Activist says President Dilma Rousseff is the best choice for Afro-Brazilians in election, but why is there no caucus to advocate for black issues?

Afro-Brazilian politicians Benedita da Silva, Romário, Paulo Paim and Vicentinho.
Afro-Brazilian politicians Benedita da Silva, Romário, Paulo Paim and Vicentinho.

Note from BW of Brazil: With only two days left to the presidential election in Brazil, the latest data suggest that Dilma Rousseff (PT) will triumph over the opposition candidate Aécio Neves (PSDB). The latest IBOPE numbers show that Brazil’s first female president has a lead of 6-8 points over her tucano rival. For many black Brazilians who have seen the most gains in the last 12 years under Rousseff’s Worker’s Party (8 with predecessor Lula da Silva) than in the history of Brazilian politics, this would appear to be good news indeed. But even with a Dilma victory, treatment of the Afro-Brazilian population by the three main candidates of this political cycle (one of whom, Marina Silva, was black) speaks volumes about the lack of political power that Brazilians of African descent really have. As such, is a Dilma victory truly a victory for Afro-Brazilians or is it simply a case of being happy with whatever they can get?

President Dilma Rousseff seeks a second term in office
President Dilma Rousseff seeks a second term in office

A black caucus in the Congress doesn’t exist”

Courtesy of Ancelmo Gois

A stir was caused on social networks of the Movimento Negro because of a text by Rio de Janeiro filmmaker Flávio Leandro, 58. For him, the last election campaign, “revealed the total exclusion of a caucus committed to the black cause.” Flávio, who for 30 years has worked in the production of major Brazilian directors, thinks that “perhaps it’s utopia or hypocrisy, but I would like to see in the Congress a black caucus, truly engaged in our struggle.” Here, he touches on two points in a chat with the column:

Filmmaker Flávio Leandro
Filmmaker Flávio Leandro

How is it that there is no caucus to defend the cause? After all, Benedita (da Silva) and Vicentinho and senators Romário and Paulo Paim are black (1).

Black parliamentarians, elected waving the flag of the black cause, have an ideological blackout when they are in the Congress. The motivation for which they were elected is relegated to the background rather than the interests of the party and the government they serve. One notorious case was that of the PT (Workers’ Party, party of the Brazilian presidency of the past 12 years) and the PT government. Black parliamentarians linked to these two forces, obeying orders, turned against (former Supreme Court president) Joaquim Barbosa. His Excellency, imbued with the spirit and essence of justice never before seen in this country, led the condemnation of PT parliamentarians and allied parties, in the mensalão case (2). Parliamentarians like Vicentinho and Paulo Paim questioned the legitimacy of the decisions of the minister. The black parliamentarians of Rio, if they didn’t have the same posture, omitted themselves. But they didn’t position themselves in favor of the legitimacy of the actions of the minister.

And Romário?

He doesn’t embrace the cause of blackness, but develops a legitimate fight for, particularly, children with special needs.

But does the black cause need a black caucus? Would it be a cause of all, whites and blacks? (3)

If we lived in a country of racial and democratic equality, there would be no need for a black caucus. Ostensibly, in Congress there are the caucuses of evangelicals, sexual diversity, rural inhabitants, arms, the military, the famous and relatives, formed by children of professional politicians.

All committed to upholding the topics for which they were elected. And the black caucus? They are parliamentarians who are elected wielding the banner of the black cause; elected, they become voting interests of the governments to which they are connected.

Leading black activist Hélio Santos says for blacks Dilma is the better choice

Courtesy of Afropress

Activist and professor Hélio Santos
Activist and professor Hélio Santos

Hélio Santos, one of the most active names of the Movimento Negro (black Brazilian  movement), known for his proximity to PSDB leaders – especially with former President Fernando Henrique Cardoso and former governor and current senator elect of São Paulo José Serra – decided to take advantage of this election and not vote for the PSDB candidate Aécio Neves.

“I am, in the first place (dedicated to the) racial question. After that, I am (dedicated to the) race issue again. For the black population the re-election of Dilma is the best. We can deepen and improve the initiated policies of affirmative action,” said Santos.

In an interview with the Afropress website, by phone from Salvador (Bahia), where he currently resides, Santos, however, likes to point out who it was that put the issue of affirmative action on the agenda in Brazil. “You know who put this issue on the national agenda, the issue of public policies for the black population, it was the PSDB. But after that the party has distanced itself. As I am no longer tucano (member of the PSDB), I see that the population is tending toward Dilma,” he adds.

He remembers about the candidacy of Aécio Neves that “in the head of slate there’s a group that doesn’t speak of the racial issue” [“The candidate doesn’t touch on the subject”], and recalls the position of the candidate for lieutenant governor on the Aécio ticket, Senator Aloísio Nunes, the only one to vote against quotas for blacks in access to institutions of high schools and higher education- Law 12.711/2012.

Hélio Santos, however, makes an exception to compliment the position of governor Geraldo Alckmin in São Paulo State where, as he emphasized, there are policies of affirmative action – “like them or not, they’re there”. “What Dilma is saying about PRONATEC (4), ETECs (5) of governor Geraldo Alckmin hs already done,” he stresses.

According to him, the contradiction is that Alckmin, in relation to the struggle for racial equality, has policies, the same is not happening with many governors of the PT, as is the case in Bahia, where governor Jacques Wagner is governor.


Hélio Santos also makes exceptions to the expressions of support from sections of the Movimento Negro, including Bahia, to candidates without demanding any consideration in programmatic terms. “We are the only ones who voted for free. We don’t demand any list for enhancing policies. While companies, farmers, civil servants, coalesce as categories, we simply adhere. This is very bad and the bearings even in this case, may fade if we don’t have proposals,” he says.

“I would rather that after the elections we would discuss affirmative action in the field of business. We are not meeting the goals of access to universities provided for in the law, which is an achievement. What are we going to do. All this needs to be discussed so that new advances are possible,” he added.

Source: O GloboAfropress


1. Vicente Paulo da Silva, known as Vicentinho is a Brazilian union leader and politician. Vicentinho has a BA in Law and is a former metallurgist. He is a congressman from the Workers’ Party of São Paulo, to which he has been affiliated since 1981 is also the 1st alternate to Senator Eduardo Suplicy (PT-SP). (Source). Paulo Renato Paim is a Brazilian trade unionist and Federal senator from the state of Rio Grande do Sul affiliated with the Workers’ Party. (Source). Romário de Souza Faria, better known just as Romário, is widely regarded as one of the greatest futebol players of all time, and a Federal deputy from Rio de Janeiro. (Source). Benedita Souza da Silva Sampaio, is a Brazilian politician. During her life she faced prejudice for her humble origin, but overcoming this, became the first femaleand Afro-Brazilian governor of the State of Rio de Janeiro and, later, Minister of the said Secretary of State as well in the Government of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. (Source)

2. The Escândalo do Mensalão (Mensalão scandal) was a vote-buying case of corruption that threatened to bring down the government of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in 2005. Mensalão is a neologism and variant of the word for “big monthly payment” (salário mensal or mensalidade). (Source). Joaquim Barbosa was the first self-identified black Supreme Court president in Brazil’s history. He was appointed by President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, assuming the position on June 25, 2003, along with his peers Ayres Britto and Cezar Peluso (Source). Barbosa was the judge rapporteur on the Mensalão case and was deemed a hero by many Brazilians accustomed to political scandals that never seem to lead to punishment of the guilty parties.

3. Questions such as this one will always be the thorn in the side of any sort of black progress. In a Brazil that has always falsely defined itself as a “racial democracy” and continues to have difficulty addressing widespread racism and black exclusion, the idea of blacks remaining “in their place” is still the norm. Black Brazilians themselves when speaking of racial issues often have the need to ensure that demands for black progress are not a threat to white dominance. It it utterly ridiculous, strange and even arrogant to pose such a question when the white Brazilian power structure has excluded Afro-Brazilians from participation in so many realms of society for centuries.

This question brings to mind a comment uttered by singer/politician Netinho de Paula in the 2013 documentary Raça (meaning ‘race’) by filmmaker Joel Zito Araújo. Back in 2005, de Paula was the driving force behind the first attempt at an Afro-Brazilian television network called TV da Gente, loosely meaning “Our TV”. Commenting on the debut of the network, de Paula commented that TV da Gente was a victory for the “Movimento Negro and the Movimento Branco”, meaning the black movement and the white movement. I remember thinking how strange it was to hear the term “movimento branco”, 1) because there is no organization or need for an organization to advance the cause of white people in Brazil as the nation is a supreme representation of white supremacy in Latin America and 2) again, the apparent need to deflect accusations of reverse racism that would surely come against a TV network that aimed to present black faces that are normally invisible on Brazil’s airwaves. These accusations did in fact appear, just as many white Brazilians see the nation’s only black magazine as being “reverse racism”.

4. The Programa Nacional de Acesso ao Ensino Técnico e Emprego (National Program for Access to Job and Technical training or Pronatec) was created by the Federal Government of Brazil on October 26, 2011, with the enactment of Law No. 12,513/20111 by President Dilma Rousseff. The program aims to expand and democratize and internalize the provision of vocational and technological education for Brazilian students. (Source)

5. Escola Técnica Estadual de São Paulo or State Technical School of São Paulo

About Marques Travae 3747 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

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