Interview of Áurea Carolina by Nathália Urban (@UrbanNathalia)
The world is aware of the absurdity and outbursts of Jair Bolsonaro’s government, but perhaps people do not know that many of their mistaken decisions are facing strong resistance, mainly in the Chamber of Deputies. One of the main voices of this resistance is Deputy Áurea Carolina, who has shown in her term of office that she will not be silenced.
Carolina began her career in Brazilian politics in 2016 when she was elected councillor for the Socialism and Liberty Party (PSOL), and in 2018 she was elected with the fifth largest vote of her state, Minas Gerais, as federal deputy. Since then she has fought for the rights of the majority of the population and supported them in a quest for equality. She is dedicated to the causes of women, black people, LGBT, youth, indigenous and people living in the city outskirts.
I had the opportunity to talk to the deputy and ask her opinion about some of the current political developments in Brazil.
N: During his participation in the Committee on Public Security and fight against Organized Crime of the Chamber of Deputies, the Justice Minister Sérgio Moro, dismissed many of your questions regarding the black communities being hit by the violent decision of the Governor of Rio to use helicopters with snipers in the favelas. He also shows contempt for indigenous communities. Would you say that these positions against minorities by Bolsonaro’s government could be a prelude to genocide?
A: Undoubtedly, the government of Bolsonaro creates official apologism for violence, with decrees that make it possible to carry arms, encouraging people to arm themselves, and encouraging the use of violence as a supposed solution to social conflicts. They act as if violence is a response to violence, whereas it is known and proven that it is only with preventive policies, with the promotion of rights, and with a different framework of public security, that we will reduce homicide rates, and be able to take Brazil out of this shameful position of having one of the highest homicide rates on the planet!
So, the minister Sérgio Moro, facing my questioning, could not even speak about the black population, he did not even mention the word racism, he spoke about a vulnerable population. He has no real commitment to the anti-racist agenda, on the contrary, his package of anti-crime laws with its many addendums is a way of reinforcing structural racism and institutional racism in public security policy in the penal state, which is a model that creates more explicit control of the black population, of black bodies (mass incarceration, criminal selectivity, police violence).
This is all aggravated by the Minister’s anti-crime package, so it is of great concern that he has not even admitted the need to recognize the Brazilian delegation that condemned the situation for the black community at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. The minister disqualified the delegation, and that leaves us in a situation of a representative of the state who does not have condition to be in the position that he currently is, he acted in a light way in relation to the position that he occupies.
* One of the most discussed points about this anti-crime package of laws is its proposal to cancel the penalty given to a police officer who kills in service. In Rio de Janeiro alone, the police have killed 5 people a day in 2019, a record for the last 21 years.
Brazilian delegation at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
N: I know of your commitment to the indigenous cause, and especially to the indigenous community of Naô Xohã who were affected by environmental crime in Brumadinho. Is anything being done to help this community?
A: The only action taken for the rights of the community has been made through the Federal Public Ministry, in the case of Naô Xohã. They are an institution outside the executive branch. The municipalities themselves do not have conditions, in addition to not having this group as a priority, they have no resources. But we have been fighting the dismantling of public policies that protect these communities.
Nationally the federal government is the enemy of indigenous peoples, they are doing everything to destroy pro-indigenous policies, along with permission of mining within areas of indigenous protection. It’s an unprecedented setback! The government has withdrawn FUNAI (National Indian Foundation) from the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Justice, we have recently had a partial victory in the congress, in the provisional measure that deals with the administrative reform of being able to revert that Funai returns to the Ministry of Justice, with jurisdiction over land demarcation, but that still needs to pass through the Chamber and Senate, so we have no guarantee (of it happening). It’s a terrible fight.
*The government’s initial idea was that the demarcation should continue with the National Institute of Colonization and Agrarian Reform (INCRA), linked to the Ministry of Agriculture
N: After this “partial victory”, how do you feel knowing that Minister Moro said he was not interested in taking responsibility for FUNAI?
A: I feel great repulsion, it is a total lack of dignity and understanding about the meaning of this policy, it was a completely absurd speech and against what should be the conduct of a Minister. And it also shows this government’s contempt for indigenous communities. So it is a very coherent attitude in relation to the the rest of Bolsonaro’s government, we see all these people affirming each other, it is very worrying.
Indigenous peoples already live through a great deal of violence, but they are resisting it, but it is a huge sacrifice and one would need to be in another situation at the moment, unfortunately we (as a country) are going backwards at a frightening speed.
N: You have a long history of fighting for women’s rights. What do you think could be done about the alarming rates of femicide? And do you think that Bolsonaro’s position on women contributes to that?
A: This government has fascist tendencies. It is a government that makes a point of showing that it is racist, sexist and LGBT-phobic. They have no shame nor do they try to disguise that they are the way they are anyway. Of course this worsens a socio-cultural reality. We are struggling to guarantee the services of the Maria da Penha law (a law that targets gender based violence in Brazil, with the specific aim of reducing domestic violence in the country), all public policies to prevent sexist violence, to welcome victims, to discuss gender and sexuality in schools.
Because without this political backup, we will not change this behavioural and systemic pattern of gender exclusion and inequality. It is a government that comes with a complete package of trying to violate the rights of these populations, and us women in our diversity are very affected, especially black women and indigenous women, because these groups are already historically the target of neglect and (lack of) access to protective services.
*Four women have been killed every day so far this year in Brazil.
N: I personally went through a situation on social media where I was massively attacked by Bolsonaro supporters. I know your party has come under extensive attack from them, but have you personally been through it?
A: Yes, there was a specific situation where I denounced a murder that happened in Rio de Janeiro committed by police, where young black boys were killed and I brought it to attention, saying that black lives matter. And it was in a time that Brazil was in a great commotion about the young boys who died in the fire of the Flamengo football club. And there was a selective outcry, saying that boys who were football players and “good citizens” deserved our mourning, and boys who were associated with crime deserved to die.
So I criticized that, saying that black lives matter no matter whom and that we need to have a serious debate about racism. I made a very synthetic post saying “it is no use crying over the life of the black players of Flamengo and applauding slaughter in the favela” and then came the attacks from the “virtual militias”. We wait a while for it to pass, because they change targets. Now the attacks have diminished, but they always reappear, especially when we criticize the package of anti-crime laws, the pension reform, they are already programmed for those things.
I believe we have to deal with it calmly, knowing that it is a provocation, a framework to try to destabilize us and try to prevent us from continuing to express these criticisms. And we have talked in-house with our team about digital security strategies.
N: When you see your colleagues like Jean Wyllys and other personalities who are clearly against the government, leaving Brazil because of threats. How do you feel, are you not afraid the political situation has reached a point where people have to leave the country to stay alive ?
A: It is very serious, because Brazil has become an even more threatening country for those who fight for their rights, for those who defend democracy. It is an attempt aimed at silencing and banning people. And at the same time these people leaving, we have to see as a denunciation of what is happening here. The situation of Jean, Márcia Tiburi, Débora Diniz and other people who needed to self-exile, is a serious symptom of how the consensus collapsed here in this country. And as this government has legitimised itself very precariously, it was very much based on the deceit of the population.
This government was elected with lies and continues to lie after being elected, they manipulated public opinion. But the masks are falling, little by little the farce of this government is coming to the fore. Unemployment only worsens, work situation is precarious, there are cuts in education, and violence. This very strong and organized reaction will also give us a turning point. I have a lot of conviction and hope that we will reach a turning point, this government will not hold up, they do not have cohesive support in the society.
Of course, the interests of the great economic powers are behind them and have been able to sustain (in parts) this government. But it is with popular pressure that I believe they will erode faster.
N: Regarding Brazilian groups of international resistance, what do you think of them?
A: This is very important and makes a difference, because beyond our current situation, this is important for the construction of democracy. Transnational solidarity among people, recognizing that we are in a world that is undergoing more rapid transformations, such as the situation of refugees, of migrants in several countries, it shows us that the problem is much more complex, and these cooperation networks are essential.
I believe that such networks can often be used to enable information from problematic situations which is being muted by conventional media to be discussed. So these international organizations of resistance groups and critical reflection are essential in times like ours.
Áurea Carolina’s Twitter: @aureacarolinax
Socialism and Liberty Party: http://psol50.org.br/partido/
Brazil Supreme Court land demarcation decision sparks indigenous protest
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