Human rights in Brazil

Human rights in Brazil

There are serious issues in regard to abuses of human rights in Brazil. Brazil had a remarkably poor record during the dictatorship of the 1960s, and still has many problems today. These include the use of police brutality, corruption, torture and summary executions by civil and military police and prison authorities. In the recent years, the 1992 Carandiru Massacre is considered the major violation of the human rights in Brazil.

Prisoner violence

Brazil's prisons are overcrowded and unhealthy, there are now over 300,000 inmates. Beatings, torture and killings by prison guards occur throughout the prison system. Children are abused in the juvenile justice system. According to the Ministry of Justice 13,489 under 18s are in detention.

Prison overcrowding results in a prominent occurrence of prison violence and murder as well as frequent revolts and escapes. In order to deal with these problems, prison administrations often divide prison populations according to gang affiliation. According to Global Justice, there have been claims of gang affiliation being assigned.

Living space, food, and cleanliness conditions are inhumane and bribery for privileges and transfers is rampant.

In December 2007, a case of prison gang rape in Pará brought media attention to the condition of human rights in the Brazil prison system. [cite news|first=Alexei |last=Barrionuevo |title=Rape of Girl, 15, Exposes Abuses in Brazil Prison System |url= |publisher=The New York Times |date=2007-12-12 |accessdate=2007-12-13 ]

Summary executions and police violence

Police violence is one of the most internationally recognized human rights abuses in Brazil. The problem of urban violence focuses on the perpetual struggle between police and residents of high crime favelas such as the areas portrayed in "City of God".Police response in many parts of Brazil is extremely violent, including summary execution and torture of suspects. According to Global Justice, in 2003, the police killed 1,195 people in the State of Rio de Janeiro alone. In the same year 45 police officers were killed. Police violence is often reacted to by local communities and trafficking groups with demonstrations and violent resistance, causing escalation and multiplying victims.Unofficial estimates show there are over 3000 deaths annually from police violence in Brazil, according to Human Rights Watch. There are constant complaints of racism, abuses, torture, executions and disappearances. Not all states record police killings or keep accurate statistics.


Torture in Brazil is widespread and systematic according to the ex-UN Special Rapporteur. Occurrence of police torture accompanies murder or effecting intimidation and extortion. Torture has also been widely reported in detention centers and mental institutions.

Agrarian violence and oppression

The agrarian struggle in Brazil is manifold, touching on the topics of deforestation, dam building, eviction, squatting, and wildlife smuggling. The enormous Landless Workers' Movement in Brazil involves large and migrating homeless populations. Landowners resort to assassins and death squads to drive and intimidate landless populations from their land.Other cases of agrarian human rights violations involve government takings, such as for various hydroelectric operations across Brazil. Wealthy international corporations have enormous bargaining power and often refuse to remunerate displaced populations upon the flooding of their ancestral homes. Further agrarian violence arises from smugglers of exotic animals, wood, and other minerals from extracting contraband from forest or agrarian areas.

Slave Labor and Labor Exploitation

Slavery and labor situations like depression era company towns still exist in remote areas in Brazil like the Amazon (A fictional portrayal of such a town occurs in "The Rundown").

"Debt slavery" (where workers are forced to work in order to pay an ever-increasing debt) still exists in some rural areas, though it is illegal and the government actively fights against it [ [ BBCnews, major raid in slave farm] ] .

The "debt slavery" is particularly worryingly in large sugar cane farms, since sugar cane is a raw material for Ethanol, a product that the Brazilian government is currently actively encouraging the production and research.

Domestic violence

Brazil has a sad record of domestic violence, both against children and women. The main causes of domestic violence are agreed to be alcohol addiction or drug use, but low literacy, social tension and poverty also play an important role in it.

Indigenous violence

As deforestation companies move in to take advantage of the large area of space the Amazon offers, indigenous tribes that live in the forest are attacked or subject to violence. Drugs and diseases are introduced into the tribes because of the people moving in on the terrain. In order to protect the land that is rightly theirs, many indigenous people attack the new arrivals - who fight back - which leads to violence and deaths.


In line with the military government's negotiated impunity upon the return of Brazil to democracy, impunity continues to derail human rights prosecution. Police and prison violence is often covered up or ignored by authorities. Police officers who are imprisoned often serve in privileged security positions inside Brazilian prisons. Brazilian politics are also rife with impunity, continued through dismissal of overzealous officials and pointed bureaucratic oversight.

Violence against human rights defenders

Many human rights defenders who have arisen to oppose human rights violations and their families and friends suffer violence, persecution, and terrorism across Brazil. Telephone death threats are prominent and often followed through by ambush or assassination. Government officials, attorneys, union leaders and even religious leaders have often been targeted, as with Antonio Fernandez Saenz affair. The danger of human rights defense entered the world press with the murder of Dorothy Stang in 2005 and Chico Mendes in 1998.

Sources: Human Rights Watch, Global Justice, Pastoral Land Commission
* [ Global Justice]
* [ Human Rights Watch]
* [ Amnesty International]
* [ International Freedom of Expression Exchange]

ee also

*Carandiru massacre (1992)
*Candelária massacre (1993)
*Complexo do Alemão massacre (2007)
*Gay rights in Brazil
*Women's rights in Brazil


Further reading

* Zimbardo, et al. "Violence Workers"
* France Winddance Twine "Racism in a Racial Democracy"

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