rn:Brazil: tragedy of economic disparity


Jan Slakov

Dear RN,      aug. 12

I subscribe to the SEJUP (Serviço Brasileiro de Justiça e Paz) list which
provides news from Brazil approximately once a month.

Service for Peace and Justice is a very important organization working for
peace and justice non-violently in Latin America. It's Latin America
Co-ordinator, Adolfo Pérez Esquivel of Argentina, won the Nobel peace prize
in 1980 (and is one of the signatories of the appeal "For the Chirldren of
the World" for creating a culture of non-violence. cf. RN posting of June 26
entitled "Creating a culture of peace").

all the best, Jan
Date: Sat, 07 Aug 1999 19:56:15 -0300
From: SEJUP <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Solidariedade No 9

NEWS FROM BRAZIL supplied by SEJUP (Serviço Brasileiro de Justiça e Paz).
Solidariedade, No. 9.
        Visit our home page: http://www.oneworld.org/sejup/

Dear Sejup readers,

This week we are submitting to you are 9th issue of our newsletter.  Below
you will find a piece written by our own Ann Griffin.  We are also
submitting two articles related to the story, one from a movement here
called "Grito dos Excluídos" (Shout of the excluded) and another from the
Folha de São Paulo.

The next News from Brazil will be sent out August 20, 1999.


Newsletter of the Intercongregational Justice and Peace Group, São Paulo

August, 1999

No. 9


by Ann Griffin

Outside it was a wet, cold and dark April night when my doorbell rang.
Inside the lights were on, the kitchen was warm and I was just putting a
brown cake into the oven to bake. I went to the door and peeped out through
the glass I saw what I thought was a tall thin boy with something in his
arms. Upon opening the door I realised it was a very thin woman hugging a
baby.  The first words out of her mouth were "Are you a nurse?" I said no
and asked her why. She said her child was sick, had bronchitis and needed a
special type of cough mixture. I told her I had no cough mixture and asked
how much it would cost. She said almost R$ 8.00. I gave her the money and
directed her to the local pharmacy. I said I had just put a cake in the
oven and could not leave the house to go with her at that particular time
and I asked her to come back later. She said she would return later. 

An hour later the cake was baked and out of the oven, and my caller had not
returned. Two hours later she had not returned and three hours later I had
given up on her coming back. It was now raining heavily and quiet cold
outside. At about 10:00 the doorbell rang and it was the same woman back.
She apologised profusely for not returning sooner. She said the pharmacy
was closed and had to go to another neighbourhood to get the cough mixture.
Then she took her baby home because of the rain and cold and now was
thanking me for helping her. She said she would be very grateful if I could
give her some food, which I gladly did. I asked for her name and she told
me it was Simone and her son of 9 months was called Victor Hugo.

As she shared part of her story with me I was struck once again with the
number of nameless, homeless, desperate and struggling population who every
day search the streets for food, clothing, medical aid, work etc in the
great big cities of our world. On leaving my house I gave Simone a hug. She
dropped the bag of food I had given her and she stood totally motionless
and tears ran down her face. After a few seconds she said  "I know the
value of food and how much it means, I know all about hunger, hunger pains
and the sound of my children's cry for bread and milk. I know all about the
daily effort to find bread for my children, but all the food in the world
means absolutely nothing to me in comparison to the hug you have given me.
Through my daily struggle to live and provide for my children I am treated
as a non-person, a beggar, a vagabond, a sight which causes people to turn
away quickly for fear I might ask for something. Your hug has made me feel
human, I feel for the first time in a long time that I am a person, that I
am a human being".  Simone's words brought tears to my eyes and left me
completely silent. 

One week later I went to visit Simone in her one-room slum. Three sides of
the wall were boarded up and the third wall had a blanket keeping out the
wind and rain. Her little boy Victor Hugo slept in a make shift cot and her
bed was a pile of worn and used clothes. She paid RS 80.00 reais a month
for her room. She could not afford to buy a tank of gas for cooking, and on
many occasions she traded uncooked food for a bowl of cooked rice.  On a
very odd and precarious make shift gas stove she heated her baby's food.
She had no running water or bathroom facilities. She got cold running water
from a public tap at the entrance to the favela. This she used for washing
her clothes, for her and the baby's bath and for any cooking that she might
be able to do. Simone told me that when she was 16 years old she had to
leave home and support herself as her father could not earn enough to feed
her brothers and sisters. She lived about 100 kilometres outside of São
Paulo. She came to the city like millions before her in search of work. She
found a job as nurse's assistant and later got a diploma as a qualified
nurse's aid. Some time later she met up with her first husband. He too had
come to the city in search of work. They got married and lived in a
small-rented house. They had two boys, Leonardo who is now eleven years and
Phillipe who is ten years. Life was good to them and all seemed to be going
very well. Then gradually things began to change.  Her husband became ill and
whatever little savings they had went towards his medical needs. He was
diagnosed with tuberculoses. He continued to work and provide for the
family. One evening while returning from work he took the usual short cut
by crossing the railway line. He was hit by a train and died some weeks
later. Simone, unable to pay the rent and trying to feed two small children
found herself on the street. She went back to her mother's who took the two
children and raised them for her.
Simone herself returned to the city and started again to look for work.
She found employment here and there and was able to earn enough to help her
mother in raising her two boys. Then Simone met Jairo. They decided to live
together in a favela as Jairo had no permanent work and lived on odd jobs.
Some time later Victoria was born, a lovely little girl a year; and two
months later Victor Hugo was born. Before the birth of Victoria, Simone
began to get very ill. With the birth of Victoria she was diagnosed as
having Aids. This devastated her.  However she knew she had to be as strong
as she could be to raise her children. One evening, the police caught Jairo
steeling, and he was thrown into prison where he continues to remain. 

By now Simone had moved into the one room slum where I visited her and was
desperately trying to do all she could to provide for her children. She
asked me if I knew of any place where she could go and die as she felt the
end was near. She said her mother would look after Victoria and Victor
Hugo.  A place was found for Simone where she could get medical treatment,
and her little boy could stay with her until her death. Simone was very
excited and packed her bags and was ready to go. Before leaving Simone, her
mother and her children came to visit us. They thanked God for being off the
street and the daily desperation of trying to survive and look for food.
Simone decided she would go to the shelter, the day after Victoria's second
birthday, which was on a Wednesday. 

Simone is the name, face and story of millions of unemployed people not
only in São Paulo but also through out Brazil. She is twenty-eight years
old, tall, beautiful and dignified, her future is already over, and her
children's future is over.  Her wisdom comes from suffering and trying to
survive. Her homelessness and poverty is due to the greed of others, her
children's future, health, and education has already been determined by a
capitalistic society where monitory value is greater than human value. Her
husband's confinement to prison is based on an unjust system where those
who are caught going hungry are punished by being imprisoned.  

I do not need to starve to feel hunger.
I do not need to be in jail to feel imprisoned
I do not need to watch my small children die of aids to feel death
I only need to be human, human, fully human and then 
Everyone's hunger is my starvation
Everyone imprisoned is my jail
And everyone's death is my child.

Some facts in relation to the growing number of unemployed in Brazil 
>From  "The shout for the Excluded". 

Unemployment has grown enormously and continues to grow in every sector of
society. The number of unemployed in Brazil rose to 38% during the first
four years of Fernando Henrique Cardose's reign as president. It went from
6,5% to 9,0%. There was more than 2,2 million people unemployed that formed
part of the Active Economic Population; this number is equal to the
population of the state of Mato Grosso. In total the number of overall
unemployed reached 6,6 million people in 1998. According to research done
by DIEESE the figure is more than 9 million people. In São Paulo alone the
number of unemployed according to DIEESE/SEADE for the month of March was
19,95% or 1.7 million people. 

Unemployment destroys life, families and the hope to build a better future.
The daily signs that are made manifest as a result of unemployment are the
increase in violence, shoot outs, growing number of security people, under
nourished children, general corruption. The worthlessness of a basic salary
that cannot buy the basic necessities, the shame of a basic salary that
each day becomes less and less in value, the dreadful working conditions of
children and adults. Unemployment leads to the loss of life and values,
where human life is reduced to the 'survival of the fittest'. 

Faced with this reality the search for solutions are absolutely necessary
and absolutely urgent. We are all challenged to grow in hope, and together
denounce privatisation, external debt and unemployment and help make
possible the reality of our dream for a society where no one is excluded.


In Brazil unemployment affects all people across the board youth and adults
alike. The myth of being qualified to get a job is pure nonsense. 
The perverse logic of individualism, competition and consumerism has
reinforced the basic law of survival. Values and relations are reduced and
regulated by the divine orientation of the market and all areas are
affected: politics, religion, culture, social, etc. Indifference is
expressed in 'survival of the fittest',  'save yourself if you can'. It is
important to remember that we must recuperate the values of solidarity,
brotherhood, justice and sharing. This is essential in order to recreate a
new Culture/society with men and women together organising for a just
society. It is absolutely essential to keep in mind the human person. 
One of the first efforts to recreate a new Culture based on the human
person was during the Lenten campaign this year. We must keep reminding
ourselves that 
· Employment for all who seek work
· Radical agrarian reform which benefits the small family farms
· Promote  economic solidarity
· Incrementing small business and co-operatives
· Generating employment

This way there is hope for the millions of unemployed.  All of us are
challenged to behave in an ethical manner, and these steps demand such
behaviour, it challenges us to behave responsible and not in a manner that
kills, terrifies and destroys life.


· The minimum salary should be sufficient to provide for a family of four
people on a monthly basis. 
· Every man has a right to work a right to a wage that is just according to
his union.
· Every man has a right to participate in cultural activities and enjoy the
benefits of progress.

"The existence of millions of poor is a radical denial of the democratic
order." (CNBB - Doc. 42 - No 72

Studies show how to end misery

It is possible to eradicate all the poverty that exists in Brazil with
short term planning with the present existing resources from a financial
This is one of the principal points as a result of research and study done
by four experts of IPEA (foundation institute for the research of applied
economics) which forms part of the Secretary for the State of planning and
evaluation of the Department for Agriculture. Ricardo Paes de Barros is
director of political and social studies.

Paes de Barros, doctor in economy at the University of Chicago, who also
spent six years as Professor in Yale University, affirmed that poverty in
Brazil could be eradicated. For this to happen two things are necessary:
First decide if this is what we want and second give support to the various
institutions who are working against poverty so that their work can be viable.

Paes de Barros, Miguel Fogel, Ricardo Henrique and Rosane Mendonça stated
that 30% of the Brazilian population live on less than a basic salary per
On an average each one of the 50 million people need about R$700 per year
to complete the R$120 monthly salary. This signifies a total of  R$ 35
billion, which is about 4,5% of the PIB. To obtain this amount it is
sufficient to put a specific tax of 8% on the income of the 10% richest
people in Brazil or 5% on the richest 40% in the country. The question of
poverty is a ridiculous economic problem, which can be solved; however it
can be politically complicated. 

The study shows that Brazil is one of the most unjust countries in the
world. Typically of the world, the average income of the 10% richest of the
population of a country is five times greater that the poorest 40%. In
Brazil it is 30 times greater.  Brazil is not poor. About 78% of the world
population live in countries with an income per capita inferior to Brazil.

Paes de Barros insists that from a technical point of view the resources to
eliminate poverty is available. But the amount of time to implement a
programme to end poverty depends on the political condition to approve an
end to misery. He recognises also the necessity to have institutional
involvement to administer confidently and efficiently in identifying who is
poor and who is not. A good focus on social programmes is essential in
order that a reduction in injustice is done correctly. 

Brazil has spent R$130 billion per year on social projects that is almost
four times more than is necessary to eradicate poverty in the whole of
Brazil.  But this money has not been used efficiently to combat poverty. It
has benefited those who are not poor or has been administered badly or even
due to corruption...

Perhaps it is not even necessary to tax high-income receivers to end
poverty. Perhaps it is sufficient to be more efficient in the social
programmes that are already in existence. Or accelerate the rhythm of
economic growth. Paes de Barros agrees that growth diminishes poverty. In
his study he has arrived at the conclusion that in Brazil, traditionally
the experiences of reducing the level of poverty is in relation to economic
growth. At the same time he asks the question 'is it necessary to have 50
million people go hungry and wait until the cake is sufficient for all to
have a slice form it ". 

In his calculation the wait will be to long. In order to reduce the poverty
level from 30% to at least 15%, the PIB needs to grow 7,5% per year for tem
years or 4,5% per year for 20 years. To reduce the level of poverty to 10%
of the population the PIB needs to grow at a rate of 9.5% per year for ten
years. It is impossible to maintain such a high rate. It is almost
impossible to think it would happen. Paes de Barros affirms that the
transference of the necessary income to end poverty is very simple (the
poor need to prove that they earn less than R$120 per month and to complete
the rest the government should provide it.

In 1997 40 % of the population earned 7,10% while 10% of the population
earned 48,21%. According to the research Brazil has enough resources today
to end poverty, all that is necessary is put a tax on the income of the rich.

* Basic salary is R$120 reais = 60 pounds or US$ 65

Source - Folha de São Paulo - June 1999

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Ann Griffin