Overview on Human Rights

The year of 2017 will certainly be a sad year to remember in the history of democracy in Brazil. The consolidated coup, the loss of rights and of social gains […]

The year of 2017 will certainly be a sad year to remember in the history of democracy in Brazil. The consolidated coup, the loss of rights and of social gains and the complete disregard of constitutional principles results also to more violence suffered by human rights defenders. Within this context, the struggles of the movement of people affected by dams, MAB and of other popular movements, which had been focused on obtaining public policies, improving standards of quality of life and fighting against inequalities, lose ground due to the the necessity to fight for political rights and the respect of voting rights. Thus we retreat from an agenda of third-generation rights (Economic, Social, Cultural and Environmental Human Rights) to defend for first-generation rights (Civil and Political Rights).


In 2016, we lost Nicinha from the state of Rondônia, who was in a situation of complete vulnerability, both due the precariousness of living conditions and due to the threats that she suffered. More 19 human rights defenders were killed last year only at the state of Rondonia, which represents the state with most killings of defenders in 2016 (64 human rights defenders were killed in Brazil last year). This reveals that the fragility of public policies (especially for land tenure) and the issues around the frontier are still urgent matters in Brazil. In addition, there are two other women, MAB activists, from same region as Nicinha, that are being threatened.

image of Nicinha

The overall situation of criminalization of social struggles continues to increase with the intense repression of protests, arbitrary detentions and the cancellation of the Program of Protection of Human Rights Defenders. The end of this protection program in the state of Espírito Santo left eight MAB members without any form of protection. Moreover, the budget cuts of the State Department of Human Rights (Secretaria de Direitos Humanos) and the closure of many other departments hinder the continuation of advances in the democratic agenda of human rights. There are also changes in the services of intelligence and information that resemble measures of the times of military dictatorship.

In addition to repression, the threats to the process of environmental licensing and permitting has also been a theme that affects MAB, since the discussion on the access to rights of affected populations is directly related to environmental permits. The discussion of the proposal to change this process, whether in Congress or in the National Council of the Environment, is being conducted hastily, without a qualified public debate. This represents a regression of rights.

We also have lost spaces of dialogue with the State. This is visible with the extreme conservative National Congress, which publicly makes racists and xenophobic statements and attack women’s and other social rights.

Temer’s government has concentrated it’s decision-making power. This has obstructed also the advancement of agendas in favor of people affected by dams rights, which was in progress at local levels and with responsible departments. This makes decisions slower and more distant from regional realities and from popular participation. In addition, the composition of Ministries without legitimacy creates political instability.

The Judiciary Branch, in its turn, has revealed itself as an elitist power, full of privileges. The Supreme Federal Court was not able to secure the respect to the Constitution and was influenced by individual interests. In the midst of economic crisis and imposed fiscal adjustment, the Judiciary Branch approved increasing its own salaries.

If the Proposal of Constitutional Amendment 55, which freezes public spending (specially for health and education) over twenty years, is already an absurd, the labor laws pension reform has completed this sad scenario. In this context, proposing struggles for human rights, affirming a forward-oriented agenda for the countryside, fighting for rights of the people affected and identifying oneself as a human rights defender becomes target of open repression. It’s within this scenario that the gunmen attack and mutilations suffered by the Gamela indigenous people, the Massacre of Colniza, where nine rural workers were murdered, the Massacre of Pau d’Arco, which killed 10 rural workers, more than 15 lawsuits to obstruct access to land suffered by MAB in the Rio Doce Basin – all this attacks occurred this same year in Brazil means no isolated cases, but are situated within this context of advancement of conservative and neoliberal forces and withdraw of social and labor rights.

Photo march for the people affected rights

Throughout MAB’s history, the struggle for human rights has always been present in building the strategic platforms along with communities in their region and in this historical moment we affirm even more emphatically the importance of this debate for democracy. We still have in our agenda bringing to fruition the National Policy for Populations Affected by Dams, and the creation and consolidation of rights of affected peoples, including the victims of the rupture of the Fundão Dam along the Rio Doce.

This agenda is built by MAB’s Collective of Human Rights and it is proposed as a cross-cutting issue to all activities of the movements, stemming from four principles: Education and Capacity-Building, Promotion of Human Rights, Denouncing Violations and Defense of Human Rights.

Please support the Human Rights Defenders of MAB.


You help us donating by credit card using the link below:


Or you can transfer directly to the bank account of APEMA (Associação de Proteção ao Meio Ambiente):

Bank: Banco do Brasil

(APEMA) Ag: 2883-5 Cc.: 29.908-1

Image support the struggle of the people affected by dams

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