Brazil, inequality and elections, by Leonardo Boff

This video says about itself:

26 September 2014

Leonardo Boff – The Rebel Theologian. This biographical documentary explores the life and teachings of Leonardo Boff and his Christian, political and humanist beliefs. Boff is considered one of the leading proponents of Latin American liberation theology and its renewal. Liberation theology is a current of progressive thinking within Catholicism that views Jesus Christ as a defender of the poor and seeks a greater social commitment on the part of the Church.

By liberation theologian LEONARDO BOFF from Brazil:

Brazilian election: it’s now or never

Saturday 25th October 2014

Sunday’s re-run of the election could change South America’s future, writes liberation theologian LEONARDO BOFF

There is nothing better than viewing the present elections in light of the Brazilian history of tension between the elites and the people.

I will avail myself of the contribution of a serious historian, educated in Rome, Louvain and in the University of Sao Paulo, father Jose Oscar Beozzo, one of the most brilliant minds of our clergy.

Beozzo says: “The basic question in our society is the right of the marginalised to life, which is always threatened by the abysmal inequality of access to life’s necessities and by the meagre opportunities open to the great majority of the lower strata.

As Brazilian Marxist historian Caio Prado Junior says, our unequal society rests on four pillars:

1. That ownership of the land is concentrated in the hands of the few, such that there is no “free” or “available” land for those who work it, or for those who were its original owners, the indigenous peoples

2. The predominance of monoculture

3. That production is focused on the foreign market (sugar, tobacco, cotton, coffee, cocoa, and now soy)

4. The regime of slave labour.

Independence from Portugal did not alter any of those pillars.

Those who at that time dreamed of a different Brazil proposed a change from ownership of large tracts, to ownership of small plots, in the hands of those who worked the land; from monoculture to polyculture, from production for the international market to production geared towards local consumption and supply for the domestic market; from slave labour to free family work.

This could be done in small regions peripheral to tropical monocultures, in the Gaucha and Catarinense mountain ranges, with German, Italian and Polish colonists, in a more democratic form of property ownership.

The large slave owners were strongly opposed to all those measures, and they crushed by fire and sword the popular uprisings that in any way looked towards democratisation of the economy, politics, and above all, of labour relations.

Suffice it to recall some of those revolts — the insurrections of the Males slaves in Bahia, the Balayada in Maranhao, the Cabanagem in the Amazon, the Playera revolt in Pernambuco, and the Farroupilha in the South.

The revolution of 1930 led by Getulio Dornelles Vargas, with its nationalist tendencies, moved, if only partially, the country’s axis from foreign markets towards the domestic, from a model of agrarian exports towards one of substitution of imports, from the dominance of the coffee-exporting elites of the Minas/Sao Paulo pact towards new leaders in the zones of production for the domestic market, such as those of rice and jerky of Rio Grande do Sul; from the restricted vote to the “universal” vote (except for the illiterate, still the great majority of adults at that time), from the exclusively male vote to women’s suffrage; from labour relations dictated only by the power of the masters towards regulation, at least in the industrial sphere, with the creation of the Secretary of Labour and of labour laws focused on the working class.

The unavoidable dominance of the landowners within their properties could not be touched by labor regulations, which only occurred after 1964 with the Rural Labour Statute.

President Vargas established a policy of appeasement between the classes, and of “co-operation” between capital and labor, the workers and the captains of industry, aimed at industrialisation and the defence of national interests.

In the current electoral campaign, certain media have created the slogan: “Out PT” (Partido dos Trabalhadores, the Workers Party).

They seek to end the dictatorship of the PT and to restore the “dictatorship of the financial market.” What really bothers them? Corruption and the “mensalon”?

As I see it, what bothers them are the democratising measures, notwithstanding all their limitations, such as the Pro-Uni, the quotas in the universities for students coming from public schools rather than from particular colleges; the quotas for those whose grandparents came from the warehouses of slavery; agrarian reform, still inadequate to the task; the demarcation and official sanctioning of continuous areas of Yanomami land, opposed by a half dozen rice producers, backed by agro-business and a unanimous chorus of landowners, and all the social programmes such as Bolsa Familiar (Family allowance), Light for All, My House, My Life, More Doctors and more.

These critics were never annoyed when the state paid the tuition of young students from rich families whose children received a good education in private schools, making it easier for them to access free education in the public universities, which deepened the inequality of opportunity.

Those families never protested at the “handouts” given the rich, which they considered to be their “right” based on their merit, rather than a pure, and scandalous, privilege.

They are the same doctors who refuse to practice in the interior of the country, or the favelas that lack even a single physician.

Those who raise their voices, saying that everything is going bad in the country, in spite of improvements in the minimum wage, the creation of millions of jobs, the widening of social policies geared to the poorest, the creation of more physicians, oppose the policies of the PT that seek to assure citizens’ rights, to widen the democratisation of society, to struggle against privilege and above all, to put some limits (insufficient in my point of view) on profits and the dictatorship of financial capital and of the “market.”

This is the reason for my vote for another project of a country, that attends to the demands always denied to the great majorities.

For that reason, I voted for Dilma in the first round and will do so again in the second.

Leonardo Boff is a Brazilian theologian, writer and Professor Emeritus of Ethics, Philosophy of Religion and Ecology at the Rio de Janeiro State University. This article first appeared in

Translated by Melina Alfaro.

Dilma Rousseff Wins Second Term as Brazil’s President: here.

Military Personnel Trained by the CIA Used Napalm Against Indigenous People in Brazil: here.

8 thoughts on “Brazil, inequality and elections, by Leonardo Boff

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