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Human Rights in Brazil
As the most recent host of the summer Olympic Games, Brazil is strikingly diametric to the glamor and leisure of them. With a focus on human rights in Brazil, the country has many problems that it cannot hide despite hosting the Olympics.

A few notable human rights violations in Brazil in 2016 include police abuses and extrajudicial killings — notably more often in disenfranchised areas (favelas) and during peaceful protests — violent and overcrowded prisons and the targeting of human rights defenders.

During the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff, many peaceful protests occurred across the country for education reform and against the presence of the Olympics. Police responses to protests of this sort were frequently violent and generally led to excessive use of force. For example, to protest the current education reform, students across the country peacefully occupied more than 1,000 public schools. Police used excessive force to remove students from the schools, shooting stun grenades at students. One student lost sight in her left eye because of the grenade’s explosion.

Other police abuses come from both on and off-duty police officers. In 2015, police officers killed 3,345 people, leading to cyclical violence in crime-infested areas. This undermines public security and endangers the police officers as well. In 2015, 393 police officers perished in the backlash.

Of all the violations of human rights in Brazil, overcrowded prisons are the most significant. Between 2004 and 2014, the number of imprisoned adults increased an alarming 85%. About 622,000 people total are incarcerated in prisons designed to hold 67% less than that or a total of 205,000 people. The increase of inmates in Brazil is attributed to a 2006 drug law that allowed drug users to be charged as drug traffickers. Luckily, in 2014, judges began to see detainees promptly after their arrest (required by international law), and this mitigates the rate of inmates entering prison.

Speaking out against violations of human rights in Brazil is a dangerous but necessary duty. There was a general increase from 2015 to 2016 of attacks, threats and killings of human rights defenders. Ranging from lawyers to laborers, 47 human rights defenders of all sorts have been killed.

Human rights violations do not define Brazil as a nation; there are many human rights virtues. For example, the country passed a “Digital Bill of Rights” protecting the privacy and free expression rights online. A co-led initiative in the United Nations to create a new U.N. special rapporteur on the right to privacy accompanied the bill. Keeping the last few years in mind, there is hope for the bettering of human rights in Brazil.

James Hardison

Photo: Flickr

Brazilian Slums rio de janeiro facts
In 2016, the Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro drew massive media attention to Brazil. While the majority of the media focus centered on the games themselves, concerns grew about Brazil’s dangerous climate, particularly in regard to the country’s slums. Below are facts about Brazilian slums.

Top Facts about Slums in Rio de Janeiro and Brazil

  1. The common term for a Brazilian slum is a favela. The name originated out of wartime, as soldiers during Brazil’s civil war sought temporary refuge on hills filled with favela plants.
  2. Favelas grew as migration increased. Since proper housing was too expensive for many immigrants, they turned to the poor, yet cheap, conditions favelas provided on the outskirts of Brazil’s major cities, such as Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo.
  3. Approximately six percent of Brazil’s population lives in favelas. Today, there are about 1,000 favelas in Rio and 1,600 in São Paulo.
  4. The typical favela has poor infrastructure, leading to difficulties in electricity and plumbing.
  5.  Disease is also rampant within favelas, as there is no standard for sanitation. Health risks may stem from overcrowding, pollution and a lack of waste disposal systems. Life expectancy within favelas is approximately 48 years, while the national average is 68.
  6. Poor living conditions within favelas often breed crime. Drug trafficking is common, with most members being young male teenagers, who are four-fifths more likely to die before age 21, Joe Griffin of The Guardian reports.
  7. Gangs not only initiate wars amongst each other in Brazilian slums, but against police. There have been frequent shootouts between gangs and police, especially during the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio when the state government was forced to employ numerous police pacification units (UPPs).
  8. Although UPPs originally heightened safety when initially introduced in 2008, they have recently been the center of much controversy, as civilian deaths have increased as a result of police misconduct.
  9. Despite these poor conditions, life in favelas is beginning to improve. NGOs, such as Community in Action, are focused on sustainable community development within these Brazilian slums.
  10. Many houses now have access to new technologies, such as television and the Internet. In addition, small businesses are making progress within their communities, most recently in the area of tourism.

Although progress appears underway, the Brazilian government must take more secure action to ensure that conditions within these Brazilian slums improve further.

Genevieve T. DeLorenzo

Photo: Flickr

Olympic-CommitteeSince its inception, the Olympic Games have been about bringing nations together. For the first time, this will include athletes without countries, flags or an Olympic committee: refugees. In October, International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach announced the good news for refugees.

UNHCR estimates that there are over 20 million refugees. From this group, 43 athletes were selected as potential Olympians. This number was reduced to 10 athletes from four countries participating in athletics, swimming and judo.

At the opening ceremony, these athletes will march with the Olympic flag and the Olympic anthem. Coaches and funding are provided by the International Olympic Committee.

Brazil currently hosts two refugee athletes. Yolande Bukasa Mabika and Popole Misenga are judoists from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The DRC’s civil war from 1998-2003 cost Mabika and Misenga many family members and left their home, Bukavu, ruined. Both faced horrible training conditions, including being locked up without food every time they lost a match.

When their coach disappeared during the World Judo Championships in Rio 2013, they used the opportunity to seek asylum. Both were woefully unprepared: Misenga reports stopping people and asking in French where Africans lived. Mabika was only able afford an apartment in a favela after financial assistance from the Olympic committee.

Both are thankful for their martial arts experience. Mabika is grateful for the strength it provided her, and Misenga states that it helps him find peace.

Mabika, Misenga and their eight team members are truly what Bach describes as a “symbol of hope for all the refugees in the world.” Yiech Pur Biel, a refugee from South Sudan now living in a camp in Northern Kenya, said, “I can show my fellow refugees that they have a chance and a hope in life. Through education, but also in running, you can change the world.”

The games have also been good news for refugees living in Brazil, helping them feel more connected to their new country of residence. Hanan Khaled Daqqah, a 12-year-old from Syria, said that she felt Brazilian when she carried the torch through her new home.

By putting this team in the spotlight, international attention will hopefully grow more positive towards refugees. Already, the media has spread the story of Syrian swimmer Yusra Mardini and two others braving the open ocean to drag a boat filled with refugees to shore after the boat’s motor failed.

All 10 of the refugee athletes share inspirational stories like Mabika, Misenga, Biel and Mardini. After escaping war or poverty, they have managed to balance poor living conditions, work and acclimating to a new country with their intense Olympic training. With all the controversy surrounding refugees, the positive media attention highlighting these brave athletes and their accomplishments is good news for refugees.

Jeanette I. Burke

 

sochi_2014_olympics_games
Sochi, Russia makes the news almost every day. Whether it be about the enormous security being put in place for the forth coming Olympic Games or the various political leaders who are boycotting the games to demonstrate their displeasure at Russian anti-LGBT law. What is left out of the news however are Russia’s poor.

There are currently 18 million Russians living on or below the minimum wage of 4,600 rubles, according to Forbes Magazine. That is the equivalent of $155 a month, in a country whose cost of living is 6,200 rubles or $210. In the United States by comparison, there are 46.5 million people living at or below the poverty line which according to the Huffington Post in 2012 was $23, 283 annually. That works out to around $1940.25 per month.

By the time the 2014 Winter Olympics occur, Sochi will have had spent $51 billion, making it the most expensive Olympic Games to date. However all is not well even inside Sochi, Human Rights Watch has put out a 67 page document detailing some of the abuses that many of the migrant workers have been subjected to while working to prepare Sochi for the Games.

Human Rights Watch points out that the majority of these workers are paid between $1.80 and $2.60 an hour working on constructing the various Olympic venues. Moreover, in an interview with the Washington Post, 64-year-old resident of Sochi, Alexander Dzhadze lives on a pension of $170 a month and was told to make improvements to it in order for it to be an acceptable part of Sochi’s backdrop.

There have also been accusations of corruption concerning the issuing of construction contracts dealing with the Games. For instance, two lifelong friends of Vladimir Putin, Arkady and Boris Rotenberg have received upwards of 21 contracts and $7 billion.

The gap between rich and poor in Russia is also widening. According to Bloomberg, the 110 billionaires in Russia own 35% of the planet’s wealth, in comparison, worldwide billionaires only account for 1 to 2% of the world’s wealth.

The Olympic Games are a time for nations to come together and share in the joy that is the competitive spirit of the sporting world. The games are a chance for nations to shine and to reconnect with their citizens and the athletes who represent them.

Russia’s foray thus far into the Olympics has been met with scandals, allegations of criminal activity and a myriad of other issues and conflicts. However, the Games have also given those in Russia whose plight would have remained a mystery had the games not come to Sochi, a voice and platform from which to tell and share their stories and experiences with the outside world.

This opportunity can result in media exposure for Russia’s poor and will hopefully allow for new and exciting opportunities for them once the Olympics begin. As the Games approach, the world can only wait and see how they will unfold.

Arthur Fuller

Photo: Autostrattle
Sources:
Mother Jones, Forbes, Business Week, Washington Post

rio-de-janeiro-development
The Rousseff administration in Brazil has announced that its next step in its Growth Acceleration Programme (PAC) will be to allocate more than $1.2 billion for improving three favelas in Rio de Janeiro. The announcement comes three years before Rio de Janeiro is set to host the 2016 Olympic Games. Next year Brazil also will host the football World Cup.

PAC was launched in 2007 by the previous administration, that of President Lula da Silva, and focused on six initiatives to improve infrastructure, sanitation, and social development. Within three years, positive results were reported. Brazilian finance minister Guido Mantega called the effects of PAC on Brazilian growth “a great success.”

PAC 2, President Rousseff’s continuation of the program, has since been implemented. A June report from the Brazilian government announced major highlights by sector, including more than 3 million electricity connections, 540 water supply improvement projects in urban areas, and more than 7 million km of highways in progress throughout the country.

The Rio favelas that will receive the aid are Rocinha, Jacarezinho, and the Lins complex. Rocinha is the biggest slum in Brazil with a population of over 70,000, and it is also among the most developed favelas in Brazil. Many favelas are not as developed, suffering from lack of proper sewage and water facilities, as well as a high crime rate.

– Naomi Doraisamy
Source: BBC News, World Bank
Photo: iWall Screen