Brazil’s military police, like all law enforcement, are entrusted with an essential and noble responsibility: protecting the population from crime. And all Brazilians have a right to this protection equally, no matter their gender, race, or political views.
Yet the keynote speaker chosen to address the Military Police Advanced School in Rio de Janeiro on April 10 was a congressman who has openly made light of violence and discrimination against various groups in Brazil.
Congressman Jair Bolsonaro –who has indicated he intends to run for president in 2018– delivered the inaugural lecture of an eight-month military police training course that prepares police captains for promotion to major.
Bolsonaro has referred to Afro-Brazilians as if they were cattle, taken a cavalier attitude toward sexual violence against women, and lionized a man who commanded a torture center during Brazil´s dictatorship. His lecture –about international and national politics– occurred a week after a public uproar caused by his latest offensive comments.
During an April 3 speech Bolsonaro said that the thinnest person at a quilombo –a community descended from escaped slaves– he had visited weighed seven arrobas (a weight measurement equal to 15 kilograms used for cattle). “They do nothing. I do not think they are good even as breeders anymore,” the congressman added.
During a session in the Chamber of Deputies in 2014, Bolsonaro said that Congresswoman Maria do Rosário “did not deserve even to be raped.” The next day he added in a newspaper interview: “She is too ugly, not my type, I would never rape her.”
And Bolsonaro defends as a “Brazilian hero” the late coronel Carlos Brilhante Ustra, who from 1970 to 1974 commanded the DOI-CODI/II Army in São Paulo, where Brazil’s Truth Commission documented thousands of prisoners were brutally interrogated during the dictatorship. Several survivors of the center identified Ustra personally as their torturer. On his website, Bolsonaro dismisses the allegations as simply made by people who want to receive government compensation “for political reasons.”
As a private individual, Bolsonaro should have a right to express his personal views, however offensive they may be, so long as they don´t incite illegal conduct. But it is deeply disturbing that Rio´s military police gave him a central platform at a training session for its future leaders, given that he is well known for endorsing views that are antithetical to the police´s vital mission.