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 Brazil’s states. The chief executive may even create new states fromexisting ones. 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 another. 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 theprisons as being at breaking point, holding double their official capacity in “inhuman” conditions. Four years later the situationhas 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 May1993, 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 werein the same room.
The inmates expressed their fears of reprisals fromthe 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, .