Ex-mayor of Dourados sentenced to 3 years in jail and fined R$300,000 for racism

Ex-mayor of Dourados was convicted of racism which was committed in a radio interview

(Photo courtesy of John Garrigó)
by Nicholas Vasconcelos and João Rocha
 
On March 14th, the former mayor of the city of Dourados (state of Mato Grosso do Sul), Ari Artuzi was sentenced to three years in prison for the crime of racism. He must also pay restitution of R$300,000 (about US$150,000) in damages, besides the jail time.
 
Mato Grosso do Sul (right) and Dourados

The crime of racism was committed in August of 2010, during an interview on the radio show Hora da Verdade (Moment of Truth), on Grande FM radio. Artuzi offended blacks by saying “Nóis temu fazenu service genti branca; genti service”, meaning “we have to give white service, our service.” (1)

The complaint for the crime of racism was presented by prosecutor João Linhares Júnior, who held that the former city administrator “practiced and incited racism, offending the subjective honor of African descendants.” In Brazil, giving “white service (serviço de branco)” or giving “black service (serviço de preto)” is a very popular saying with “serviço de preto” being somewhat similar to the American phrase “nigger rig”, meaning “to fix something in a very cheap manner, using whatever tools are available; or to make something in manner in which it does actually work but doesn’t work perfectly or look professionally done.”

According to the prosecution, Artuzi announced hurtful words and hurt the honor of all blacks to giving the false idea that work can only be considered good, adequate and effective when performed by people with white skin. With that attitude, he fostered intolerance and stimulated prejudice.

“Artuzi expressed (the idea) that black people don’t give quality service (…) The comment has dire consequences, as it appears from the desideratum of all denouncements vilifying blacks by promoting the degradation of this minority and inciting contempt of other citizens of Dourados against Afro-Brazilians.”

On the occasion, in an interview given to broadcasters Eduardo Palomita and Osvaldo Duarte the former mayor uttered the phrase to highlight the quality of the asphalt that the city was doing on city streets. The phrase, which carries racist sentiments, caused an uproar amongst listeners, who responded immediately against the use of racist expression by the former mayor which violates Brazil’s law against racism.

In his defense, Artuzi said that he did not commit racism. “It was a force of an expression that I used, which is popular. But on the same day I apologized and the next day I also published a note apologizing. I think all of this is persecution. I was the only mayor of Dourados who created a department with policies aimed at racial equality,” said the former mayor.

Anísio de Souza Silva, who heads the Department of Human Rights, connected to the Department of Social Assistence, was one of nine witnesses who attended court proceedings on the case back in September of 2011.

 
black Brazilians
Anísio de Souza Silva spoke in defense of the ex-mayor
 

Anísio came out in defense of the former mayor saying that Artuzi has never been racist. “He always championed the fight for equal rights between races. Always supported policies aimed at sexual adversity, racial prejudice and also aid to the indigenous community of Dourados,” declared Ari’s former employee.

He also said that whenever he found more resistance to support for the work aimed to promote racial equality from society than with the former mayor. “We cannot be hypocrites; racism is present in many sectors of society. In the opening speech of Expoagro (2), the then minister of agriculture said he would not allow blacks to take the land of whites, but nobody did anything,” concluded Anísio.

Asked about the number of lawsuits to which he would respond in court, some accusing him of corruption, the former Mayor Ari Artuzi was emphatic: “In no more than two months I’ll be free of all of them.”

Artuzi was arrested in September 2010, the target of the operation Uragano PF (Federal Police). Besides him, were held his ex-wife, Maria Artuzi, the deputy mayor, nine of the 12 city councilors, municipal secretaries and businessmen.

The group was indicted for a fraud scheme involving the city, city government officials and businesses. The actions were registered by Eleandro Passaia, then Secretary of Government in the Artuzi administration.

After 90 days behind bars, Ari Artuzi resigned, being released the next day.

Note from BW of Brazil: So how do you see this case? Here’s how I see it. No one can can say for absolute certainty that Artuzi should be labeled a blatant racist. But what can be said is that this case speaks to the deeply ingrained racial ideology that is part of Brazilian society. Artuzi may or may not have meant what he said in a directly racist manner, but because this phrase has been such a part of the Brazilian vernacular for so long, it is a statement that people most likely utter without even thinking about it. And in the past few decades, sayings, books, practices and jokes that once upon a time were seen as harmless and only “part of the culture” are being more heavily scrutinized by a black population that is becoming more and more sensitive and aware of the endemic racism laden in Brazilian society. 

Also, how do you see Anísio de Souza Silva, the black guy that came to the former mayor’s defense? Is this a case of a man honestly defending a man who is wrongly accused of something or is it the case of a white man getting caught saying something racist and immediately employing the services of a “yes sir, boss” type negro who will protect a white person at all cost. For extreme examples of this type of black person see the Stephen character portrayed by Samuel L. Jackson in the recent film Django Unchained or the Uncle Ruckus character in Adult Swim’s The Boondocks cartoon series. 

 
Samuel Jackson as Stephen in Django and Uncle Ruckus from The Boondocks
 
 

We recently saw this “call a negro/negra to my defense after I said something racist” action back in September when a black woman denied the usage of the term monkey being racist because there are also“red, yellow and blue monkeys.” Again, without knowing Souza Silva, it’s difficult to judge his intentions or motives for defending the former mayor. In the same manner that one cannot label all whites as flaming racists, it would also be wrong to automatically label Souza Silva a “boot-licking” negro. There is simply not enough background to make a complete judgement about this case. What can be said is that the racial environment in Brazil has definitely changed. If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, you can attest to this. Stay tuned for more!

Notes

1. According to Patrícia Ashley (2005), in Brazil, “we have examples of the expressions ‘serviço de branco’ (white service), ‘serviço de preto’ (black service) to demonstrate that, in the imagination of the population, the work of whites is qualified, clean and well done while that of blacks is unqualified, dirty and badly done.” This saying is but one of many racist sayings and jokes about blacks throughout Brazilian society. Two other examples are 1) “Negro quando não caga na entrada, caga na saída”, meaning when “if a black doesn’t shit when he comes in, he shits when he leaves” or 2) Qual a semelhança entre um carro quebrado na estrada e uma mulher negra grávida (What do a broken down car in the street and a pregnant black woman have in common)? Os dois estão esperando o macaco (Both are waiting on a monkey). A macaco in Portuguese means monkey, which is one of the most commonly used racist terms against blacks, but macaco can also be used in reference to a macaco mecânico, or mechanical monkey, which means car jack.

2. Expoagro is an annual agricultural/agribusiness event that occurs in the city of Dourados, Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil in the month of May. It’s held at the Parque de Exposições João Humberto de Carvalho (João Humberto de Carvalho Exhibition Park).

Source: Campo Grande NewsProgresso, Ashley, Patrícia. Ética e Responsabilidade Social nos Negócios. São Paulo: Saraiva, 2005

About Marques Travae 2897 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

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