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“We need a respectful, mutual listening, free of ideology and predetermined agendas.” Pope Francis, Let us Dream, December 2020

The ballot box is Brazil’s greatest asset in the fight for equality

All involved in the Brazilian elections on 7th October must put the needs of the poorest and most marginalised communities top of their agenda, says UK aid agency CAFOD.

Movimento em Defesa do Favelado (MDF), CAFOD’s local partner in São Paulo, argues the inequality plaguing Brazil – which has been intensified by the 2017 labour reform and cuts in health, education, housing – cannot be ignored during this election campaign.

“Every election matters, but this is the most important, due to the regression that the country suffered since 2016, when President Dilma was removed from power,” said Sueli de Fátima de Almeida Machado, Co-ordinator of MDF.

“The most serious issue is the 20-year freeze on public spending on health and education. We are living through a time when our hardest-won rights are being taken from us.

“The ballot box is our greatest asset in the struggle to defeat the system which robs the poor of their rights.”

The current government has implemented funding cuts to social programmes created to improve shanty town areas and enable the poor to access decent housing and safe living conditions.

Indigenous communities have been increasingly threatened, murdered, and had their constitutional rights to land, health and education curtailed, as the Amazon is exploited for economic gain.

According to Global Witness, over the past 10 years, Brazil has been the most dangerous country in the world for land and environmental defenders. In 2017, there were an unprecedented 57 murders, making it the deadliest year ever.

Esther Gillingham, CAFOD’s Programme officer for Brazil, said: “The international media has been focusing on the increasingly tense campaigns of the two main candidates, but amid debates about increasing economic concerns, the human rights of marginalised rural and indigenous communities are being overlooked.

“Massacres of landless rural workers and murders of indigenous communities have been rapidly increasing as the government has dismantled laws that protects their human rights in favour of economic exploitation of the environment.

“This dark reality rarely reaches the headlines, but Brazil’s new government must urgently prioritise addressing the root causes of these social and environmental injustices.”

Picture: A voter placing a ballot paper in a ballot box. (Rui Vieira/PA).