Note from BW of Brazil: It’s no secret that Brazil is one of the world’s most violent countries, with more than one-third of the world’s 50 most murderous cities being located in Latin America’s largest country. Although there has been reason to celebrate with murder rates finally showing signs of a decline, for many black leaders, the policies of the Jair Bolsonaro Adminstration may have an opposite effect on these numbers. For the far-right extremist president, arming more people is the path to a safer Brazil, but with non-whites making up 75% of the most recent murder reports, the Movimento Negro, Brazil’s conglomerate of black rights organizations, fears the outcome of the leader’s plans. For President Bolsonaro, the increase of armed citizens will lead to safer streets, but several studies from the US show this not to be the case.
Since the new president took office nearly seven months ago, the Movimento Negro has been on the front line challenging the policies that this president seeks to implement as well as calling attention to the possibility of possible disaster and devastating effects on the country’s black population. To further spread their message, these organizations are sharing their fears to the international community. See more below.
‘Black Coalition for Rights’ denounces Bolsonaro arms decrees to international agency
By Maria Teresa Cruz
Black movement representatives throughout the country signed a document sent to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which points out the risks posed by the federal government, especially for the black, poor and peripheral population, of the flexibilization of possession and carrying of weapons; in the document, the collective speaks of ‘attack on democracy’
The two decrees signed by President Jair Bolsonaro that flexibilize the possession and carrying of arms in Brazil were objects of denunciation in a document of the “Black Coalition for Rights”, that brought together black movements of the whole country, sent this Thursday (7/11) to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States (OAS). Read the full document here.
The text, constructed by civil society organizations and groups and representatives of the Afro-Brazilian and peripheral population, presents numbers of the violence in Brazil that point to the main target: poor, peripheral black population. “With the electoral victory of Jair Bolsonaro, the central power of the country rested on the lap of a political group that is explicitly opposed to human rights values and, worse, exposing its predilections for policies of criminal upsurge and use of force and violence as a formal practice of police action, as well as mass incarceration, the relativization of torture methods and the criminalization of social movements,” reads a section of the document.
The document provides a broad picture of violence in Brazil and data showing that guns will not bring more security to the population. They also denounce what they call the “tricky maneuver” of Bolsonaro, who published some points of the previous decrees on June 25th and, for example, once again allowed the marketing of rifles. “IBCCRIM research has shown that a victim of armed robbery is 56 per cent more likely to be killed than the unarmed victim,” and “86 per cent of illegal weapons were at some point legal and then diverted to crime” are two of the highlights of the relationship between the increase of arms in circulation and the growth of violence.
Finally, the complaint also brings violations against indigenous peoples, quilombolas and land conflicts, which also tend to become more bloody with the arms decrees.
In February of this year, the black movement had denounced the anti-crime package of Sérgio Moro, minister of Justice and Public Security, to the IACHR, which has been called a “license to kill” by human rights defenders.
In May, a party formed by leaders of the country’s various black movements and members of the Brazilian government were in Kingston, Jamaica, where they were received at the OAS and had the opportunity to speak and denounce Moro’s proposal once again. The meeting was emblematic as it was the first time since the 2001 Durban Conference in South Africa that an official Brazilian mission consisting exclusively of blacks attended an event to file an international complaint.
Last month, Senate President David Alcolumbre received representatives of the black movements to discuss the possibility of the presence of the collectives in debates on the anti-crime package.
For the lawyer Silvia Souza, activist member of Educafro and who participated in this construction, it is fundamental to denounce the extermination policies perpetrated by the government in the form of these decrees. “We, of the various black movements throughout the country, believe that the flexibilization of the possession and carrying of weapons, through the 7 decrees already published in 6 months, as a public security policy imposed by the federal government based on the idea of ‘giving the citizen the right to protect’ is absolutely inadequate and useless, because in practice it will function as a necro politics to eliminate much of the poor, peripheral and black population of this country,” he says in an interview with Ponte.
Sílvia brings data from the Atlas of Violence 2019, published by IPEA in May, which reveal that of the 65,000 people killed by murder in 2017, 75% were black. According to her, the Bolsonaro government’s weapons policy is, above all, unconstitutional, because “it transfers to the ordinary citizen the burden of promoting their security, which is constitutionally a duty of the State, foreseen in article 6 and 144 of the Constitution. Bringing this to the attention of the international community through the denunciations of the IACHR draws the attention of the world to what is happening in Brazil and tends to constrain the Brazilian State in the foreign policy scenario,” she points out.
For Sílvia Souza, if the IACHR accepts the denunciation, the Brazilian State will have to provide clarification and this will “cause embarrassment for Brazil’s foreign policy.”
In an interview with the Alma Preta (website), that is a signatory to the complaint, Uneafro professor Douglas Belchior spoke about the importance of the struggle and exposing this violence as a way of trying to reverse the situation. “We need to show the world the radicalization of the genocide we are experiencing and the primitive will of the Brazilian elite to deny the existence of the povo negro (black people) and there is only one way to do that: killing us. As (writer) Conceição Evaristo says, we agreed not to die,” he said.