Thursday 27.4.2017 in Latest Developments in Brazil Country Page
On 20th March 2017, two human right defenders (HRDs) were killed by unidentified men. Antonio Mig Claudino, a cacique (chief) of the Terra Indígena Serrinha (Serrinha Indigenous Land), was gunned down in a bar in Ronda Alta, state of Rio Grande do Sul. Serrinha is an indigenous reservation in Ronda Alta, where several disputes over land and attacks on its indigenous inhabitants have taken place. Waldomiro Costa Pereira, a land rights activist, was killed on the same day in Parauapebas, Pará state. Costa Pereira, a longtime activist with the Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra (Landless Workers Movement - MST), was assassinated by five gunmen who stormed the small-town hospital in the Brazilian Amazon where he was recovering from a previous assassination attempt.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights for Latin America and the Caribbean and the Special Rapporteur for freedom of expression at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights expressed grave concern over the situation for human rights defenders in Brazil and demanded that the authorities take the necessary actions to identify and hold the culprits accountable. According to the Pastoral Land Commission, a Brazilian advocacy group, 61 land rights defenders were killed in 2016, the highest number of murders since 2003.
In April 2017, MST and the Brazilian Committee of Human Rights Defenders launched an international human rights campaign, Meu Crime é Lutar (My Crime is to Struggle), which aims to "denounce the process of criminalisation that human rights defenders have been suffering in the country" and demand the release of four MST imprisoned activists who have been held since Brazil's crackdown on MST began in November 2016. The four activists from the state of Paraná — Fabiana Braga, Claudelei Torrente Lima, Antonio Cloves Ferreira and Claudir Braga — have been in "preventative detention" since 4th November 2016, a longer period than legally permitted for so-called pre-trial detention. They have also been denied full access to their lawyers.
On 21st March 2017, blogger Eduardo Guimarães was forcibly taken to testify at the Federal Police in São Paulo on an order from the judge in charge of the 13th Federal Court of Paraná, Sergio Moro. Guimarães' computer and cellphone, as well as his wife's cellphone, were confiscated, and he was urged to reveal his sources of information for the Operação Lava Jato (Operation Car Wash) - a large-scale anti-corruption investigation that began in 2016.
Article 5.XIV of the Brazilian Constitution states that “access to information is ensured to everyone and the confidentiality of the source shall be safeguarded, whenever necessary to the professional activity”. Reporters Without Borders and the National Federation of Journalists condemned the measures taken against Guimarães and argued that the actions of the Federal Police constitute an attack on freedom of expression and set a concerning precedent. Edison Lanza, Special Rapporteur for freedom of expression at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (Organization of American States) expressed his dismay over Guimarães' forced testimony by the Federal Police, stating on his Twitter account: "Serious: Judge Moro orders raid and forces blogger to reveal sources. Corruption cannot be fought without press freedom”.
Grave: juez Moro allana y obliga a revelar fuentes a bloguero. No se combate la corrupción sin libertad de prensa: https://t.co/9YV3E5C4xS— Edison Lanza (@EdisonLanza) March 22, 2017
Massive protests have taken place across the country in the past few months.
On 15th March 2017, Brazilians took to the streets of major cities in a nationwide protest against President Michel Temer's pension reform plan. The demonstrations in Sao Paulo ended with clashes between protesters and police. On 31st March, more than 100,000 Brazilians protested in 26 state capitals against the proposed reforms. On 18th April, police union members clashed with congressional police forces in Brasilia as they attempted to forcibly enter the Congress also in protest over the government's pension reform. A nationwide general strike to protest the reform was called for 29th April.
In a separate protest in the state of Pernambuco, 19-year old student Edvaldo de Silva was injured by the military police on 17th March 2017. De Silva was hit with a rubber bullet while demonstrating for greater security, along with his neighbours of Itambé. He later died in a hospital in Paulista, Pernambuco on 11th April.