We, the undersigned organizations and individuals wish to register our strong opposition to the official visit of Brazil’s President, Jair Bolsonaro to Guyana, and the Government’s plan to strengthen ties with Bolsonaro’s regime.
Well known for his racist and neo-fascist views and policies, Jair Bolsonaro has created a nightmare scenario for Indigenous and African Brazilians. Brazil is home to the second largest population of Africans in the world after Nigeria, with 55% of the population being either Black or mixed race. African Human Rights organizations in Brazil have long denounced what they call Brazil’s “Black genocide”, pointing to the violence and repression directly perpetrated against Africans by the State, in the form of police violence and mass incarceration. They have also highlighted the higher mortality rates among Africans in Brazil caused by systemic racism that manifests itself in every sphere of African life, arguing that this systematic marginalization of Africans has “prevented them from being able to realize their social, economic, and political rights”. In 2020, Brazil’s Black Coalition for Rights declared that “as long as there is racism, there is no democracy”.
Although these problems have existed since Brazil’s inception, since Bolsonaro came to power in October 2018, racism and repression of Brazil’s Indigenous and African population has increased at an alarming rate. He has described Indigenous people as “parasites”, has characterized African-Brazilians as “fat and lazy”, claiming that “they don’t do anything…they’re no use even to procreate”, and has recommended the use of discriminatory, eugenically devised forms of birth control. He has referred to migrants from Haiti, Africa, and the Middle East as “the scum of humanity”, even arguing that the army should take care of them, while denouncing the past government’s assistance to African countries.
Bolsonaro’s support for extra-judicial killing is no secret. He has publicly called for those he terms “criminals” to be summarily shot rather than face trial. Brazilian activists point out that this statement, coupled with his tough “anti-crime” policies and his attempts to increase the protection of public-security officers from potential legal repercussions for killings committed during operations, are tantamount to issuing a “license to kill”. His rhetoric criminalizes all those who are Black and poor. Currently, an African Brazilian is killed every 23 minutes. In a recent interview, Bolsonaro said that the Brazilian government owed no debt to descendants of enslaved Africans, and even went as far as making the absurd claim that the Portuguese have never set foot on African soil.
Brazil’s Indigenous population, which makes up 36.2% of Brazils population, has also borne the brunt of Bolsonaro’s repression. He has opened up territory reserved for Indigenous Brazilians, as well as nature reserves and large tracts of the Amazon rainforest to commercial mining, oil and gas exploration, cattle ranching and agribusiness. Indigenous activists and organizations have been targeted for harassment and intimidation and Indigenous leaders have been killed. In July 2019, a group of miners invaded a remote village in the northern state of Amapá and Indigenous leader, Emrya Wajãpi was murdered during the invasion. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, called Wajãpi’s murder “tragic and reprehensible”, adding that Bolsonaro’s policy to open the Amazon up to mining would lead to more “incidents of violence, intimidation, and killings.” According to the Brazilian advocacy group, Indigenous Missionary Council, invasions of Indigenous lands have increased 150% and deforestation of Brazil’s Amazon Rainforest has reached an all-time high since Bolsonaro took office. He has also called for the jailing of members of the Landless People’s Movement, a rural movement consisting of hundreds of thousands of landless peasants demanding land reform in Brazil.
On the international front, he has publicly aligned Brazil with the United States and Israel, knowing that such alignments appeal specifically to important sectors of the Brazilian and international ruling class. It is well documented that many Brazilian employers pressured and threatened their employees to vote for Bolsonaro.
His rhetoric and policies are reminiscent of the fascist-inspired politics of the Argentine Dirty War Generals of the 1970s. Initiated by President Lieutenant General Jorge Rafael Videla, the Argentine military dictatorship killed tens of thousands of its citizens. In 1999, Bolsonaro is on record as having infamously stated that the Brazilian dictatorship also “should have killed 30,000 persons, starting with Congress, as well as with President Fernando Henrique Cardoso.” He publicly endorses the legacy of South American dictatorships and their dirty wars and is a great admirer of Chilean General Augusto Pinochet. Like the generals, Bolsonaro sees no problem in eliminating his opposition and has declared that his political opponents, members of the Workers’ Party, should be executed. Furthermore, he stated that he would not accept defeat in the elections, and suggested that the army might agree with his view. According to Bolsonaro, his aim is to eliminate “reds” and end the flirtation with leftism in Brazil and the entire South American region. His rhetoric sends ominous signals of the repressive, neo-fascist path he is on.
Is this the type of regime that we in Guyana want to build closer ties with? As descendants of Indigenous peoples of the Americas and captured Africans in Guyana, and concerned Guyanese of all ethnicities, we declare President Jair Bolsonaro persona non grata, and take this opportunity to convey to President Ali and his administration that we will never cooperate or support the strengthening of relations between Brazil and Guyana, as long as the racist and neo-fascist regime of Jair Bolsonaro holds office.
Gerald A. Perreira
Organization for the Victory of the People (OVP)