become a little less oppressive, with the symbolic violence that we exercise every day to force everyone to have the same sexual orientation as ours. This is a breakthrough, not only for LGBT people, but for secularism and for all democracy.

The only openly gay congressman in the Brazilian parliament, Jean Wyllys, was one of the instigators of the campaign #BeijaFelix (#KissFelix). He commented:

Foi um passo adiante e positivo na representação dos modos de vida homossexuais e da homoafetividade. Tem um efeito pedagógico para as próximas gerações e obriga as atuais a ao menos repensarem seus preconceitos. Foi um acréscimo de autoestima na vida dos gays e lésbicas, na medida quem valorizou nossa forma de amar e nossos arranjos familiares

It was a positive step forward in the representation of the homosexual way of life and homo-affectivity. It will have an educational effect for generations to come and forces the current one to at least rethink their prejudices. It was an increase of self-esteem in the lives of gays and lesbians, in so far as who appreciated our love and our family arrangements.
An Argentine activist living in Brazil, Bruno Bimbi, wrote on his blog [es] about the meaning of the kiss to the Brazilian public:

Es difícil entender el peso simbólico de ese beso sin ser brasileño. Inclusive para quien, como el autor de esta columna, vive hace varios años en Río de Janeiro y nunca antes se había sentido tan extranjero, en el sentido más alienígena de la palabra, tratando de comprender la polémica y todas las emociones, presiones, miedos y esperanzas que corrían atrás del final feliz que finalmente ocurrió hace unas horas. La novela de las nueve de la TV Globo es un poderoso productor de sentidos y formador de subjetividades que, cada noche, reúne a viejos y jóvenes, hombres y mujeres, negros y blancos, héteros y gays de todas las clases sociales. Es la compañía de millones de hogares durante la cena. Es de lo que hablarán mañana el portero de mi edificio, mis profesoras del doctorado, mis compañeros de trabajo y militancia, la vecina de al lado y el mozo del bar de la esquina [...] En sus cuentas de Twitter, aún sin palabras, mientras tantos festejaban, los pastores del odio se llamaron a silencio.

It is difficult to understand the symbolic meaning of that kiss without being Brazilian. Even for those who, like the author of this column, have lived for several years in Rio de Janeiro and never before had felt so strange in the most alien sense of the word, trying to understand the controversy and all the emotions, pressures, fears and hopes chasing a happy ending that finally happened a few hours ago. The nine o'clock soap opera of TV Globo is a powerful producer of personal meaning and reality that every night brings together young and old, men and women, blacks and whites, gays and heterosexuals of all social classes. It is the company of millions of homes during dinner. It's what the doorman of my building will talk about tomorrow, of what my doctoral professors, my colleagues and fellow militants, the neighbour and the barman on the corner [will talk about] [...] On their Twitter accounts, even without words, while many celebrated, the shepherds of hate kept silent.

More discrete kisses in the past

This was not the first gay kiss on Brazilian TV, but no doubt it was the most important because of the popularity of Rede Globo's soap operas and the fact that this network is the largest in the country. The first gay kiss on Brazilian TV, according to economist Renata Lins writing on Facebook, was seen 24 years ago in 1990 in the miniseries “Mãe de Santo” [the title, literally Mother of Saint, refers to the priestesses of some Afro-Brazilian religions] on the defunct Manchete TV i between a white man and a black man.

On May 12, 2011 occurred what many considered the first lesbian gay kiss on Brazilian TV, on channel SBT during the soap opera “Amor e Revolução” (Love and Revolution) written by Tiago Santiago. There, Marcela (Luciana Vendramini) and Marina (Giselle Tigre) kissed passionately, but because it is a smaller TV network which only has recent tradition in the production of national soap operas, the fact was considered of minor importance at the time.

Cena de beijo na novela

Kissing scene in the soap opera “Amor e Revolução”

In 2010, though, the PSOL – Socialism and Freedom Party – aired a gay kiss during the election campaign, widely reported at the time.

It's a goal!

“The expectation at the gay kiss in the soap opera was much higher than the cheer for any football team,” reported Professor Eduardo Sterzi. Many netizens commented about the celebrations that were heard across the country, with people screaming at their windows as if their team had scored a goal.

Cries of “Chupa Feliciano” (Suck it Feliciano) could be heard in reference to the evangelical minister and notoriously homophobic congressman Marco Feliciano, on which Global Voices reported [en] in March 2013 when he was elected deputy chairman of Human and Minority Rights Commission of the House of Representatives. On Twitter, there were several humorous reactions to the gay kiss and in repudiation of Marco Feliciano.

Tuíte do ator Thiago Fragoso agradecendo aos fãs

“Very happy! Thank you for the messages thank you for everything…” Tweet by actor Thiago Fragoso thanking his fans

On Facebook, academic Fabio Malini warned politicians of the dangers of posturing against minority rights and reminded them of the demands of mass protests that took place in the country in June 2013, whose effects are still very visible:

Há várias interpretações possíveis para o que ocorre na sociedade brasileira. Mas eu queria salientar que a afirmação dos direitos das minorias foi amplamente reivindicada nos protestos de junho. Foi algo radical nas ruas. E a Globo se viu pressionada por um lado pelo fãs do casal da novela; e, por outro, pelo imaginário do “O Povo Não é Bobo” recuperado pelos “vândalos” de junho. Não havia outra solução para a emissora, senão Liberar. Que o fato vire um recado político das urnas em 2014: no lugar de ceder à base religiosa conservadora, as forças políticas de esquerda (se elas ainda existirem) afirmem todos os direitos possíveis das minorias. Do contrário, virarão ainda mais reféns de uma minoria política que só anda para atrás.

There are several possible interpretations for what occurs in Brazilian society. But I wanted to point out that the assertion of minority rights was widely claimed in the June protests. It was something radical in the streets. And Globo TV found itself pressed on one hand by the fans of the soap opera couple, and secondly by the imagination of “The People Are No Fool” [chant sung during the protests] recovered by the “thugs” [derogatory way that the media called the protesters] in June. There was no other solution for the broadcaster but equality. The fact becomes a political message of the polls in 2014: instead of yielding to the conservative religious base, the political forces of the left (if they still exist) must assert all possible rights of minorities. Otherwise, they will become even more hostage to the political minority which only walks backwards.

Journalist Leonardo Sakamoto celebrated the kiss, but noted that “Globo has its million of defects, but it is not stupid”, and that “ended up creating a historical fact that makes one forget their own unwillingness to address the issue.”

In other words, the kiss “could have appeared in any of the episodes of the last month,” but Globo chose to create anticipation, attract audiences and even measure the popularity of a gay kiss with the public at a time when the TV station is trying to reach the evangelical conservative public. It also faces conservative positions even from the federal government, whose top representative, President Dilma Rousseff, had already declared in previous years it would not make “sexual option propaganda” when asked about pro-LGBT policies in her government and the cancellation of a program to combat homophobia in schools.

Imagem do instagram de @ane_molina com a notificação de que sua foto foi deletada por infringir regras da rede social

Image from Instragram by @ane_molina of a notification that her photo is being analysed due to a violation of the rules of the social network (nudity or pornography)

Others, such as the diplomat Hugo Neto Lorenzetti, criticized the delay for the kiss to happen and warned of an important fact: There is still much to fight. A gay kiss on TV is not the end of the fight, but only a small victory.

Actor Matthew Solano, who plays Felix, one half of the gay couple, commented in an interview about the kiss:

É um pequeno passo na dramaturgia, mas um grande passo na sociedade

It is a small step for dramaturgy, but a big step for society
On the other hand, some activists and journalists have not joined the celebrations. Felipe Chagas on his Facebook commented:
A realidade, gente, é que nós estamos aqui, e o que vimos ontem nas telinhas (sic) foi apenas uma realidade retratada de forma mais que atrasada a partir do ponto de vista da burguesia (com seu núcleo familiar patriarcal, heterossexual e com prole) sobre a nossa existência. É tão vergonhoso as LGBTs se arrastarem por várias novelas para conseguirem um único beijo gay no principal canal de televisão no “horário nobre”, que me sinto revoltado. Sinto-me revoltado porque é humilhante saber que depois de tantos anos, com uma audiência exorbitante causado pelo principal personagem dessa obra ficcional (que é um ex-vilão gay que virou mocinho), que o tão esperado beijo foi um selinho que durou 4 segundos (ou menos que isso), na penúltima cena da novela depois das 23h duma sexta-feira. Patético, apenas.

The reality, folks, is that we're here, and what we saw yesterday on the small screens was just a reality portrayed in a more than overdue way from the point of view of the bourgeoisie (with its patriarchal, heterosexual, nuclear family with a child) about our existence. It's so embarrassing that the LGBT are creeping ahead by several soap operas to get a single gay kiss on the main TV channel in “primetime”, that I feel disgusted. I feel angry because it is humiliating to know that after so many years, with an exorbitant audience due to the main character of this fictional work (who is a gay ex-villain turned good guy), that the long-awaited kiss was a peck that lasted 4 sec (or less than that), in the penultimate scene of the soap after 23:00 of a Friday. Just pathetic.

Fernando Pardal added that Globo would present “a gay couple who behaves exactly like a bourgeois heterosexual couple” with the “purpose [of] trying to make this historical moment of acceptance of different sexualities [...] done as ‘quietly’ as possible (for the bourgeoisie and the family)”:

E quem comemora acriticamente este beijo como um “progresso” da Globo está ajudando nesta falsificação.

And those who uncritically celebrate this kiss as “progress” by Globo is helping this forgery.

There was enough room left for that homophobia to be preached freely through social networks by users like Nathanael Martins (@Dc_Natanael) who held that the Globo's “advocacy of homosexuality” was “a slap in the face of Christians”, or Coxa® (@Marcio1914) who said that “people are applauding two gays kissing, it will not take long for being a faggot to be a mandatory requirement, I wanna die first.”
With humor, activist Karla Joyce responded to the homophobia:
Ninguém morreu. Não doeu. Ninguém virou gay. Nenhuma autoridade não veio em pronunciamento à nação falar que agora haverá uma cartilha gay ou que entramos no regime da “”"Ditadura Gay”"”. Ninguém foi obrigado a consumar um casamento homoafeitvo. Não foi um “agora vão se comer no meio da rua”. Os cavaleiros do apocalipse não chegaram. A meteorologia não indica que esteja chovendo enxofre ou meteoros no Brasil.
Nobody died. It did not hurt. Nobody turned gay. No authority came in with a speech to the nation saying that there will now be a gay booklet or that we enter the regime of the “Gay Dictatorship”. Nobody was forced to consummate a gay marriage. It wasn't a “now go fuck each other on the street.” The knights of apocalypse did not arrive. The weather does not indicate it's raining sulfur or meteors in Brazil.
Activist Jarid Arraes wrote movingly on her Facebook:
Um amigo viu meu último post, falando da importância política do beijo na novela, e ligou chorando, muito feliz, dizendo que graças a cena final entre Félix e o Pai, o seu próprio pai bateu na porta do quarto dele as 4 da manhã.O pai, que chorava de soluçar, pediu perdão ao filho por toda discriminação e palavras de ódio. Disse que a partir daquele dia ele se arrependia e o aceitava. E que podia inclusive levar o namorado para almoçar no domingo com a família inteira.Só quem já passou por isso sabe…
A friend saw my last post, talking about the political significance of the kiss in the soap opera, and called me crying, very happy, saying that because of the final scene between Felix and his Father, his own father knocked on the door of his room at 4 a.m. His father, who sobbed, apologized to his son for all discrimination and hate speech. He said that from that day on he repented and accepted him. And he could even take his boyfriend to lunch on Sunday with the whole family. Only someone who has been there knows…
Finally, a blogger specializing in TV, Gustavo Baena, expressed the feelings of many:

Imagine o que significou o gesto dos personagens de Solano e Thiago para que milhares de jovens homossexuais possam elevar sua autoestima e conquistar espaço para o diálogo, a aceitação e o respeito dentro das próprias famílias, inclusive.

Imagine what the gesture of the characters of Solano and Thiago meant for the thousands of young gay people who can raise their self-esteem and gain space for dialogue, acceptance and respect including within their own families.

This post was written in collaboration with Marcela Canavarro and Luis Henrique

Pre-Registration Open for Brazil's Global Internet Governance Event

In preparation for the Global Multistakeholder Meeting on the Future of Internet Governance that will take place in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on 23-24 April 2014, the organizers are now accepting pre-registrations through a form for expression of interest. The event is a partnership between the state-convened Brazilian Internet Steering Committee (, and the non-governmental multistakeholder platform ./1net.

According to the website of the event,

This meeting will focus on crafting Internet governance principles and proposing a roadmap for the further evolution of the Internet governance ecosystem.

The organization of a global Internet governance event began a few weeks after Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff delivered a speech before the United Nations General Assembly in September 2013, when she criticized the United States for spying and mentioned that Brazil “[would] present proposals for the establishment of a civilian multilateral framework for the governance and use of the Internet and to ensure the effective protection of data that travels through the web.”

February 03 2014

Human Rights Video: 2013 Year in Review

A video by WITNESS on the Human Rights Channel of YouTube wrapped up some of the most significant protests and human rights abuses of 2013. Dozens of clips shot by citizens worldwide are edited together to show efforts to withstand injustice and oppression, from Sudan to Saudi Arabia, Cambodia to Brazil.

A post on the WITNESS blog by Madeleine Bair from December 2013, celebrates the power of citizen activism using new technologies including video, while readers are reminded that the difficulty of verification and establishing authenticity remains a big obstacle.

“Citizen footage can and is throwing a spotlight on otherwise inaccessible places such as prisons, war zones, and homes,” says Bair. “But given the uncertainties inherent in such footage, reporters and investigators must use it with caution.”

Reposted byiranelection iranelection

January 31 2014

How Brazilian Taxpayer Money Finances Construction Projects in the Amazon

Animation: BNDES in the Amazon

Animation: BNDES in the Amazon

This post, by Bruno Fonseca and Jessica Mota, was originally published in Portuguese as a part of Agência Pública's special coverage #BNDESnaAmazônia with the title Animation | How Our Money Finances Construction Works in the Amazon on December 9, 2013.

Nearly 44 percent of what Brazil's National Bank of Economic and Social Development (BNDES) finances is completely hidden. And more than half of what BNDES sends overseas is secret. This is how the bank deals with transparency, even though the money is public and comes from, for example, the Brazilian Treasury and the Ministry of Labor and Employment's Worker's Support Fund.

In 2012, BNDES loaned 156 billion Brazilian reais (64 billion US dollars) of this public money. It was in the search of what happened to this money over the course of three months that our team discovered the scope of investments in infrastructure in the Amazon where these public works are causing glaring social and environmental impacts.  See the primary discoveries in this animation [pt, es]:

On the Agência Pública website, the reports from the series #BNDESnaAmazônia (BNDES in the Amazon) are available for reading (all in Portuguese), including:

THE TRAIL OF BNDES IN THE AMAZON. A partnership between Agência Pública and the website Eco maps the increase of BNDES’ investments in infrastructure projects in the region. Public works financed by the bank are accused of concealing the impacts on the environment, the indigenous population, and workers.

BNDES IN THE AMAZON: 17 OF 20 MAJOR INVESTMENTS HAVE PUBLIC SUITS AGAINST THEM FROM BRAZIL'S PUBLIC MINISTRY. A survey by Agência Pública and the website Eco reveals problems with environmental impact studies, a lack of dialogue with the affected communities, and abuses against workers involved in the public works financed by the bank.

WORKERS HOSTAGE TO PUBLIC WORKS WORTH BILLIONS IN THE AMAZON. Deaths in Maranhão, workers forced by National Forces to stay at a work site at Belo Monte. Accused of violating worker's rights, mega enterprises receive funding from BNDES.

TWO REPORTERS ON THE TRAIL OF BILLIONS GIVEN BY BNDES. Over the course of three months, our team sought to uncover the trail of investments in infrastructure projects in the Amazon. The conclusion: 44 percent of what BNDES finances is completely obscured.

BNDES, FOR EXPORTATION. In the name of internationalization, BNDES funding for Brazilian enterprises overseas increased 1185 percent in ten years, according to a study by Ibase. Odebrecht is the leader.

THE BRAZILIAN PAN-AMAZON. Public works negotiated by BNDES in the South American Amazon include hydroelectric dams with cracks, pipelines with leaks, and a railroad that shook the presidency of Bolivia.

THE AMAZON THAT BNDES FINANCES. By the law of access to information, Pública obtained 43 contracts from BNDES with large national corporations for business ventures in the Amazon. Read and download these documents here.

The information collected also served as a base for the development of the interactive platform “BNDES na Amazônia“, a partnership between Pública and Eco:

Interactive Infograph: The 20 Major Projects Financed By BNDES in the Amazon. Screenshot from the site

Interactive Infographic: The 20 Major Projects Financed By BNDES in the Amazon. Screenshot from the site

The National Bank of Economic and Social Development (BNDES) is the primary financier of large projects in the Amazon. Utilizing funds from the Worker's Support Fund and contributions made by the Federal Treasury, the bank finances consortiums and businesses responsible for the construction of dams for the generation of hydroelectric power, power lines, thermoelectric projects and other projects with great environmental impact. This database, fruit of the labor of investigations made by a joint effort between the sites Eco and Agência Pública, concentrates information about funding given by BNDES in the Amazon and allows the user to become familiar with the profile of the companies receiving funding, the total invested resources in each project, as well as the ranking of investments since 2008. The data [available for download in CSV format] was put together from spreadsheets available on the site of BNDES and will be updated.

January 30 2014

The Cost of Living in Rio de Janeiro Is Too Damn High

[All links lead to Portuguese-language webpages unless otherwise noted.]

Rio de Janeiro residents have begun to fight the increasingly high prices of hotels, rent, food, clothing and entertainment which have made the 2016 Olympic City and host of the 2014 World Cup a difficult place to live.

With the typical local sense of humour, comments on social networks have given others a glimpse of the borderline ridiculously high cost of living in the city. The term “surreal” has increasingly been used to refer to current events in Rio de Janeiro.

Incidentally, this was the name given to an exclusive currency created in jest for the city by web designer Toinho Castro to substitute the Brazilian currency the real. The proposal for the Surreal was the subject of comment in a note published in a widely read newspaper, O Globo:

“Tem mais a ver com a nossa realidade”, diz, citando um diálogo-que-gostaríamos-de-ouvir: “Quanto é a água, moço?” E a resposta: “Cinco surreais…” [cerca de 2 dólares americanos]

“It's more appropriate to our day-to-day lives”, he says, quoting a dialogue we'd like to hear: “How much is the water, young man?” And the reply: “Five surreals…” [around 2 US dollars]

“The Surreals: the face of the new currency they've been talking about…” Artwork by Patrícia Kalil shared on Facebook.

The Facebook page “Rio $urreal – NÃO PAGUE” (Rio $urreal – DON'T PAY) “publicises and boycotts extortionate prices” charged around the city. Created on 17 January 2014, the page attracted more than 95,000 followers in three days.

A gente aqui não faz a apologia de “tudo tem que ser barato”. Não, não é isso. Quem quiser comer ostra, beber espumante, jantar em um lugar cujo chef estudou no Cordon Bleu… Bem, tem que arcar com este preço. E, de vez em quando, todo mundo tem direito a tomar espumante, comer uma iguaria, enxugar a boca com guardanapo de pano – se puder pagar por este luxo ocasional. Comer bem dá alegria, dá conforto, é um convite à confraternização.

Bons ingredientes custam caro. Funcionários bem treinados também. Logo, ninguém aqui acha absurdo pagar mais por aquilo que de fato custa mais. É o justo. E você merece fugir do feijão com arroz e do trivial de vez em quando. Não merece?

Duro mesmo é pagar R$ 30 reais por batata frita [cerca de 13 dólares americanos]. Ou R$ 11 por um suco [4,7 dólares americanos]. Ou R$ 8, R$ 9 ou R$ 10 por uma garrafinha de água mineral [entre 3,4 e 4,3 dólares]. Ou R$ 15 pelo aluguel de cadeira e barraca na praia [cerca de 6,4 dólares]. Estes são alguns dos absurdos.

We're not arguing here that “everything has to be cheap”. No, it's not that. Those who wish to eat oysters, drink bubbly, dine in a restaurant whose chef studied at Cordon Bleu… Well, they have to bear the expense of doing so. And, from time to time, everyone has the right to drink bubbly, eat a delicacy, dab their mouths with a cloth serviette – if they can pay for this occasional luxury. Eating well brings happiness and comfort, it's an invitation to socialise.

Good ingredients are expensive. Well-trained employees are too. Nobody here thinks it absurd to pay more for something which actually costs more. That's fair. And you deserve to escape from the old beans with rice of every day from time to time. Don't you?

What's really tough is paying 30 reals for some chips [around 13 US dollars]. Or 11 reals for a juice [4.70 US dollars]. Or 8, 9 or 10 reals for a little bottle of mineral water [between 3.40 and 4.30 dollars]. Or 15 reals for a seat and shade on the beach [around 6.40 dollars]. These are just some of the absurd prices.

A “case of hyper-surrealism” was reported on the page by follower Clarissa Biasotto:

Hoje fui à praia do leblon e me deparei com um gringo sul-americano perguntando a um vendedor ambulante se ali era a praia do leblon. O vendedor respondeu que ali era copacabana, ficou enrolando o gringo dizendo que não sabia e no fim disse que aqui no Rio tudo é pago e que, por isso, a informação também era paga.. enfim, o gringo já tava pegando a carteira e perguntando quanto o ambulante queria quando eu tive que gritar pro gringo que era sim a praia do leblon.. o gringo chegou a perguntar se aquilo foi uma pegadinha.. enfim, achei vergonhoso, surreal..

Today I went to Leblon Beach and I came across a South American tourist asking a street seller if this was Leblon Beach. The seller replied that it was Copacabana, he carried on deceiving the tourist saying that he didn't know and in the end he said that here in Rio nothing is free, and for that reason, the information also had to be paid for. The tourist was already getting his wallet out and asking how much the seller wanted when I had to shout at the tourist that yes, it was Leblon Beach. The tourist even asked if it was a joke. I found it shameful, surreal.

Menu from a food stand at Ipanema beach shared on the Facebook page of “Marketing na Cozinha”

But the most common denunciations come in the form of photos of menus with exorbitant prices, like chicken stroganoff for 72 reals (or 30 US dollars), a toasted sandwich for 20 reals and a green salad for 43 reals (8.50 and 18.20 US dollars respectively; see photo to the right).

The administrators of “Rio $urreal” state that the page was created primarily with the “aim to encourage consumers to reflect on their purchases”:

Cabe a nós decidirmos quando queremos pagar o preço por determinada coisa – seja ela uma roupa, refeição ou um serviço. Está caro? Não compre. O prato é inviável? Mude de restaurante. Ainda assim não achou o que quer? Chame os amigos para jantar na sua casa. Foi à praia e o aluguel da cadeira tá um horror? Já pensou que ter a sua pode ser um bom custo-benefício? Consumo consciente – esta é nossa meta.

It's up to us to decide when we want to pay the price of a particular item – whether it is an item of clothing, meal or service. Is it expensive? Don't buy it. The menu's a non-starter? Change restaurant. You still don't know what you want? Call your friends and ask if you can eat at their house. You went to the beach and the seat rental was extortionate? Did you ever consider that buying your own might be a good investment? Conscious consumption – that's our goal.

Other initiatives have also become popular. The page “Se Vira no Rio” has more than 14,000 followers and publicises venues that offer food and entertainment at accessible prices.

The rise of the property bubble 

In one of its posts, the page encourages users to share solutions that would allow the inflation of property prices to be reversed or stopped. In the almost 300 comments on this post, various cases are reported and some solutions proposed, many involving some kind of “anti-speculation laws” or state intervention; others called for a change in consumer behaviour, such as the search for alternative areas in the city or the abandonment of real estate agencies.

Many also believe that the real estate bubble is about to burst. Vinicius Bito Trindade, an employee of the Bank of Brazil, commented:

há quem diga que o que encarece os imóveis aqui é o excesso de crédito para o financiamento… inflaciona o mercado e tal, assim que a política econômica mudar, a tendência é cair e ferrar quem estiver preso a uma prestação irreal…

Some say that what's pushing up property prices here is the excess of credit for financing. It inflates the market and all that, as soon as the economic policy changes, the tendency is for it to fall and hit anyone who's tied into an unrealistic loan.

Another initiative to raise awareness of the jump in the cost of living in Brazil is the site “Tem algo errado ou estamos ricos??”  (“Is something wrong here or are we rich??”), which compares adverts for property for rent and for purchase in the country and abroad. With this, it exposes high prices in Brazil for old and poor-quality properties, in comparison with similar or lower prices for charming properties in good neighbourhoods in countries in the developed or developing world.

The site shows, for example, an apartament of 600 m2 in Rio advertised for 66 million reals (or almost 30 million US dollars). For several million less, it would be possible to buy the mansion where John Lennon wrote some of the songs for the album “Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band” or an entire building in the Upper West Side of New York. In another case, quitinetes, or apartments in which the bedroom and living area are combined, go for more than one million reals (around 430,000 dollars). With the site's posts, it is possible to observe that the explosion of property prices is not exclusive to Rio de Janeiro:

Casinha em condomínio fechado em Valencia – Alicante (Torremendo) [Espanha]. Casa novinha em folha, perto da praia, perto de um clube de golf, em um condomínio fechado com tudo (solário, etc etc). garagem para 2 carros… bela vista… bla bla bla bla






Imóvel novo, condomínio fechado com tudo, perto da praia, bonito, etc etc… quanto?? Cerca de US$88.952 (em torno de R$ 200/ 210 mil reais… depende desse dólar maluco oscilando)

Mas não fique triste brazuquinha… você tem belas opções aqui no Braziu… Na nobre cidade de Lajeado no RS… no bairro Planalto você encontra uma linda casa pelo mesmo preço!! Incrível não???

Dá uma olhadinha…


É uma versão + root (a rua não é pavimentada… não tem piscina no condomínio, clube de golf… praia… vista… mas… é reflexo de nossa proximidade com os países de primeiro mundo né?? fazer o q??

Little house in closed condominium in Valencia – Alicante (Torremendo) [Spain]. Brand new house, near the beach, near a golf club, in a closed condominium with all facilities (conservatory, etc., etc.). Garage for two cars, lovely views, blah blah blah blah






New property, in a closed condominium with all facilities, near the beach, beautiful, etc. etc… how much? Around 88,952 US dollars (around 200,000 or 210,000 reals, it depends on that crazy dollar going up and down).

But don't be sad, sweetie, you've got great options here in Brazil. In the noble city of Lajeado in RS in the lovely district of Planalto, you can find a nice house for the same price!! Incredible, isn't it???

Take a look…


It's a more authentic version (the road isn't paved, there isn't a swimming pool in the condominium, no golf club, beach, views, but it's a reflection of our proximity to the countries of the first world, isn't it?? Do it or what??

For the World Cup period, the federal government has announced measures to contain the prices of air travel and hotels, such as the intervention of consumer rights organization Procon, who filed complaints against four airline companies due to abusive price of plane tickets, and the control of the National Agency of Aviation, the ANAC.

A recent measure was the authorisation of 1,973 new flights to increase competition in the aviation sector during the months of June and July when the Cup will take place.

Opting for state intervention to contain prices is always a delicate decision in free market states. For the aviation sector, which is regulated and considered strategic for national interests, this policy is already a reality in World Cup Brazil. But the containment of prices of consumer goods is still a huge challenge for Brazilians and also for traditionally dynamic sectors. At least on social networks, the mobilisation has begun.

January 26 2014

Brazil's Evolving Relationship With Refugees

Za'atari refugee camp in Jordan, November 2012. Photo from UNHCR on Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Za'atari refugee camp in Jordan, November 2012. Photo from UNHCR on Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Despite the sparse knowledge of the Brazilian population on the issue of refugees, the question of war is always present. It will astonish no one to say that we live in an era of generalised conflict around the world. In contrast to the two Great Wars of the last century, in which blocs of countries confronted each other generating mass displacements of populations, today we see numerous conflicts scattered all over the globe.

But to what extent can conflicts in regions such as Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East affect societies to whom these problems are distant and alien? The answer to this question can be found with refugees and immigrants, who end up the responsibility of nations other than those from where they originated.

Fleeing war and poverty  

Refugee and immigrant: two terms which are generally confused. The difference between them is basically juridical. For refugee, we quote here the definition used by Brazil's National Committee for Refugees (CONARE) [pt], linked to the Ministry of Justice in Brazil:

Será reconhecido como refugiado todo indivíduo que:
I – devido a fundados temores de perseguição por motivos de raça, religião, nacionalidade, grupo social ou opiniões políticas encontre-se fora de seu país de nacionalidade e não possa ou não queira acolher-se à proteção de tal país;
II – não tendo nacionalidade e estando fora do país onde antes teve sua residência habitual, não possa ou não queira regressar a ele, em função das circunstâncias descritas no inciso anterior;
III – devido a grave e generalizada violação de direitos humanos, é obrigado a deixar seu país de nacionalidade para buscar refúgio em outro país.

A refugee is a person who:
I – finds themselves outside of their country of nationality as a result of a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership of a social group and who cannot or does not wish to seek protection from that country;
II – is without nationality and is outside of their country of previous habitual residence, and cannot or does not wish to return to this country as a result of the circumstances described in the previous section;
III – as a result of serious and widespread human rights violations, is forced to leave their country of nationality to seek refuge in another country.

“One refugee without hope is too many”. Campaign image from World Refugee Day (20 June 2011). Photo from the United Nations – Armenia on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The blog Citizenship and Professionality [pt] gives an idea of how citizens, in this case Portuguese, understand immigration and emigration, explained here by readers Helder Monteiro and Helder Ribeiro:

A emigração é o acto e o fenómeno espontâneo de deixar o seu local de residência para um país estrangeiro.
A imigração é o movimento de entrada, permanente ou temporário e com a intenção de trabalho e/ou residência, de pessoas ou populações, de um país para outro. A imigração em geral ocorre por iniciativa pessoal, pela busca de melhores condições financeiras.

Emigration is the spontaneous act and phenomenon of leaving one's place of residence for a foreign country.
Immigration is the inward movement of people or populations from one country to another, permanently or temporarily, with the intention of working or residing. Immigration generally occurs by individual initiative, as a result of a search for better economic conditions.

In the case of Brazil, as in other countries, it is the Constitution [pt] which defines the legal status of foreigners who become Brazilian. Chapter III “On Nationality” clearly defines who has the right to naturalisation: “Foreigners of any nationality, resident in the Federal Republic of Brazil for more than 15 consecutive years and without criminal convictions, on the condition that they request Brazilian nationality”.

Therefore, superficially speaking, whereas refugees are forced to leave their countries as a result of conflict and persecution, emigrants leave voluntarily in search of more favourable working conditions to support their families. Examining the issue in more depth, the juridical question presents itself in the following manner: refugees have their status determined initially by the United Nations, whose asylum request is then judged by the receiving country; yet immigrants are subject solely to the laws of the country which receives them, without external interference.

Refugees in Brazil: number and profile

Flight, Milan Dusek. Art and Refuge in Brazil: a celebration of the 150th anniversary of Fridtjof Nansen. Image shared by UNHCR on Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Flight, Milan Dusek. Art and Refuge in Brazil: a celebration of the 150th anniversary of Fridtjof Nansen. Image shared by UNHCR on Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

According to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, at the end of 2012 there were around 15.4 million refugees in the world. Of this number, Brazil was providing refuge to around 4,656 at the end of 2013 [pt]. This number is alarmingly small in comparison with the country which takes in the highest number of refugees, Pakistan, with around 1.6 million people.

However, although the numbers themselves are still small, proportionally speaking the number of refugees practically tripled from 2012 to 2013, from 199 authorisations to 649, according to an article re-published on the blog ‘Lajes do Cabugi’ [pt].

This is the result of external pressure placed on Brazil by NGOs, and even other countries, which demand that the discourse portraying the country as a third-world nation – with insurmountable internal problems to worry about – should be abandoned. For this reason and others, a national debate on making the laws governing this issue more flexible arose last year. In the same vein, since the number of people displaced by conflicts around the world has practically doubled since 1990, the country has assumed more external responsibilities and has consequently received more refugees.

The most striking example is that of Syrians who seek asylum in Brazil. Given the bloody civil war in Syria, the Brazilian government recently announced a plan to grant special “humanitarian visas” for Syrian nationals who seek refuge in Brazil – the first initiative of its kind in Latin America – which will be more quickly delivered than the usual waiting time for this kind of document. Moreover, the humanitarian visas can be extended to relatives of the refugee who are living in countries that neighbour Syria.

The blog “O Estrangeiro” (The Foreigner) [pt] describes the evolution in numbers of Syrian refugees in Brazil:

O Brasil tem sido um destino cada vez mais recorrente dos cidadãos sírios que tentam escapar da guerra civil que abala o país há mais de dois anos, agravada pela possível intervenção militar dos Estados Unidos. Desde o início dos conflitos, em março de 2011, o número de refugiados sírios no Brasil saltou 15 vezes: foi de 17 para 261. Eles já correspondem a 6% do total de refugiados no país.

Brazil has become an increasingly recurrent destination for Syrian citizens trying to escape the civil war which has hit the country for over two years, aggravated by possible military intervention by the United States. Since the beginning of the conflict in March 2011, the number of Syrian refugees in Brazil increased 15 times over: from 17 to 261. They already comprise 6 percent of the total number of refugees in the country.

Remaking Brazil's image in the eyes of the world

Brazil's ambitions to become a member of the UN Security Council, along with an increase in its participation in global governance, have given rise to an unavoidable dilemma: passivity without risk or taking responsibility for issues which were unfamiliar to the country until recently. This new positioning implies an increase in the number of troops sent abroad on missions under the mandate of the UN and participation in organisations such as the advisory body of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), to which the country awaits its admission once a donation of 6.5 million US dollars has been ratified.

The debate on refugees in Brazil promises to be exciting. It will bring foreign refugees face to face with Brazilian refugees. Yes, they do exist: They are the inhabitants of the slums known as “favelas” subjected to the violence of drug traffickers and corrupt police, and migrants from the poorest states in the country who accept jobs akin to slavery in the larger cities to escape the absolute misery of their villages, among others. Both realities have much in common, and if they were observed closely by the congress members, they would notice that in many corners of Brazil the situation is very similar to that experienced by the people of Palestine or South Sudan. 

January 24 2014

VIDEO: Memories of the Violent Eviction of Brazil's Pinheirinho Community

Two years after the violent eviction of the Pinheirinho community in the city of São José dos Campos in the state of São Paulo, Brazil, a short documentary “Somos Todos“(We Are All), which collects testimonies from activists involved with the cause and victims of the episode, has been released online. The eviction became known as the Massacre of Pinheirinho.

The synopsis of the film on YouTube reads:

Eram seis horas da manhã, em janeiro de 2012, quando oito mil pessoas, assustadas, começaram a chorar. Pinheirinho dali em diante não seria mais o lar que construíram há cerca de oito anos. Somos Todos dá rosto aos Pinheirenses e voz a dor de quem até hoje espera solução para uma reintegração de posse repleta de contradições judiciais e humanas.

It was six o'clock in the morning, in January 2012, when 8,000 people, frightened, began to cry. Pinheirinho henceforth would no longer be home of those who built it eight years ago. Somos Todos gives a face to the Pinheirenses and gives a voice to the pain of those who today are still waiting for a solution to the repossession, which was full of legal and human contradictions.

The documentary was screened in Recife one year after the eviction in January 2013, and has won awards at several festivals, including Visões Periférias (Peripheral Visions) in Rio de Janeiro in the Imaginary Borders category and the Porta Curtas jury. “Somos Todos” can now be viewed in full on YouTube or on the website of the project.

According to the film's directors and producers, Bruna Monteiro and Nathália Dielú:

Sobre nós, muito mudou depois do Pinheirinho. Crescemos tanto depois de ouvir os pinheirenses, depois de sentí-los. Hoje, olhamos para o lado com muito mais força, muito mais vontade de transformar. Olhamos também para as nossas lutas pessoais de um jeito diferente, mais maduro. As casas do Pinheirinho foram destruídas. Os sonhos dos Pinheirenses, não. E para que haveríamos de nos emudecer, se os sonhos, tão grandes, transformam a vida, o mundo? Nós, Bruna Monteiro e Nathália e Dielú, escrevemos cada um dos textos que vocês acabaram de ler. Nós, fizemos as entrevistas nos abrigos, na associação. Nós seguimos nessa direção pelo simples e enorme desejo de fazê-lo nos acompanhar. Não só no Pinheirinho de São José dos Campos, mas nos tantos que estão muito perto dos nossos olhos. Nós só conseguimos porque pessoas especiais nos ajudaram nessa missão. Esse site é resultado de um sonho, o de inspirar pessoas, o de lembrar o Pinheirinho como um episódio triste, que não pode ser abandonado. Nem por você, nem por nós.

About us, much has changed after Pinheirinho. We grew so much after hearing from the Pinheirenses, after we felt them. Today, we look to our surroundings with more strength, with more willingness to transform. We also look at our personal struggles in a different, more mature way. The houses at Pinheirinho were destroyed. The dreams of the Pinheirenses were not. And why should we mute ourselves if big dreams change lives, change the world? We, Bruna Monteiro and Nathália Dielú, wrote each of the texts you just read. We did interviews in shelters, at the association. We follow this direction because of the simple and overwhelming desire to make it follow us. Not only in Pinheirinho in São José dos Campos, but in the many that are very close to our eyes. We only succeeded because special people helped us in this mission. This website is the result of a dream, one to inspire people, to remember Pinheirinho as a sad episode that cannot be abandoned. Not by you, not by us.

Take a look at the teaser trailer below:

Also check out Global Voices coverage of the eviction: 

22 Jan, 2012 - Brazil: Occupation dwellers surprised by violent illegal eviction
25 Jan, 2012 - Brazil: “Massacre of Pinheirinho” Causes an Uproar
27 Jan, 2012 - Brazil: Military Police Asks “Understanding” on Pinheirinho Eviction by E-mail
27 Jan, 2012 - Brazil: A View from Aboard on Pinheirinho Eviction
03 Feb, 2012 - Brazil: Pinheirinho Videos ‘Cover-Up’ Leads Activist to Hunger Strike
10 Feb, 2012 - Brazil: “We Are All Pinheirinho” Spreads Around the World
22 Feb, 2012 - Brazil: “Massacre of Pinheirinho”, One Month Later
22 Feb, 2012 - Brazil: Global Act “We Are All Pinheirinho”
19 Mar, 2012 - Brazil: Should Pinheirinho Eviction go to the International Criminal Court?
25 Jan, 2013 - Brazil: Families Evicted from Pinheirinho Still Without a Proper Home
28 Jan, 2013 - Brazil: “Massacre of Pinheirinho”, One Year Later

January 22 2014

10 Documentaries on South American Music to Watch Online

Nick MacWilliam from the blog Sounds and Colours has compiled a list of 10 documentaries, “looking at all manner of musical styles and movements from the region, with films focused on Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Chile, Peru and Venezuela.”

This list makes no attempt to rank the films, nor does it purport that these films are any better or worse than other music documentaries related to South America. The idea is to provide a sample of some of the films out there so that, firstly, they are enjoyed and, secondly, we hope they will open a few doors for our readers into new areas of regional identity.

The films are available online, for free.

January 10 2014

Why a 64-Year-Old Brazilian Indigenous Leader Spent 26 Hours in a Tree

Urutau resisted for 26 hours at the top of a tree, in protest against the removal of the occupation of Aldeia Maracanã. Photo: Facebook/ Mídia NINJA

Urutau resisted for 26 hours at the top of a tree in protest against the removal of the occupation of Aldeia Maracanã. Photo: Facebook/Mídia NINJA

[All links lead to Portuguese-language pages except when otherwise noted. The original version of this post, in Portuguese, was published on December 19, 2013.]

On the morning of December 16, while a battalion of riot police of the Brazilian military police forcefully removed activists that had occupied one of the buildings of the former indigenous museum Aldeia Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro, José Urutau Guajajara, the leader of the Guajajara tribe, ran. At 64 years old, Urutau – a name that means owl in the indigenous language Tupi - climbed a tree as a form of protest against the eviction. And there he stayed for 26 hours.

At the end of the morning on December 17, 2013, Urutau was removed from the tree by firefighters and taken away in an ambulance. A diabetic, Urutau had access to water, controlled by the police. But beyond that, according to information from the activist media collective Mídia NINJA, police prevented any attempted delivery of food to him. Supporters of the occupation, who witnessed Uruatu's resistance, tried to circumvent the blockade by throwing food to him. According to independent media group ZUMBI, Urutau was taken directly to the police station, instead of being taken to the hospital.

The indigenous man demanded that a judicial order justifying the eviction be presented. According to information from the activist media group Olhar Independente (Independent Look), the judicial decision authorizing the eviction presented by the police was old, and as such, was no longer valid. A story published in the newspaper Extra confirmed the situation, revealing that an unidentified police officer had said that the orders were “not to evict them” because the action was “illegal.”

The Aldeia resists and insists

The mobilization around the occupation, which started on December 14, and Urutau's fight were followed on Facebook and on Twitter, with the hashtag #AldeiaResiste (Aldeia resists). International movements, such as the Spanish Take the Square [en] and Occupy Wall Street [en], also spoke out in support of the Brazilians.

The 14,000-square-meter complex that makes up Aldeia Maracanã, or Maracanã Village, was donated to the Indian Protection Service in 1910. From 1953 to 1977, the buildings served as the headquarters for the Museum of the Indian; however, since the change in location of the museum, the buildings have been abandoned. In 2006, indigenous from 20 different ethnicities reoccupied the locale. 

Indians in one of the buildings of the complex. On the wall, it reads

Indigenous in one of the buildings of the complex. On the wall it reads, “Want to kill a people? Then rob them of their culture.” Photo: Facebook/Aldeia Maracanã

In August of 2012, the state government and the city government of Rio de Janeiro announced that the place would be demolished to make way for construction for the 2014 World Cup, as it is near the Mário Filho Stadium, known as Maracanã, which is the name of the neighborhood where the former museum and stadium sit. A petition asking for the recognition of the indigenous ownership of the village was created on Avaaz, explaining:

Neste local, indígenas de várias etnias vêm difundindo sua cultura há seis anos e em escolas particulares e públicas,exercendo direito garantido pela lei. Defendemos a criação de um centro de referência da cultura indígena.

In this place, indigenous people from various ethnicities have been disseminating their culture for six years, as well as in private and public schools, exercising their rights as guaranteed by the law. We defend the creation of a center of reference for indigenous culture.

During that time, indigenous representatives fighting for the village appeared in a video explaining their case:

The space was occupied four times in 2013, the first time in March [en]. A decree signed by Mayor Eduardo Paes in August, the time of the last occupation, recognizes the presence of the Maracanã Village community and provides for the definitive protection of the main building - which means that it can no longer be demolished for World Cup construction. At the end of September, “the judge of the 7th Court of the Federal Public Treasury signed a dispatch impeding the demolition” and determined that, without a official pronouncement from the government, the area should be given to the occupants, the indigenous.

Despite the decree and the judge's dispatch in favor of the community, there are no guarantees about the fate of the area, believes Demian Castro, the representative of the People's Committee of the Cup and the Olympics,  who told the Brazilian press that the privatization process of the Maracanã complex should be revoked. The consortium that has won the bidding to reform and operate the stadium for the next three decades, Maracana S.A., formed by the companies Odebrecht, IMX and AEG, has presented a new viability plan for the area to the Governor of Rio that is still under analysis. 

Without any other solutions to the situation, on Saturday, December 14, activists returned to occupy the space. After an attempted expulsion on Sunday, on Monday morning 150 riot police troops obeying the orders of the state government surrounded the area and carried out a forced eviction of the occupants. Of the 30 people that were in the building, 25 were arrested, but have since been released.

At the end of Tuesday, December 17, after being forbidden from returning to the village, Urutau and other representatives of the group who were evicted from the building joined with students to occupy the rectory of the State University of Rio de Janeiro- UERJ. They asked for a meeting to discuss the Museum of the Indian project.

On January 6, 2014, the government of Rio released a note announcing that the contract with Maracana S.A. has been changed in order not to allow the demolition of the building of the Museum of the Indian.

25 Influential Brazilian Black Women Online

#25webNegras: a list of the 25 most influential black women on the Brazilian web.

#25webNegras: a list of the 25 most influential black women on the Brazilian web.

The website Blogueiras Negras (Black Bloggers, in the feminine), has created a list of the 25 most influential Brazilian black women on the Internet [pt].

The list includes human rights advocates, journalists, writers, researchers, feminists, urban artists and more, besides individual and collective blogs and Facebook pages that fight for gender equality and against racism and prejudice in Brazil.

Blogueiras Negras also adds a list of 10 inspiring black women online from around the world.

January 08 2014

Brazil's ‘Silent Revolution’ in Education, Inspired by Portugal

Espetáculos de Circo do Projeto Âncora

Show in celebration of Circus Day

Eighteen years ago a true revolution in the Brazilian educational system was started when Project Âncora launched in the town of Cotia, São Paulo. It took the form of a space for learning, practising and enhancing principles of citizenship with the aim of developing and transforming the reality of the local community. Since 1995 this non-profit project has catered to over 6,000 children, teenagers and their families through extracurricular activities such as music classes, theatre-circus, crafts and professional courses.

In 2012 an old dream was accomplished with the opening of the Project Âncora School of Infant and Primary Education (pdf). Following the methods of Escola da Ponte from Portugal, which challenges the traditional concept of education and the world’s prevalent standard model of schooling, the Project Âncora School follows an “educational philosophy which proposes that self-knowledge and experience are the key tools for learning, centred around the learner, his or her particularities and his or her transition from heteronomy to autonomy”.

Around 300 children and teenagers attend the school, which is structured round three parallel curricula: the individual, the social and the communal. This innovative model was inspired on democratic education and has been implemented in Brazil with the help of Portuguese language teacher José Pacheco, who has been known worldwide for having created the Escola da Ponte (School of the Bridge) in Portugal by making use of a revolutionary methodology (pdf). Marusia Meneguin, author of the blog Mãe Perfeita, has been enthralled by the original proposal:

Imagine uma escola sem classes, horários, provas. Um currículo que é decidido pelas crianças, em consenso, e inclui matérias como circo e meditação. Não há lista de chamada nem ponto, mas estudantes e professores não faltam. Tudo de graça. Agora imagine que esses estudantes provêm de lugares violentos, e já foram expulsos de diversas escolas. Pode parecer utopia. Até o dia em que você conhece a proposta da Escola da Ponte.

Imagine a school without classrooms, schedules or exams. A curriculum which is decided upon by the children, through consensus, and which includes subjects such as circus and meditation. There is neither roll call nor punching the clock, and yet no absences on the part of pupils or teachers. Everything is free of charge. Now, imagine that these students come from violent environments and have been expelled from several schools. It may seem like utopia. Until the day when you get to know the proposal for the Escola da Ponte.

In an interview with G1, Pacheco states that education in Brazil, whose model ignores the contribution given by Paulo Freire and other great educators from the country, squanders resources and produces 30 million illiterate people. The results achieved by means of the alternative model, on the other hand, become visible within the community itself:

Os ex-alunos da Ponte – alguns já com mais de 50 anos de idade – são a prova da boa qualidade do projeto. São seres humanos plenamente realizados, com elevado nível de consciência cívica, éticos, empreendedores, solidários. Deverei acrescentar que a Ponte recebe alunos que as outras escolas jogam fora, e os recupera. Aluno que não aprende em outra escola, ou aluno que põe professor em estado de coma em outra escola, vai para a Ponte.

The former pupils from the School of the Bridge - some who are now over 50 years old – are living proof of the good quality of the project. They are fulfilled human beings who display a high level of civic awareness, are ethical, entrepreneurial, supportive of others. I should add that the Bridge welcomes pupils who are discarded by other schools, and recovers them. Pupils who do not learn in another school or pupils who put teachers is a state of shock in other schools, they come to the Bridge.

Campanha de arrecadação

Fundraising campaign for Project Âncora

Whereas School of the Bridge has been in existence for nearly 40 years, the results of Project Âncora School in Brazil, which is just over a year old, will take a bit longer to become obvious. Nevertheless, the project has already attracted attention and has inspired other schools, receiving visits from educators from different parts of the country. After one of these visits, Talita Morais described the differences she finds in this utopic educational model:

O grande diferencial do Projeto Âncora, assim como na Escola da Ponte em Portugal, é que as crianças são conscientizadas a trabalhar o coletivo, o respeito e o amor ao próximo, e a autonomia em seu processo de estudo. Dessa forma, passando pelos níveis – na Escola não há divisão por salas ou séries – os alunos vão se tornando cada vez mais autônomos na sua aprendizagem, escolhendo o quê, como e a que momento deve aprender determinado conteúdo, tudo com o auxílio e orientação de professores e tutores, que vão desde funcionários até voluntários da própria comunidade. Além dessa autonomia na escolha do estudo, eles também participam ativamente das decisões e gerenciamento da escola, por meio das assembleias semanais, que re-definem as regras da instituição.

The big difference of Project Âncora, as well as of the School of the Bridge in Portugal, is that the children are made conscious of the collective perspective, of respect and love for others, and of the value of autonomy in the pursuit of his or her studies. This way, going through the different levels – since there is no division by classes or grades in the school – the pupils gradually become more autonomous in their learning process, choosing what, how and at which moment they learn a certain subject, all done with the aid and orientation of teachers and tutors, who are made up of the schools personnel as well as volunteers from the community itself. Besides such autonomy surrounding the choice of study, they also take an active part in the decisions and management of the school by means of weekly assemblies which redefine the rules that guide the institution.

Teacher Fernanda Rodrigues compared the Âncora with other traditional schools:

Lá, fomos recebidos por uma menina de 11 anos, super esperta e comunicativa! Ela nos contou que estuda lá desde que nasceu e foi nítido o quanto ela era sentia um verdadeiro orgulho de fazer parte do dia a dia do Âncora. Os olhos dela brilhavam e era nítido o profundo sentimento de pertencimento que a educanda tem em relação a tudo o que ali acontece.

Aproveitando, vale dizer que é impossível não se encantar com o espaço, que além de amplo, inspira a Educação em sua magnitude. Pudemos presenciar diversas cenas não muito comuns em escolas tradicionais como garotos zelando pelo espaço, bolsas penduradas na entrada da escola, mural com a pauta da assembleia e muitas pessoas conversando sem aquela típica gritaria que é comum nos ambientes escolares.

There, we were welcomed by a very lively and talkative 11-year-old girl! She told us that she had been studying there since she was born and it became clear how truly proud she was for being part of the day-to-day life of Âncora. Her eyes shone and it became clear there was a deep feeling of belonging that the student holds in relation to everything that happens there.

It is worth saying as well that it is impossible not to become enchanted by the place, which is not only broad, but also inspires education in its greatness. We could witness several episodes which are not very common to find in traditional schools, such as boys taking care of the place, bags hanging on the entrance of the school, notice board displaying the agenda for the assembly and many people talking without giving way to that sort of screaming which is so commonly found in school environments.

Comunidades de Aprendizagem do Projeto Âncora em Cotia, São Paulo.

Communities of learning from Project Ancora in Cotia, São Paulo.

The next step of the project is to expand this experience beyond the walls of the institution and reach the whole town by integrating the pupils into “learning communities”. Once a week, the pupils must visit communal places, such as public health clinics and churches, in order to study local issues and talk directly with the residents. Following Pacheco's formula, called “MC² – change enhanced by contamination and context”, the pupils must grab hold of the reality of the place where they live and seek solutions for the issues that they confront:

Comunidades de aprendizagem são práxis comunitárias baseadas em um modelo educacional gerador de desenvolvimento sustentável. É a expansão da prática educacional do Projeto Âncora para além de seus muros, envolvendo ativamente a comunidade na consolidação de uma sociedade participativa.

Learning communities are communal praxis based on an educational model that generates sustainable development. It is the expansion of the educational practices of Project Âncora beyond its walls, and which actively involves the community in the consolidation of a participative society.

When Project Ãncora turned 18 years old in October 2013, João Carlos, from the blog Soliarte, declared that a dream that has become reality “reached adulthood a long time ago”:

Um novo Brasil que nasce. Viva! Viva!
Obrigado Pacheco pela revolução silenciosa que ocorre na educação do Brasil.

A new Brazil is born. Hail! Hail!
Thank you Pacheco for the silent revolution which is taking place in Brazilian education.

Not only the children benefit from this revolutionary model of education. As she recalled the anniversary celebrations, volunteer educator Johana Barreneche-Corrales pondered the importance of the playful and the emotional ties between the teacher:

Finalmente podemos pensar que para que um projetocoletivovingue, é preciso que um grupo seja construído, e o grupo é grupo, não pela quantidade de pessoas que dele fazem parte, mas pela força com que os laços entre eles são tecidos.

Lastly, we may think that for a project to be successful, there is the need for a team to be put together, and that the team be truly a team, not by the number of people who join it, but by the strength of the ties between its members.

Project Âncora was one of the alternative education schools in Brazil that were visited by the documentary team Quando Sinto Que já Sei, a film made financially possible by means of crowdfunding through the website Catarse and which shall be launched in the beginning of 2014. The objective is to start a discussion about the present state of education in Brazil by exploring new ways of learning based on children's participation and autonomy, values which are emerging and being put into practice throughout the country.

Quando Sinto que Já Sei

“Everything is solved with two simple propositions: replace “to” with “with”. With “to” there is a transference, with “with” there is a search for understanding.” José Pacheco on the banner of the film Quando Sinto que Já Sei (When I feel I already know) on Catarse website.


December 27 2013

Brazilian Ruralists Hold ‘Auction for Resistance’ Against Indigenous Land Claims

[All links lead to Portuguese-language pages except when otherwise noted.]

An agricultural auction held by ruralists in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul on December 7, 2013 raised one million Brazilian reals (about 425,000 US dollars) to finance what they refer to as “resistance” to the actions of indigenous peoples occupying their lands and reclaiming their rights in the state.

Cartoon by Carlos Latuff, shared by Combate Racismo Ambiental (Fight Environmental Racism) on Facebook. Caption:

Cartoon by Carlos Latuff, shared by Combate Racismo Ambiental (Fight Environmental Racism) on Facebook. Caption: “Going once, going twice, going three times!” At the Auction for Resistance.

The auction was suspended by the courts in the beginning of December, but pressure from the ruralist lobby – which managed to remove the judge who made that decision from office by legally questioning her impartiality and independence – soon convinced another judge who was named to take the place of the first judge to revoke the suspension. Only three hours passed in between the suspension of the first judge and the appointment of the replacement judge who announced his decision in the same night. The maneuver was considered illegal by defense attorneys working for indigenous rights, who pointed out that the court should have kept the auction suspended until the order of suspicion of the first judge could be heard and judged in court.

The decision of the first judge argued that “the behavior on the part [of the ranchers] cannot be considered legal, as it is apparent that they intend to replace the State in the solution of an existing conflict between the ruralist class and the indigenous tribes” and that “they have the power to incentivize violence (…) and this collides with the constitutional rights to life, security, and physical integrity.”

The auction consisted of the participation of various politicians, among them mayors, state representatives, and federal representatives. Kátia Abreu, senator, leader of the ruralist group and president of the National Confederation of Agriculture (CNA), said that the purpose of the auction was not to finance a militia to combat and kill the indigenous, as defendants of indigenous rights claimed. The senator, however, did not explain what would be the purpose of the event.

Some of the quotes from politicians participating in the event, along with their euphemistic kind of language, give an idea of the objectives of the ruralists, such as what state representative Zé Teixeira of the right-wing party Democrats (DEM) said:

Há anos os produtores gastam com as invasões. Se o banco tem um segurança na porta, por que a fazenda não pode ter? Esse leilão é um alerta para mostrar que o setor produtivo não vai esperar pelo poder publico e precisa de segurança.

It has been years now that producers have wasted with the invasions. If the bank has security at the door, why can't a farm have it too? This auction is a warning to show that the production sector will not wait for public power and needs security.

The situation of indigenous peoples [en] in Mato Grosso do Sul is alarming, a problem that has dragged on for decades, without the Brazilian government providing a solution that guarantees the rights of the indigenous tribes to occupy their own lands, an inalienable right. The constant attacks against the indigenous in the state, whose ethnicity is primarily Guarani Kaiowá, along with the assassination of various leaders and the imposition of the terrible living conditions on this tribe, has provoked waves of protests in Brazil and around the world [en]. One of these assassinations happened recently and gained attention with coverage [en] from the organization Survival International.

The use of social media to spread the word about the indigenous cause and the alarming situation in which many indigenous groups are living occurs not only on the part of NGOs, but also more and more on the part of the indigenous themselves, as analyzed by Raquel Recuero in the article Social Media: Brazil's Indigenous Tribes Go Online in their Struggle To Be Heard [en].

The lack of political interest from the interest groups that dominate the government seems to be one of the principal motives for which the problem in Mato Grosso do Sul and other regions of Brazil has not been solved, as highlighted by researcher Imazon Paulo Barreto:

O argumento de falta de terras é uma falácia, pois existem 58,6 milhões de hectares de pastos degradados em fazendas que poderiam ser utilizados para reassentamento e para aumentar a produção fora de TIs. O governo teria dinheiro disponível caso priorizasse a solução dos conflitos. Por exemplo, bastaria eliminar ou reduzir os 22 bilhões de reais que concede de subsídios anuais a grandes empresas e eliminar os cerca de 70 bilhões de reais perdidos anualmente para a corrupção. A demora das decisões judiciais atrasa o processo, mas mesmo quando obtida uma decisão final favorável aos índios, não há garantias quanto ao tempo de sua execução. Por exemplo, os índios da TI Alto Rio Guamá aguardam o fim da desintrusão desde 2010.

The argument about the lack of land is a fallacy, because there are 58.6 million hectares of degraded pasture on farms that could have been used for the resettlement and increase of production outside of indigenous lands. The government would have money available if a solution to these conflicts was considered a priority. For example, it would be enough to eliminate or reduce the 22 billion Brazilian reais [about 9.35 billion US dollars] that are given in annual subsidies to large businesses and eliminate the nearly 70 billion Brazilian reais [about 29.7 billion US dollars] lost yearly to corruption. The delay in judicial decisions slows the process, but even when obtaining a final ruling favorable to the indigenous, there are no guarantees with regards to the time it will take to be executed. For example, the indigenous people of Alto Rio Guamá have been waiting for the demarcation of their lands since 2010.

The Brazilian judiciary have even called indigenous people who fight for their rights guerrillas.

Image of the “homage” to the Minister of Justice José Eduardo Cardozo, with his face on a statue of a “bandeirante” (trailblazer), the representative figure of Brazilian colonization. From the Facebook page of Marcelo Zelic, with the description:
“Brazilian Indigenous Exposition: Great Figures of the 21st Century.
Work: New bust of José Eduardo Borba Gato Cardozo”

Blogger Camila Pavanelli called attention to the dubious morals of some politicians evident at the auction in a post titled Quebrar vidraça é vandalismo, atirar em índio não (Breaking glass is vandalism, shooting at Indians is not):

Para a Senadora Kátia Abreu, por exemplo, foram autoritárias e antidemocráticas as manifestações populares contra o Código Florestal e contra a presença da Polícia Militar na USP

(…) o leilão foi organizado para “arrecadar recursos contra ocupações indígenas”.

Em bom português, o dinheiro arrecadado será usado para comprar armas – que, por sua vez, serão usadas para atirar em índios.

A mensagem de Kátia Abreu e seus amigos é bem clara:

Quebrar vidraça – não pode, é vandalismo.

Criticar o governo sem quebrar vidraça – também não pode, é autoritarismo.

Atirar em índio – ah bom, aí pode sim.

For Senator Kátia Abreu, for example, the popular protests against the Forest Code were authoritarian and anti-democratic, and against the presence of the military police at the University of São Paulo.

(…) the auction was organized to “raise money for resources against indigenous occupations.”

In other words, the money raised will be used to buy arms – that, in time, will be used to shoot at the indigenous.

The message given by Kátia Abreu and her friends is clear:

Breaking glass – you can't, that's vandalism.

Criticizing the government without breaking glass – you can't do that either, that's authoritarianism.

Shooting the indigenous – OK, well, that you can do.

Indigenous leaders and unionists opposed to the auction received death threats after the original judge's decision to put a halt to it.

Even though the Federal Regional Court eventually allowed the auction to be held, it imposed conditions on the the event. The money raised will have to be deposited in a judicial account controlled by the court, and the resources raised can only be used after the court hears the Public Federal Ministry and the indigenous organizations of the region.

Federal deputy Erika Kokay (PT-DF) declared that the auction represents a new genocide of Brazilian indigenous people:

Estamos observando um etnocídio, querem reeditar o genocídio do povo indígena. Isso (Leilão da resistência) é uma ousadia daqueles que se acham acima do Estado, da Constituição e da vida. É o patrimonialismo clássico. Eles pisoteiam na Constituição e na democracia.

We are observing a case of ethnocide. They want to bring back the genocide of the indigenous people. This (the auction of resistance) is the presumption of those that think themselves above the state, the Constitution, and life itself. It is classic patrimonialism. They are treading on the Constitution and on democracy.

December 21 2013

“Beyond Brazil”: European Journalists Wanted for Reporting Trips

Coolpolitics in Portugal announces [pt] an open call for European journalists who want to go on a reporting trip to Brazil in 2014. Twenty-one young reporters from Portugal, The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, United Kingdom and Bulgaria will be selected to take part of three different groups that will cover events in Brazil, before and after the World Cup, while collaborating with Brazilian peers.

The Beyond Your World website explains the application process and the expected outcomes of this international reporting and training opportunity:

Ongoing demonstrations, the upcoming World Cup, preparations for the Olympic Games and approaching elections; 2014 is considered to be a very important year for Brazil. Consequently, many beautiful stories are out there and are waiting to be covered. Beyond Your World would likes to make a big contribution with this special project. We want to take this incredible opportunity to explore and tell stories in and from Brazil, not only by giving young journalists the chance to gain experience overseas, but also enabling them to work together with colleagues from different countries. 

Deadline for applications is on January 10, 2014. This project - a cooperation between Lokaalmondiaal and the Brazilian media organisation Canal Futura - is part of the training program Beyond Your World which “seeks to inspire and enable the next generation of journalists to cover international development issues”.

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