Don quixote of human rights

Paulo de Tarso Vannuchi has resurfaced. More than a month has passed since the Brazilian government's human rights secretary announced the "3. National Human Rights Plan" presented. He was "lynched" by parts of the Brazilian media, Vannuchi complains. At the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, a counterattack is launched.

Vannuchi used his first public appearance after the political earthquake he triggered to defend the human rights plan. With this, he had stepped on the toes of many shortly before Christmas: The Catholic Church was clearly against the demanded exemption from punishment for abortions, as well as against the approval of "gay marriage" and the adoption of children by same-sex couples. Farmers' associations raised voice against idea of giving land squatters right to judicial hearing. And employers were dreading more rights and fairer wages for their employees. Hardly any of the planned 521 measures and 34 legislative initiatives have been spared criticism. A nightmare for President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. He officially backs most of the plan's demands, but in 2010, an election year, he doesn't need bad press or a government shake-up. So the president took back the abortion passage to appease the Catholic Church. Establishment of a truth commission But at other ends the fire continued to burn. The section on the establishment of a truth commission to investigate human rights abuses during the military dictatorship (1964 – 1985) generated the strongest reactions. Defense Minister Nelson Jobim and the armed forces leadership threatened to resign, forcing Lula to change this passage as well. Now, more generally, human rights abuses between 1946 and 1988 are to be investigated. And there is no more talk of "political repression" during the dictatorship. Nevertheless, Vannuchi does not see himself as a loser. "I don't feel defeated by Minister Jobim," says secretary accused of historical revanchism on part of the military. Vanucchi was himself persecuted in the 1970s when he belonged to a militant group that exposed human rights abuses by the military. "One newspaper even wrote that what I didn't achieve with bullets, I now wanted to achieve with a pen," he recounts. "But we don't want to throw anyone in the dungeon. On the contrary, we want to shed light on history so that it does not repeat itself." This, Vanucchi says, hits a sensitive nerve in Brazil that has grown historically. His country's history, he says, is linked to the overexploitation of Africa, the slave trade and the genocide of Native Americans. These human rights abuses would be as hushed up as those of the military dictatorship.

Presidential campaign looms There are also major challenges at present, such as slave labor. Every year would be 3.000 such cases uncovered, reports Vanucchi. And the numbers are up. While in the period from 1995 to 2002 a total of about 6.000 people have been freed from slavery, he says, since Lula took office in early 2003, there have been around 30.000 cases have been. For Vanucchi, a success story: "That doesn't mean cases of slavery have increased. What has increased are the actions of the government against it." About the implementation of his human rights plan, on the other hand, it stands rather badly. Congress to decide on 34 proposed laws starting in April. But in the middle of the year, the presidential election campaign begins in Brazil, bringing parliamentary work to a standstill. President Lula is probably speculating on just that. So he could let the controversial plan die without antagonizing social movements that are behind it.

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