The great strength of the totalitarian state is that it forces those who fear it to imitate it.
In 1988, Brazil became a democracy after over more than 24 years of military dicatorship. A new constitution was introduced and established and over night everybody was suddenly a democrat – and has always been, of course. The years of torture, corruption, authoritaritan leadership and behaviour, misgovernment and so on, were simply wiped out over night and a new bright future has broken out, simply by decree and constitution.
The new constitution granted the right of free speech and the seperation of the powers, which were, or better said are, supposed to control each other. It also granted autonomy to state institutions like universities, to take their own individual decisions without any ministerial interference and also guaranteed the freedom of research, independence of science and the right to voice one’s own opinion. In 1990, Law nr. 8112 was introduced, which regulates the the rights and duties of a public servant and which states that a public agent, a person who does work for the state or the government, must not behave disrespectful in work environment towards anyone, especially not towards the state. Therefore it has to be mentioned that Brazil has some history with shutting the mouths of people who are not in favour of the government. In 1968, the infamous Instutional Act Number Five (AI-5) was passed, which had the following consequences:
- The President of the Republic was given the power to order the National Congress and all State and Municipial Legislative Assemblies into forced recess. This caused the lockdown of these institutions for almost one year in 1968 and another one in 1977.
- During this forced recess, the president could act with the same power in the place of those assmblies by issuing decrees.
- The federal government could intervene anywhere in the country in legislation assemblies under the cover of the “national security interests” tag.
- Censorship was institutionalised
- Political meetings, as not authorised by the police, were considered illegal and therefore could be broken up without prior warnings.
- “Habeas corpus” for political crimes was suspended
- The President of the Republic could sack any public servant, including elected political officers and judges, if they were considered as uncooperative, subversive or simply had a critical thinking towards the regime.
- Political rights could be ceased for up to ten years and death penalty could be put back into effect.
- The acts of the president were not subject to liability by juridical review.
Additionally it should be mentioned that this law was originally supposed to protect the citizens from the abuse of power by the state/governmental workers, for example by refusing to deal with a person’s application, simply because the person behind the counter would not like the clothes the other one was wearing. In principle this is a very good institutional idea, especially when it has to be taken in consideration that Brazil is a country full of small powergreedy kings and queens, who like to rule their own king- and queendoms without following the official laws.
In the year 2019 Sr Jair Messias Bolsonaro became president of Brazil and with him a wave of weird things started to occur in the country. They would be too many to be mentioned here, especially as they happened on all levels of society, but the climate changed from cold (the Temer years 2016 – 2018, who couped against the democratically elected president Dilma Vana Rousseff) to frosty. Had the country been divided between the left and the more central political powers, now the ultranational right winged spectrum had gained power and started to spread itself within society.
In the year 2020, the coronavirus pandemy also reached Brazil and the saviour of the country, the elected president, was the first one to deny its danger and what it could do to the country. In the media he openly opposed the scientific based recommendations of the World Health Organisation (WHO), he celebrated himself as immune because of his past as a (mediocre) athlete, the whole world was against him and the virus was a communist conspiration of China in order to remove him from office and much more. All these statements were greeted with a warm welcome by his followers, who obviously liked to die as they refused to used masks or any other protective gear in public, and met heavy criticism by those who believed in science, medicine and research and who also had some common understanding and thinking about the real danger of the pandemic. Until March 2021, the Covid-19 pandemy had consumed two ministers of health and the third one, General Eduardo Pazuello, was not much of a health specialist. His greatest achievments as a carreerist were being responsible for the military logistics during the Olympic Summer Games 2016 and having soldiers pulling carts instead of horses, when he was responsible for them in the military forces.
On the other side, there was an everlasting construction site called Ministry of Education. As previously mentioned in this blog, it was occupied by a certain Abraham Weintraub, who was lauded away from his post for being too competent for it. His successor, Carlos Alberto Decotelli da Silva, was out of office before he even took it for some irregularities concerning his career and then followed Milton Ribeiro, a Presbytarian reverend, theologist, lawyer and ex-rector of the Universidade Presbiteriana Mackenzie, one of Brazil’s private elite universities. At Mackenzie he had stirred things up a bit, transforming an already conservative place into an even more conservative one (for example the graduation course of philosophy is under the threat of complete extinction, as it causes critical and individual thinking – something that is most unwelcome under the Bolsonaro presidency). That trajetory of success qualified him for becoming minister of education.
With the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic, science and negationism moved more towards the centre of public and political attention. The various pros and contras of each position waged war against each other, through the midia, in social networks, the main weapon of all sides was WhatsApp and all the veracities that were told there, may they be based on facts or simply be an invention of the human mind and creativity. What remained as fact though was the constant ignorance and negation of the federal government of what was going on with the health of the people in the country. This lead that far that some public university professors even used the official channels of the university to voice themselves about the lethal ignorance of those in power, sacrifising their own voters and people to satisfy their extremely big egos and individual believes. They heavily attacked the president, even on a personal basis. One of them is Pedro Rodrigues Curi Hallal, rector of the University of Pelotas until the end of the year 2020, who himself is a specialist in epidemology. Known to the general public by this constant appearances in the mass media, he gained fame for opposing the governmental position concerning the official health policy in combating the Covid-19 epidemy that rampaged through the country. The other well known case is the one of vice rector of the University of Pelotas, Eraldo dos Santos Pinheiro, professor in the area of physical education of the respective university
As Mr Hallal’s mandate as rector ended, it was time to find his successor and the usual process started with a final result of three suggestions for this post. Usually the President of the Republic follows the list and nominates the candidate who gained most votes in the elections. It has to be mentioned that in Brazil the rector of a public university is voted in a democratic election by students and university staff. Unlike in other democratic countries, where a rector is chosen by the highest university council from a suggestion by the senate and can remain in office forever in case he has many friends in the senate and the university council, this is a real democratic election and the rector cannot stay longer in office than for two successive periods. Anyway, the president is free to choose whoever he wants, so Mr Bolsonaro, in his neverending wisdom and infinite competence, did not choose the most voted candidate. This outraged Mr Hallal to that extend, that he called Mr Bolsonaro being a president with a minuscule “p” and someone who would try a coup against the university.
That again called up Mr Bolsonaro’s hardline disciple, Bibo Nunes, to act. There is not much to say about Mr Nunes, just that he exists and breathes the same air as many other people do. Anyway, this Mr Nunes handed in a complaint at the General Attourney of the Republic with the plead to shut up those voices, especially as they would criticise the president in a disrespectful manner and would spread party propaganda against the government – and as it is the most democratic act to use institutions in one’s particular interest, the General Attourney did so and Mr Hallal and Mr Pinheiro signed an agreement to be censored for the next two years, otherwise a full process would be opened against them, based on Law 8112/90, especially as they had used the official university channels for their critique and those channels are considered as workplace. What is strange though it, that the Supreme Court had is seen as constitutional that university teachers and professors may talk about political ideologies and propaganda in their classes. The verdict was made just a few months before that case of Mr Hallal and Mr Pinheiro. The President of the Republic is allowed to attack teachers in bright sunlight through his hate speech, but responses, especially on the same level, are not allowed. Quod lived Iovi, non licet bovi.
When Mr Ribeiro took office, he promised to restore respect to the teacher. But what has he achieved so far? Nothing, teachers are still most disrespected in Brazil, receive low salaries, are censored, are attacked by ignorant and simply uneducated, stupid parents and other representatives of the students, even receive death threats, just because they try to do their job and defend a civil and civilised society for a better tomorrow. Ever since this movement called Escola dem Parrido (School without [political] Party) got a foothold in the schools, free thinking and education are under threat. Not that Brazil’s public school system would have been among the world’s best for centuries, but now it is even further down the drains. It goes even that far that on university level, teachers receive death threats when they talk about gender topics and anything that is related to social progress. When will the General Attorney of the Republic do anything against that? Teachers have the right to be protected, people have the right to speak freely, children have the right to receive a good education – and citizens have the right to live without fear for their thoughts and also have the right to live and not to die, just because the president negates reality. In a democracy these are basic human rights, obviously in Brazil they are not.