Imprisoned wife of jailed former governor of Rio allowed to serve time under house arrest because she has children; and what about poor and black women?



Note from BW of Brazil: Before I get into today’s story, I must provide a little background as to how I became aware of it. Being an American in Brazil, I often have friends and associates call me to give them pointers and lessons on common phrases spoken in American English. As one of my acquaintances was soon to travel to Miami, Florida, he called me and arranged a meeting with not only him, but his secretary who would also be traveling. On that day, my acquaintance, a successful businessman, had a last minute situation arise preventing him from meeting with me, but I still met with his secretary who I will refer to as “Flávia”. 

As I waited for Flávia in one of the offices of the building looking through a recent issue of Veja magazine with a cover story about the menacing mosquitoes gripping major cities in Brazil, Flávia bolted into the room apparently disturbed about something. “I can’t believe this”, she said with her slight accent. “What happened?”, I inquired. “Didn’t you hear about Sérgio Cabral’s wife?”, she asked. As I spend my time glued to the TV, I was uninformed about what had happened to the wife of the former governor of Rio de Janeiro. I knew that in December of last year, both the former governor and his wife had been arrested for their part in the huge Lava Jato scandal that was bringing down some of Brazil’s most powerful people. But what had Flávia incensed was another detail of her imprisonment. 

As it turned out, on March 24th, STJ (Supreme Court of Justice) judge Maria Thereza de Assis Moura determined that Adriana Ancelmo, Cabral’s wife, could serve her sentence under house arrest due to the fact that she had to care for her children, ages 11 and 14, as their father, her husband, was also imprisoned. 

“This woman can serve her sentence at home while there are thousands of imprisoned women with the same circumstances who must remain in prison and there’s no protest in streets?!?!”, she huffed. “This country is fucked! I want to be rich and powerful so I can be treated like them!” she concluded. In past conversations, I would often explain that things in the United States are not always a bed of roses, which would often lead to conversations and comparisons with the situation in Brazil. But in relation to this topic that had Flávia so hot, all I could do was shake my head and ask, “But we’re all still equal, right?”, in reference to the irritating response that so many Brazilians utter even in the face of vast inequalities. “Of course we’re not,” she had to agree. 

Before I continue with my view of this latest outrage, let me first share a few details behind the couple’s connection in one of the biggest scandals in Brazil’s history. The brief piece below focuses only on the former Rio governor and his wife in an article from December of last year…

Former Rio governor Sérgio Cabral and wife Adriana Ancelmo were imprisoned in December on multiple charges

Cabral, Adriana Ancelmo and 11 others become defendants in Lava-Jato

Former Rio governor and wife accused of corruption, money laundering and criminal organization

Courtesy of GDPAPE

Adriana Ancelmo e Sérgio Cabral
Former governor of the state of Rio de Janeiro Sérgio Cabral and his wife Adriana Ancelmo

Nineteen days after the Lava-Jato task force arrested former Rio de Janeiro governor Sérgio Cabral and seven other people linked to the PMDB party in Operação Calicute (Operation Calicute), the Rio Federal Court accepted a complaint by the Federal Public Ministry (MPF) for corruption, money laundering and a criminal organization against the former governor, his wife Adriana Ancelmo – arrested on Tuesday – and 11 others involved. All are accused of diverting about R$224 million, with several contractors, in works such as the reform of the Maracanã (futebol) stadium and Arco Metropoliltano, in exchange for additives in public contracts and tax incentives. Thus, all 13 denounced became defendants in Operation Calicute, a branch of Lava-Jato in Rio.

These are charges against the ex-governor and his wife:

1) Sérgio Cabral – Appointed as the commander of the criminal scheme that would have diverted at least R$224 million. He was indicted for crimes of passive corruption (49 times), money laundering (164 times) and gang and criminal organization (1).

2) Adriana Ancelmo – Wife of the former governor. Contracts from her law firms with companies that received tax incentives from the Rio government are under suspicion. She was charged with money laundering (111 times) and gang and criminal organization.

Comment: “Why can they not go home also in the same way as Cabral’s wife?”

Note from BW of Brazil: The following articles present the judgement handed down to Adriana Ancelmo and the reaction to the judge’s decision. 

Why is house arrest not applied to black and poor mothers in Brazil?

By Equipe Juntos Pelo Brasil

The STJ (Supreme Court of Justice) authorized lawyer Adriana Ancelmo, wife of the former governor of the Rio de Janeiro state Sergio Cabral, to serve her sentence under house arrest. Adriana was detained on December 6, 2016 under Operação Calicute, deploying Lava Jato in Rio, which also brought the former governor to jail.

However, the legal treatment given to the other inmates with minor children or even in the breastfeeding phase, are not the same granted to former first lady Adriana Ancelmo, quite the contrary, some even breastfeed their newborn children through the bars of their respective cells due of the fact that only 33% of Brazilian women’s prisons have a nursery, a figure that drops to 6% in presídios mistos (mixed prisons) according to a survey by the Ministry of Justice.

 “If no one undertakes to care for the child, she is destined for a shelter”

Law no. 13.257, enforced since March 8, 2016, amended articles of the Code of Criminal Procedure. The change expands the rights of women prisoners in Brazil, who today represent 6.4% of the prison population in the country, a figure that has been growing at a much higher rate than the male prison population. According to the National Survey of Penitentiary Information of the Ministry of Justice (Infopen), in 15 years (between 2000 and 2014) the female prison population grew by 567.4%, reaching 37,380 inmates. The average male growth was 220.20% in the same period.

7In breastfeeding

While breastfeeding, the imprisoned woman has the right to remain with the child in the unit, if the judge does not grant the house arrest. The guidelines booklet explains that the woman does not lose custody of her children when she is imprisoned, but the custody is suspended until the final judgment of the case or if she is sentenced to more than two years in prison. “While the woman is serving time, custody of a minor children is with her husband, relatives or friends of the family. After the sentence is fulfilled, the mother returns to the custody of the child if there is no judicial decision to the contrary.”

The text of the New Code of Civil Procedure approved on 7/17/2013 by a special committee of the Chamber of Deputies brings a novelty that, if used to the correct extent, can revolutionize the treatment of actions on the same subject that reaches thousands in the Brazilian Judiciary. The novelty responds by the name of incident of resolution of repetitive demands.

In simpler terms, it tries to allow identical processes to have equal results, regardless of which judge will judge the case. The measure can do away with the often times lottery character of Justice, which allows a citizen to overcome a certain demand and his neighbor, with an exactly the same process, lose the action.

As a result of the STJ’s preliminary ruling in the case of former First Lady Adriana Alcelmo, we could have thousands of inmates placed under house arrest.

Ministra de Direitos Humanos, Luislinda Valois, e Adriana Ancelmo, esposa do ex-governador do Rio, Sérgio Cabral
Minister of Human Rights Luislinda Valois (left) and Adriana Ancelmo, wife of former governor of Rio de Janeiro

All prisoners should be treated like Cabral’s wife, requests minister

Minister of Human Rights requested to the STF that every mother in custody whose father of the child is imprisoned also has the right to house arrest.

By Ivan Richard

In the face of the repercussion of the decision of the Superior Court of Justice (STJ) to grant house arrest to the former first lady of Rio de Janeiro, Adriana Ancelmo, wife of former governor Sérgio Cabral, the human rights minister, Luislinda Valois, (March 30th) made a request to the president of the Supreme Federal Court (STF), Minister Carmen Lúcia, that this type of decision be extended to all the detainees in the same situation.

Adriana Ancelmo was granted the right to prisão domiciliar (house arrest) after a decision by Minister Maria Thereza de Assis Moura of the STJ, which took into account the fact that she had two children, aged 11 and 14, and that the children’s father was also in prison.

For Minister Luislinda Valois, it is necessary to adopt measures so that all women in the same situation have the same right.

“As a minister of the State of Human Rights, and moreover, and especially as a Brazilian citizen, I realize that it is my duty to appeal to you so that together we adopt urgent legal measures in the sense that that decision, even if still subject to appeal, be extensively applied to all Brazilian women who are in an analogous situation without any distinction and in the shortest possible time.”

Luislinda’s official letter sent to STF

On Wednesday (March 29th), the former first lady of Rio de Janeiro was met with a big protest upon returning to her apartment in the neighborhood of Leblon, where she will be sentenced to house arrest.

She left the Bangu Prison Complex after nearly four months in prison on suspicion of involvement in illegal business and corruption committed by her husband, former governor Sérgio Cabral and other defendants.

Note from BW of Brazil: So what should we take away of this latest example of how “we are all equal’ except for the fact that we are clearly not? In reality, when I speak to most Brazilians about this case, for the most part, most people just sort of shrug their shoulders and say, “Welcome to Brazil”. Discussing this, as well as a number of other topics (the high cost of living with little return, public hospitals and education, crime, the frequency of political  scandals) and it becomes pretty clear to me that Brazilians are quite accustomed to this. There is a general type of “throw your hands up in the air” sort of attitude that says, “all I can do is (try to) take care of mine”. Which is hard enough in this country without even considering all of the turmoil and corruption caused by those paid and chosen to create the best Brazil possible. But when you come to realize that  the world is actually run by people who are quite different from those who we believe are in control nothing is or should come as a surprise.  

In regards to the prison situation in Brazil, we know that female prisoners in the capital city and region has increased 3,242% since 2007. According to a previous report, “in the Brasília Federal District region, in 2007, there were 377 women in prison. Today, they total 12,600 of which 81% of the detainees are black. We also know that nationally, black women represent 68%, more than two-thirds, of all incarcerated Brazilian women, this according to a 2015 Conselho Nacional de Justiça report. In fact, in one state, Acre, all female prisoners are black. And surely among these imprisoned women, there are those in situations in which their partners are also jailed, but as justice and society itself judges men and women differently according to skin color and class, I highly doubt that any of these women would have been afforded such leniency as was Ancelmo.

And Brazilians know it.

return to Leblon
Upon her arrival back to her upper crust Leblon apartment in Rio, Ancelmo was greeted with protesters and a petition calling for her return to prison

Perhaps this is the reason that when Ancelmo returned to her apartment last week, she was greeted with protesters screaming “scoundrel”, “shameless” and “go back to Bangu”, in reference to the prison complex to which she was imprisoned since December. Further expressing their outrage, residents of her own ritzy neighborhood of Leblon even created a petition against her sentence of house arrest. Among some of the signs that greeted Ancelmo upon her return to her apartment were a few that read “Here in Brazil crime pays” and “Everyone is equal before the law, except in RJ (Rio).” In one window of a neighborhood store, another sign read, “We don’t want Adriana Ancelmo back in Leblon.”

My thing is, Adriana Ancelmo, like other criminals in Brazil, had this coming. But as racial stereotypes always see black people as criminals and white people as the “good guys”I just can’t see a judge treating a black woman in a similar situation in a similar manner. And as so many Brazilians are quick to call this “whining” or declaring that “we are all equal”, most will probably not see how the privilege of whiteness also played a key role in this case. 

Source: Juntos Pelo Brasil, GDPAPE, Brasil Post, O Dia, UOL

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

1 Comment

  1. I’m learning that they want to be ignorant of their privilege so they don’t have to suffer any guilt. That fragility is so annoying.

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