The population in Brazil consists of 144 million people.
Brazil is one of the fastest-growing nations in the Western
Hemisphere. Its population is increasing at the rate of about 2% a
year. The constitution of Brazil gives the president tremendous
powers. For example, the president may intervene in affairs of
The chief executive may even create new states from
Brazil has three main ethnic groups-whites, blacks, and people
of mixed ancestry. Most of the whites are from Europe. According to
the Brazilian government whites make up about 60% of the nation’s
population, and people of mixed races form about 30%. However, the
government of Brazil counts many lightskinned people of mixed ancestry
as white. Brazil’s ethnic groups generally get along well with one
Racial discrimination in Brazil if far less widespread than
that in many other countries with people of several races. But
Brazilians of European descent have had better educational
opportunities. As a result, they hold most of the higher jobs in
government and industry. Many of the non-Europeans, particularly
blacks, have excelled in the arts, entertainment and sports.
Brazil’s prison system system is in crisis. Four years ago, in
its 1990 urban violence report Amnesty International described the
prisons as being at breaking point, holding double their official
capacity in “inhuman” conditions.
Four years later the situation
has not improved. In some respects, it has deteriorated. Overcrowding,
lack of medical and legal assistance, torture and ill-treatment of
inmates and harassment of visitors are endemic. A frightening and
rising proportion of prisoners carry the HIV virus. In the Women’s
Prison of Soo Paulom, around 33% of the inmates are infected with the
virus, while in the male prison the figure reaches 27% of the prison
population. A study published in 1994 shows that the majority of
prisoners are yourn, poor, and black.
A group of inmates in the Desembargador Vidal Pessoa Central
Prison of Manaus, Amazonas held a peaceful protest against conditions
in es called in military police shock-troops. They reportedly beat the
inmates, who had taken refuge in their cells, with batons, as well as
hitting and kicking them. Subsequently they locked the inmates in
their cells and threw tear gas grenades in after them.
For prisoners to complain to officials about their treatment
takes enormous courage. In Recife, Pernambuco state, on 11 May
1993, prisoners told a visiting delegation in the Barreto Campelo
Prison of the brutality they faced. The prisoners reported incidents
of torture and named the alleged torturers, even though they were
in the same room.
The inmates expressed their fears of reprisals from
the prison staff. Some of them told the delegates that the director of
the prison had threatened them with severe punishment if they dared to
speak out. The torture they described included beatings, near
drowning, death threats and electric shocks.
In his report on the visit to Recife, one of the delegates,
the President of the National Council for Penal and Prison Policy,
noted that despite persistent reports in the local press about
ill-treatment in prisons in Pernambuco, the Judge of Penal Sentences
and the Secretary of Justice for Pernambuco claimed to have no
official knowledge of the prisoners’ complaints. He asked the state
authorities to investigate the prisoners’ allegations, but no
information has emerged about any investigation.
Two incidents involving prisoners with AIDS were reported in
So Paulo in 1994.
On 27 March, a woman prisoner who was in the final
stages of AIDS in the Central Hospital of the Penitentiary System, was
reportedly beaten by a prison warden. The woman, named Leci Nazareth
da Silva, who was in great pain, was calling for the assistance of a
nurse when, just after midnight, a warden came to her cell, shouted at
her to shut up, and hit her in the face. According to the testimonies
of other women inmates, after the incident Leci Nazareth da Silva’s
mouth and lips were swollen and she was bleeding. The warden
reportedly threatened the other inmates with reprisals if they dared
to report the incident.
On 31 March 1994, Jose’ Roberto dos Santos, also an AIDS
sufferer, was severely beaten in the Casa de Detenc,o, in So
Paulo. According to his written testimony, .