Torture in Brazil in the 21st Century

Though I’ve written repeatedly (and recently) on the historical use of torture in Brazil, it’s important to remember that state agents’ use of torture did not go away with the military dictatorship in 1985. This week sadly provided another reminder of that fact. Video taken in a prison in the southern state of Santa Catarina in mid-January showed police lining up prisoners naked against a wall and then shooting them with rubber bullets, tear-gas, and pepper-spray. In the video, none of the prisoners is resisting, threatening, or otherwise posing a risk to the officers; indeed, as the (obviously NSFW) video in the link shows, it’s pretty clear that this is a case of blatant police abuse against prisoners. And as the accompanying story in the link points out, the prisoners seem to deal with the situation as if it were “natural,” suggesting that this might be regular practice in the prison. There is some small hope for justice here – the video has already been handed over to a judge for an investigation. One could hope that the police will face prison time for their actions, though such an outcome is far from guaranteed. What is certain, however, is that even 28 years after the end of military rule in Brazil, torture and the violation of basic human rights (which juridically still apply to prisoners) continues to be a very real problem for some, including those in this prison in Santa Catarina.

About Colin M. Snider

I have a Ph.D. in history, specializing in Latin American History and Comparative Indigenous History. My dissertation focused on Brazil. Beyond Latin America generally, I'm particularly interested in class identities, military politics, human rights, labor, education, music, and nation. I can be found on Twitter at @ColinMSnider.
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