BRAZIL: Aggressions and restrictions on freedom in university campuses


Solidarity and Denunciation

The WFSW takes a stand and calls on affiliated organizations to react

We received from the World Federation of Scientific Workers, to which OTC is affiliated, news of worrying situations and serious incidents that have been occurring in Brazilian Universities. The World Federation has decided to take a public stand against the assaults and attacks on the freedom of teaching and expression of which she is aware. This is the follow up of a resolution adopted by the General Assembly meeting in Dakar, once further information has been gathered adding to the one that was available at the time (December 2017). The WFSW consulted with Brazilian organizations of Scientific Workers with whom the Federation is in contact in order to validate the information collected. Once this happened the World Federation asked all affiliated organisations to publicly release her stand on the matter. Thus we have been asked to spread the information among our associates and the national scientific community.

Affiliated organizations are asked as well to address the Federation’s position to the appropriate national bodies of the legislative and executive powers and the governing bodies of institutions and units of higher education and research.

For its part, the WFSW Presidency will address supra-national authorities with which the Federation has working relations, especially the United Nations Organization and its agencies, and scientific or academic NGOs.

To emphasize the importance and relevance of the Federation’s solidarity action, the President gave notice to the affiliated organisations of the following passage of his message addressed to the Brazilian colleagues during the process that lead to the final draft of the text now approved:


“Intelligence, knowledge, critical thinking, autonomous thought are particularly attacked in this period of the history of humanity where everything can happen: the best or the worst. Capitalism in its current phase, in a globalization at the service of the oligarchies of the major powers, has only consideration for technical knowledge, for research leading to enlarged markets and new profits. Education and especially higher education are therefore preferred targets wherever this conception of science is implemented as in your country since the “coup d’Etat” that led to the dismissal of Dilma Rousseff … Resistance and solidarity are necessary.”


 Solidarity with Brazilian universities

Dear Madam, dear Sir, dear Colleagues

Serious information which reaches us concerning facts that have occurred in several Brazilian universities, leads us to alert you and to ask you to take any appropriate initiative. You will find below some examples.

These facts, without a doubt target the public university as an unbearable source of affirmation of freedom and respect for human rights. Respect for the sovereignty of Brazil and its government cannot justify indifference and inaction in the face of such a situation.

We wish to recall fundamental international texts. First of all, let us quote the Universal Declaration of the Human Rights which affirms the right, for every individual, to life, to the safety of his person, to an “equal protection” by the law.

In addition, the 39th General Conference of UNESCO unanimously voted the “Recommendation concerning science and scientific researchers”. This recommendation implies, both in its general spirit and the references referred to in its preamble and in many of its articles, a commitment by all countries to provide researchers with adequate protection and working conditions for their Responsibilities, whether they belong to the private sector or to the academic world.

As an organization attentive to the situation of scientists and their role in society, we make it a duty to alert you. More generally, the denial of the rules which must prevail in any legitimate State, whoever are the victims, must mobilize the reaction of all those who are attentive to defense and the development of human rights.

That is why the World Federation of Scientific Workers is addressing you so that you use any means at your disposal to get the Brazilian government to stop the aggressions and other forms of harassment suffered by researchers in this country.


Dr Jean-Paul Lainé

President of the WFSW


Examples of attacks on liberty and various aggressions (2017-2018)

University of Sao Paulo: On 23 August 2017, a group invaded the Campus for a “clean-up operation”, namely, to remove from all the walls of the University what was considered unacceptable. That operation has been pushed back.

Catholic University of Pernambuco State: On 5 October 2017, a group is trying to prevent the holding of a symposium on the centenary of the Russian Revolution organized jointly by the student union and teachers… who made fail the attempt.

On October 25, 2017: a group of individuals in military dress invaded the room where another symposium on the same subject is held, this time organized by researchers from the University of the State of Rio de Janeiro. Conference participants are filmed and insulted and the conference is interrupted.

Sao Paulo airport: on November 12 a colleague, who came to take part in a symposium, was tackled wickedly and insulted.

Federal University of Bahia: On 6 November 2017, in a context of repeated attacks by extreme right-wing groups, the University must reinforce the security of the premises when a student researcher presents her work on “sexuality and gender diversity concerning the child education”. There are verbal insults, death threats against teacher-researchers, defamatory and false incursions into websites communicating about their research projects.

On November 13, 2017, an incursion into the Campus of a group carrying firearms or baseball bats. It was about provoking conflict. The Rector had to call Campus Security to clear the premises. The Rector of the UFBa himself, defender of university autonomy, then became the personal target of this violence, for having defended teachers and staff.

Federal University of Ouro Preto, State of Minas Gerais: it is a state prosecutor who conducts a police investigation without any motive. The survey concerns a research project on the theme “Ideologies”, a project funded since 2009 by the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development. The prosecutor decides to suspend the project. The teacher responsible for the project persists.

Federal University of Santa Catarina: on September 14, at 6.30 am, a former Rector of the University was arrested at his home as part of an “investigation for corruption”. Without even having had time to understand the reason for his arrest, the Rector answered the interrogation before being able to call his lawyer. After 5 hours of interrogation he is stripped naked, subjected to intimate body searches, and thirty hours later, humiliated and dressed in the yellow clothes of any prisoner, is sent to the Florianópolis Penitentiary, where he remains 18 days. He is released in the same way he was arrested without anything and without any explanation, except the banning to set foot in the University Campus. The Rector jumped off the fourth floor of a shopping center. No charges have been laid against him, nor has any evidence of guilt.

University of Brasilia: May-June 2018, a teacher-researcher is harassed, threatened with death and forced to leave Brasilia no doubt because she is an activist of the decriminalization of abortion. In this same university a student was found dead near the university residences; assassination probably because he was one of the occupants of the rector’s offices since April.

Federal University of Bahia: This spring, again threats against professors – including one threatened with death – because of the content of their research; a master student was also threatened before presenting his thesis.

Federal University of the ABC[*]: Three teachers are worried, objects of a commission of inquiry, simply for having published an interview of the former president Lula.

End of the WFSW’s document.

[*] UFABC is a research university founded in 2005 following the approval of a bill signed into law by President Lula da Silva. UFABC is the only federal university in Brazil with 100% of its professors holding PhDs and, for the second consecutive year in 2011, emerged as the only university in Brazil with impact factor in scientific publications above the world average according to Scimago Institutions Rankings. ABC is a traditionally industrial region of the State of São Paulo. It became part of “Larger São Paulo” keeping its own identity. The acronym ABC comes from the names of the three cities that originally formed the region. (OTC’s note)