Justice in black and white – Rafael Braga and Breno Borges: when 9g of racism weighs more than 129kg of marijuana

rafael braga breno fernando solon borges 1
rafael braga breno fernando solon borges 1

Note from BW of Brazil: It’s been a little over three months since we last reported on the situation of Rafael Braga, the young black male from Rio de Janeiro, whose name has become a two-word battle cry against the injustice of Brazil’s justice system. But this doesn’t mean he’s been forgotten. How can he be? Thanks to numerous independent and alternative websites and blogs, Braga’s case has also led to countless articles, mini-documentaries and even garnered international attention.

rafael braga - images
Google images search for Rafael Braga

Braga’s case demonstrates what many black Brazilians have known all along: in Brazil, justice, privileges, penalties, and images are all meted out according to one’s skin color and class belonging. Over the years, numerous cases have backed up this belief (for just a few, see here, here, here and here). Now, all of the hype about the case clearly doesn’t prove the young man’s innocence, but it should make you think twice if you happen to believe that justice is color blind in Brazil. Need more proof? Check the story below…

Rafael Braga - Breno Fernando Solon Borges
Supporters of Rafael Braga have pointed out the injustice of his sentence in comparison to Breno Fernando Solon Borges

Rafael Braga and Breno Borges: when 9g of racism weighs more than 129kg of marijuana

By Henrique Oliveira

On April 8, businessman Breno Fernando Solon Borges, who owns a metallurgy and locksmith’s shop in Campo Grande in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, was arrested carrying along with other people in two cars, 130 kilos of marijuana, a nine millimeter pistol and 199 ammunitions for a 7.62 caliber rifle of exclusive use of the armed forces.
Federal Police investigations into Breno’s actions had been carried out since February, the group was approached by Federal Highway Police on BR 262 highway, when they transported drugs and ammunition to São Paulo.

Breno Borges is the son of the president of the Regional Electoral Court of Mato Grosso do Sul, Judge Tânia Garcia Freitas Borges, and one of the authorities who preferred anonymity, according to the Conjur (Consultor Jurídico – Legal Adviser), the businessman presented his mother’s name in order not to be arrested. That typical phrase: “você sabe com quem você está falando?” (do you know who you’re talking to?) an expression that refers to the social identification of its enunciator at the top of the hierarchy, demonstrating some kind of authority that seeks through political patronage to circumvent the laws, achieve protection and advantages.

Breno has been incarcerated since April 8, and was able on July 17 to await his trial in freedom, as his defense obtained a psychiatric medical report in which Breno is diagnosed with “Síndrome de Borderline” (Borderline Syndrome), a disease consisting of deviation of individual behavior, manifesting through changes in cognition, affectivity, interpersonal functioning and impulse control.

Judge Ruy Celso Barbosa Florecence also granted freedom for Breno to perform adequate psychiatric treatment under the tutelage and responsibility of his mother, who undertook to bring him to all hearings in the process. And this was the second time that Breno Borges’s defense tried to intervene to get him out of prison with medical arguments, the judge and mother offered to tutor the son so that he could be admitted to a medical clinic, that he suffers from psychological problems, but had the request denied in a lower court.

The right to respond in freedom on medical grounds is yet another case where prisoners with money and political influence are able to produce medical reports to get house arrest or clinical internment while thousands of prisoners are being infected and dying in our jails with Syphilis, Tuberculosis, HIV and coexisting with rats and cockroaches. And it shows that members of the middle/upper classes, caught up in committing crimes, are framed as diseased, unbalanced, immature, and there is always a mitigating argument that aims to push the stigma away from that of the criminal to that of needing help.

Breno Borges is not the first case this year, in which a subject has his imprisonment revoked, because of political-family alliances with members of the judiciary. In January in the state of Paraíba another businessman, Rodolpho Carlos Silva, ran over and killed an agent of Detran (Departamento Estadual de Trânsito de São Paulo – State Department of Traffic of São Paulo) in a Lei Seca (see note one) blitz.

Rodolpho came to have his preventive detention decreed, but twelve hours later Judge Joás de Brito granted a habeas corpus. The Judge is a friend of the family of Rodolpho Carlos, who is the son of the owner of Grupo São Braz, one of the largest producers of roasted coffee in the country, besides being the grandson of José Carlos da Silva, former deputy governor of Paraíba. In addition to being the owners of the local affiliate of Rede Globo (TV).

Meanwhile, Rafael Braga, a young and poor collector of recyclable material, who is not the son of a judge, was convicted to 11 years in prison for trafficking and association with trafficking, for possessing 0.6 grams of marijuana and 9.6 grams of cocaine (see note two).

On July 19, Rafael Braga’s defense filed a petition for an appeal to the conviction, alleging that there was no reasoning by the judge on the non-withdrawal of Rafael’s handcuffs during the hearings, and the failure to authorize steps for the clarification of the case, as access to the camera images of the vehicle in which Rafael Braga was taken to the police station on January 12, 2016. It is yet another stage of the ordeal that Rafael Braga has been going through since his first conviction for possession of Pine Sol and bleach, in the context of the demonstrations of June 2013.

These two cases involving Rafael Braga and Breno Borges show all the contradiction of the criminal policy of drugs and the selectivity of the judiciary, although Breno Borges is entitled to respond to the case in freedom, that same right is not guaranteed to more than 40% Of Brazilian prisoners, who are composed of provisional prisoners.

The drug prohibition policy, when related to social-racial issues, can produce a total inversion of proportionality, where 9 grams of racism weigh more than 129 kilos of marijuana.

Source: Carta Capital


  1. Lei Seca (dry law) is a popular denomination given to the official ban on manufacturing, retailing/marketing, transportation, import or export of alcoholic beverages.
  2. In his testimony at the 22nd Police Station in Rio de Janeiro, Braga claimed that the material didn’t belong to him and that he was threatened by agents to disclose traffickers in the region where he was approached. During the trial, five prosecution witnesses and one defense witness, whose testimony was not taken into account by the judge, were heard. Evelyn Barbara, a neighbor of Braga, said she saw the young man being approached alone and with no objects in his hand, and was then beaten and dragged to a point far from out of her sight. The magistrate also denied, in February, a request for defense measures.
About Marques Travae 3747 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.


  1. This problem is more about social classes than skin color. Here in Brazil who have money and influence walk above the law, no matter if the person are black or white. But there’s a large portion of the society that still insists being racist, taking the skin color as the first impression.

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