genocidal government

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By GUSTAVO GUERREIRO*

Brazil is a genocidal country. It is a historical, irrefutable finding that does not disappear because it is intended to omit a term “too heavy”

The “crime of crimes”. This is how genocide was defined and proscribed by the international community in the General Assembly of the United Nations still tormented by the horror of the Nazi Holocaust. Although it has existed for a long time, the crime of genocide was first dealt with in the Nuremberg Trial trial, starting with the extermination of Jews by Nazi Germany.

We tend to believe that genocide occurs only when there is mass murder directed at a certain social group. The Houaiss dictionary defines genocide, in addition to the commonly known form, as “submission to unbearable conditions of life”, without necessarily leading to the killing of collectivities.

One of the great scholars on genocide was the Polish lawyer, of Jewish origin Raphael Lemkin, who migrated to the USA in 1941, where he dedicated himself to the study of the Armenian Genocide. An active militant in the League of Nations, he defined the genocidal method as a set of “different acts of persecution and destruction”, which include attacks on political and social institutions, cultures, languages, national sentiments, religions or even the economic existence of a certain group. .

The specialized literature observes that genocidal acts do not need to be lethal in order to be designated as such. It is enough that they conspire against the freedom, dignity or integrity of a certain group, as long as their means of survival are weakened. The very concept of ethnocide (destruction of a culture) contributes to a genocidal practice.

In order to “free humanity from such a heinous scourge”, the Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, adopted in 1948, defines it as any of the acts “committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part , a national, ethnic, racial or religious group”, which includes “intentional submission of the group to conditions of existence that bring about its total or partial physical destruction”. The document has the signature of almost 150 countries, which have committed to prevent, in all forms, acts that lead to the genocide of minorities and punish with all rigor those who promote or facilitate it. The document is ratified by Brazil in 1952, during the second government of Getúlio Vargas.

The most explicit face of the Brazilian genocide occurs against indigenous peoples. Detailing atrocities committed against Indians in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, the Figueiredo Report, within the scope of the National Truth Commission, revealed what would be one of the greatest massacres in contemporary Brazilian history: the genocide of indigenous peoples. Of these, at least 8.300 Indians were killed during the military dictatorship. The killings range from the contamination of food with arsenic, passing through murders, ambushes, rapes and even the use of planes that threw clothes and toys contaminated with flu viruses, measles and smallpox. It was precisely the period when the country had become a signatory to the Convention against Genocide.

Brazil is therefore a genocidal country. It is a historical, irrefutable finding that does not disappear because it is intended to omit a term “too heavy”.

The extermination of minorities is part of the formation of the Brazilian State. It's nothing new. But it also cannot be denied that the genocidal impulse was relatively controlled (never extinguished) after redemocratization and the 1988 Constitution. This does not mean at all that the danger is averted.

The government of Jair Bolsonaro is at open war against indigenous peoples. Since he was a congressman, he has encouraged landowners to arm themselves, land grabbers to invade lands and promote fires. He interfered in Funai's organization, changing its ministries and placing the demarcation process under the influence of the anti-indigenous ruralist caucus. He encourages, through racist rhetoric, the invasion of land. Finally, he dismantles the Funai coordination that takes care of isolated Indians, exposing those ethnic groups most vulnerable to diseases that will easily decimate them, especially in a pandemic like this one.

Forests are devastated and indigenous territories are invaded at an unprecedented speed. If these are not typical components of a genocidal policy, what are?

Avoiding the use of the word “genocide” is no excuse for not thinking of the massacre taking place in that country as a crime against humanity. This also applies to murders in large cities that, not by chance, mainly victimize young black people in the peripheries until the Bolsonaro government's interference in the face of a deadly pandemic, which also has class and ethnic divisions. Everything is ripe for extermination. The trajectory and behavior of the president and his supporters leave no doubt that this is a government committed to the destruction of ethnic minorities. He just doesn't have the courage to publicly assume his position. It's time to call it by its true name: genocidal.

*Gustavo Guerreiro is a doctoral candidate in Public Policy at the State University of Ceará and editor of the magazine World Tensions.

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