Irish Brazil Solidarity Group

The group has been going for the last seven years. We meet once a month on the second Wednesday in LASC.Our overall aim is to promote solidarity, understanding and exchange of experience between interested groups and individuals in Ireland and those working for social change and justice in Brazil.Our membership comprises of returned development workers who have a vast experience of working in Brazil, human rights activists interested in the country and Brazilians living in Ireland.We focus our activities in three areas:· land ownership· children's rights and· alternative economic models. But we also celebrate the joy and energy of Brazil and its people. We do this by having socials twice a year, where we serve simple Brazilian food, music and have a cultural exchange of ideas and experiences -- all are welcome.If you are interested in joining the Irish Brazil Solidarity Group, contact Colette in LASC, telephone 676 0435.






The human consequences of Privatization

Paolo Freire

Brazil Facts

Brazil Land Struggles

Indigenous Languages

Indigenous Rights


Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra (MST)

Land Reforms

Capoeira in Ireland

A Tribute to Freire, by Marcos Arruda

We also recommend the Website of SEJUP News service




Paulo Freire

By Peadar Kirby

With the death of Paulo Freire, Latin America has lost one of its greatest

revolutionaries this century. It was a term he willingly applied to himself

when I met him in Sao Paulo in July 1980 for a lengthy interview. But, he

quickly added, he was a revolutionary who saw humility as the ultimate

revolutionary virtue and as a revolutionary he was also a Christian, trying

everyday to transform the reality of the world.

For Freire, education is revolutionary. When speaking to me, he strongly

rejected the notion that first we must work politically for radical social

change and then we can start educating people in a new consciousness for a

new society. "On the contrary," he said. "The revolution itself is an

educational process and because of that I am a teacher."

But, of course, he also emphasised that all education is embedded within a

wider social system; it is, as he put it, "a sub-system of a greater

system". However, this did not mean for Freire that education need

necessarily domesticate people to that wider system as there are

contradictions between the two which can be exploited by the teacher.

Therefore the most fundamental distinction he saw is that between a

domesticating teacher and a liberating one.

It was through pioneering methods for liberating education that Freire has

had an immense influence, not only among the oppressed of Latin America but

among the oppressed through the South and even in many countries of the

North. To experience oppressed people being empowered, finding the

confidence and the means to give voice to their experience and to act out

of that is without doubt the most revolutionary thing I have experienced in

my life. It is an experience I have regularly had among the oppressed in

Latin America and, on occasion, among the oppressed in Ireland. I have yet

to come across a truly liberating educational process that was not, either

in an immediate and conscious way or in a more remote and perhaps

unconscious way, derived from the approach pioneered by Paulo Freire.

Ultimately what mattered to Freire himself was not that people followed

particular theories or methods he had developed. He told me that he had

often come across people who, in the name of conscientisation, were

practising a domesticating form of education. Because of this, in the mid

1980s he ceased to use the term conscientisation and instead emphasised

that what was important was not following particular approaches but rather

ensuring that education was truly liberating.

Born in 1921 in Recife in the north-east of Brazil, Paulo Freire first

developed his approach as Professor of the History and Philosophy of

Education in the University of Recife. Through developing methods to teach

literacy to peasants, he rose to become General Coordinator of the National

Plan of Adult Literacy. Jailed following the military coup in 1964, he went

into exile, working in Chile, Harvard, and then, for ten years, in Geneva

where he worked for the World Council of Churches until his return to

Brazil in 1979. In 1970 he published what is his best known book "Pedagogy

of the Oppressed" which has been translated into many languages.

He thus had a wide experience of trying to implement a liberating education

in the countries of the North. He told me that he found it much harder: "I

learned how difficult it is in the US or in Europe to invite students to

participate directly in the process of their education. They really rejected

that. Before that I had thought naively that it was a problem for the

underdeveloped young. But it is not. It is a question of the ideology of

the people, the domination by an ideology of domestication. Both in Geneva

and Harvard universities I had the same experience in which the students

rejected becoming the subjects of their own education."

Yet, he was more positive about Ireland. "My experience of meeting Irish

people in Europe and the US was always good because we talked together as

oppressed people. But in your case it is worse than mine, it is much more

problematic." This relates to one of the great problems he said he found

among Irish people: "How do you cope when you lose your identity?" Despite

this, he said he was sure it was possible to implement a liberating

education in Ireland. "It is a question of knowing - how to challenge the

oppressed people of Ireland to know, to read their reality." The greatest

tribute we could pay Paulo Freire is to redouble our efforts to challenge

one another to read our own reality in a liberating way.










Population 155.8 million

Area 8,511,965 sq KM

Ethnic profile 54% whites, 36% mixed race,

6% blacks, 0.12% indigenous

GNP per person US$5,500

Life Expectancy 66.4 years

People in poverty 42 million

Income share Poorest 40% earn 7% of total income.

Richest 20% earn 32 times the poorest 20%

External Debt US$ 160 billion

Under-five mortality 60 per 1000 live births

Safe Water 73%

Adult Literacy 82.7% (Sao Paulo 80%, Piaui, 60%)

UN’s Human

Development Index Ranked 68


Indigenous Languages in Brazil

A criterion used to distinguish indigenous groups in Brazil is a linguistic one. There are five major linguistic families: Tupi - Guarani, Je/Ge, Aruak, Karib and Pano present in about 180 spoken indigenous languages.

One can easily imagine the richness these languages represent in terms of customs, technological skills, aesthetic attitudes and worldviews. Perhaps more difficult to imagine is the fact that Brazil is still one of the few countries left where "isolated". sometimes called "autonomous" or "autochthonous" groups exist. There are some 55 groups resisting, often heroically, any contact with the expansionist process of national society by fleeing hiding themselves in the inaccessible regions of Amazonia.


Respect and Solidarity - Indigenous Rights

By Fr. John Clark

When the Europeans invaded the "New World" over 500 years ago, more than 2000 distinctive ethnic groups of "indios" lived there. Today in Brazil, out of what was then an estimated 5 - 6 million, there are 325,000 people in 215 indigenous societies , making up 0.02% of the national population.

Trying to turn back the clock on 500 years of history, in a country where the land question is one of the most disastrous in the world, would be utopian. The structure of rural property is as out-of-date as black slavery was in the last century (see article on agrarian reform) and also shows the insatiable greed and fierce barbarism of many non-indians. This has strongly marked a long and intense history where the "indios" have witnessed a thorough negation of all their rights. To instance a case, a 44 year old Pataxo Ha-Ha Hae, while in Brasilia campaigning for the return of almost 1000 hectares of land, was macabrely burned to death by five middle class youths on 21 April, as he slept in a bus shelter. The youths poured alcohol on him and set him alight because he was "nothing but a beggar"! The plain truth is that the "indios" are living at the mercy of unscrupulous people who wish to cruelly exploit them. Indeed, the plight of the Brazilian "indios" highlights the hypocrisy and pathology of the crass greed inherent in state, federal and international economics.

Of the 554 territories of the "indios" officially recognised in Brazil, 275 have been clearly defined. This means the other 279 have not been clearly defined and their legal status and full recognition remain ambiguous and in some cases very uncertain. According to the Brazilian Constitution of 1988, Article 231, the "indios" have exclusive rights to the land demarcated as their territory. Such land rights are vital for their self-determination and cultural identity. On January 8th, 1996, Fernando Henrique Cardoso edited the Decree 1775 whereby the extension of all the lands of the "indios" could be questioned by all interested parties like politicians, landowners, logger or mining companies or any local municipality. The Decree 1775, if carried out, could lead to the reduction of some 200 territories of the "indios" which have already been demarcated but not registered, and some other 140 others presently in the process of demarcation. Therefore the Decree does not guarantee the indigenous peace or land.

On a positive note, the "indios" are strongly resisting. They have their own indigenous organization according to their cultures, over 100 and more. Each group of "indios" has their own respective way of organizing themselves. What is novel is the fact the organization is on a regional and national level with the intention to overcome their "common enemies" in order to guarantee their basic human rights against the fierce threats to their physical and cultural lives.

There is no doubt that these "indios" of Brazil and "indios" elsewhere are the "maestros" of ecology. Nature is deeply imbedded in their cultural roots. Nature speaks, they listen attentively to her voice. As they respect and are in solidarity with Mother Nature, they likewise seek respect and the solidarity of her many children on the face of this earth.

It is evident that the rights of the "indios" are eroding fast. They are being abandoned. International communities and organizations like LASC and the Irish Brazilian Solidarity Group need to exert public pressure by encouraging the Brazilian Government to carry out fully its National Human Rights Programme. Indeed, at the end of the day, it befalls all of us to express our solidarity and uphold the original rights of the "indios", whose first and last worry is to have, defend and keep their own lands.



Agrarian Reform: Everyone’s Struggle

by Michael Finnegan

On 17 April this year the Irish Brazil Solidarity Group held a vigil outside the Brazilian Embassy in Harcourt Road. We were commemorating a massacre which happened one year before that in Brazil, near the small town of Eldorado do Carajas in the state of Para.

On the traffic island opposite the embassy we laid out 19 white crosses. Each cross had a name of one of those who died in the Massacre. Our vigil was a gesture of solidarity with the thousands of marchers who were converging on Brasilia that same day to mark the anniversary of the massacre.

What led to that massacre on the 17th of April 1996 was that a group of people had blockaded the road into the town. They were part of the MST landless movement (See Box) who were trying to get the authorities to expropriate land from a rich land owner in the area. The military police were called in to deal with these protesters. The police opened fire killing at least 19 people, and wounding 66. As yet, over a year later, there has been no official enquiry, nor has there been anybody brought to court.

Such land disputes are common in Brazil. In Corumbiara in 1995 in a similar massacre 10 people were killed. In Brazil testimonies of massacres only reach the newspapers and television when the number reach double figures.

The land issue is not just about the indigenous peoples who have long left the area. The problems arise from Brazil’s inequitable systems of land distribution. A few rich land owners have large holding which are often unproductive or sometimes just held as investments. Meanwhile the vast majority of poor Brazilians are left with no access to land which is their only means of production.

During his election campaign, President Fernando Henrique Cardoso promised wide-ranging agrarian reforms but, largely because of the conservative alliance he made to win power, he has done very little since her took office.

The MST settle landless people in occupation camps using a piece of Brazilian law which allows unproductive land to be expropriated for agrarian reform. But this is resisted by the landowners who employ violence and the set up armed militia to combat the landless. The authorities collude with the landowners and let them act violently against the landless with impunity.

What was unusual about the Eldorado massacre was that it was filmed and shown on international television. The video of the massacre shows the confrontation between the police and protesters at the road block before the massacre. It was clear that the police were acting on orders from higher-up to clear the road and not to negotiate with the protesters. The police opened fire with tear gas which infuriated the protesters causing more confrontation. When the police opened fire we see protesters running in confusion, the wounded lying on the ground and still the firing continuing.

At the vigil in April we handed in a petition of 900 signatures into the Brazilian Embassy. In it we expressed our solidarity with the MST and their struggle for land reform. We asked the Brazilian government to respect basic human rights of the landless; a just redistribution of land; an end to all killing and violence and that those guilty for the Eldorado massacre and other acts of violence be brought to justice.





The MST, Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra, is a mass social movement of Brazil’s landless rural workers who seek access to land, the promotion of agrarian reform, and broad social and political changes in Brazilian society.

The movement also operates as a trade union working for agriculture policies geared towards the needs of small producers. In practice the movement sets up occupation camps on unproductive ranch lands owned by rich landowners. These camps are run by the landless people themselves. They make the land productive planting their own crops and they are involved in education creating political and social awareness. Set up in 1984, the MST is now one of the largest and strongest social movements in Latin America.



Remembering Betinho

by Kate O`Brien

On the 9th of August in Brazil another of its most committed champions of social justice. Herbert de Sousa, known to everyone as Betinho, died. He was a sociologist who in spite of chronic ill health, used his many gifts and abilities to condemn injustice and defend the rights of Brazil’s poor. In a tribute to Betinho, his friend and long-time associate, Marcos Arruda likened him to David who used his moral courage to overcome the might of Golaith. Betinho’s battles were many. A haemophiliac, he contracted HIV from contaminated blood in 1986. His two brothers were also infected and have since died. Betinho used his own and his family’s suffering to highlight the scandal of contaminated blood products in Brazil and to create awareness and understanding of the problem of AIDS.

Betinho’s most recent struggle was against the scandal of hunger in Brazil. In 1993 he helped establish a national campaign against hunger which continues operating throughout the country. São Paulo’s Cardinal Arns referred to this campaign in a tribute to Betinho following his death "Betinho created an atmosphere of truth: Brazil cannot keep lying. Brazil has to tell the truth just like Betinho did. He showed the reality: that Brazil suffers from an intolerable, but not insurmountable, affliction - that of hunger". Betinho’s life was both inspiring and challenging. What better way to remember him than by ensuring the continuation of that work.