Debate on Criminalization of Popular Movements at Brazil’s Federal Chamber

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Source: Brasil De Fato / The Dawn News / November 11, 2016

Legislators and representatives of different organizations expressed their growing concern about the progress of the conservative forces.

The growing criminalization of popular movements and other left-wing forces has caused concern among various political entities and actors in Brazil. The matter was the tropic of discussion at a public hearing last Wednesday (November, 9), at the Federal Chamber, in Brasília (DF). During the debate in the Commission on Human Rights, representatives of various institutions expressed concern about the context of conservative progress in the country.
Two of the main events discussed were the repression against High School students’ movements and the attack against the MST at the National School Florestan Fernandes.

In the attack, agents invaded the National School Florestan Fernandes (FFNS) MST school of training, without a court order. The images caught by the internal TV system of the institution showed that there was that there was an excess of force. Social organizations, movements, artists and politicians repudiated the event all over the country.

“The FFNS is a role model in political training in Brazil and Latin America, and it was built through solidarity by friends of the movement, people committed to the Agrarian Reform (…). It is a symbol for the world’s working class, some even call this a popular university, which is directed and coordinated by the MST, but establishes bonds of solidarity with organizations around the world. The fact that the police arrived at a place with this sort of symbolic meaning and acting in such way is an insult to us all”, said the educational coordinator of the FFNS, Rosana Cebalho Fernandes. 

| Photo Credit: Midia Ninja |
Photo Credit: Midia Ninja

She also highlighted the MST’s concern with actions of intimidation suffered in other states, such as Paraná and Goiás. “The struggle we’re carrying out is a right of all workers, a way to organizing ourselves, and we can’t be incriminated and framed with a law that deals with criminal organizations simply because they are fighting. (…) This is a time to denounce and repudiate the actions that criminalize social movements”, the coordinator said.

Representatives of the students’ movement also participated in the audience. Students Ravena Soares Carvalho read a note of repudiation against the action of the security forces during the evacuation of the Ave Branca Media Education Center (Cemab), in the satellite city of Taguatinga (DF), the last November 1.

“They arrived saying that they wanted to talk but when we opened the gates, they forced us to leave the premises. They carried rifles and machine guns, which was completely unnecessary to face unarmed students. (…) We consider the occupation of schools to be a fair mechanism of struggle. The only thing we’re defending is education, and we will continue to do so”, the student said.


During the debate, the president of the Commission on Human Rights, Deputy Padre João (PT-MG), criticized the actions of the Justice System. “There is a clear persecution against certain leaders of movements, just as there is a clear persecution against former President Lula Da Silva (…). They are trying to criminalize social leaders (…). Those who fight for public education, for the right to housing, land, or water, for example, are criminalized”, affirmed the President.

According to Beatriz Vargas, Professor at the Faculty of Law of the University of Brasília (UnB), the context of criminalization is rooted in an “unconstitutional philosophy”.

“It’s an anti-democratic position, that doesn’t recognize the right to civil disobedience, and that tries to disqualify people. We can see this method in action when they act against the students’ occupations of schools, for example. Students were humiliated, as if they were second-class citizens or people without the ability to have an opinion on a processes in which their are directly implied”, Vargas said.

She also highlighted the current situation of other movements and specifically the MST. “For many years they have been the object of offensives. We can call some of these offensives are institutionalized; others are by no means institutional, they are illegal. They are what we could call paramilitary actions”, she said.


The audience was also attended by the former Minister of Justice and Attorney General Eugenio Aragão; the President of the National Council of Human Rights, Ivana Farina; The former minister of the General Secretariat of the Presidency, Gilberto Carvalho;And representatives of the Popular Uprising of the Youth and indigenous movements.

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