“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute…

defend the rights of the poor and needy.”

Proverbs 31:8-9


In sombre times of a profound social, political and public health crisis, with a pandemic killing thousands of people around the world, CESE returns to its history as an ecumenical organization, founded as a diakonia of social justice and service in the most repressive times of military dictatorship, and reasserts its commitment to the defence of Life and Democracy.

Its voice is added to other democratic institutions that publically denounce the attitude of a president who gambles on irresponsibility and chaos in public and populist exposure during the pandemic, contradicting basic guidance from scientists, medical and health organizations and the highest UN body, to which Brazil is a signatory – the World Health Organization.  Global and Brazilian indicators for the advance of the disease are frightening, but not for the nation’s highest authority, who arrogantly glories in his power to circulate publically without taking any preventative measures, putting the population at risk and encouraging his followers to do the same.

It took 83 days for the world to attain the frightening number of one million people infected by the coronavirus and only another 14 to reach 2.5 million infected and more than 170 thousand dead.  In Brazil, the pandemic is progressing, with more than 40 thousand official cases and 2600 dead.  Specialists in the area are unanimous in confirming the underreporting of cases and estimate that the number of infected in the country is at least seven times higher.  The coming weeks of horizontal isolation will be crucial to avoid the collapse of hospital services, especially as the pandemic is now moving into low-income and densely populated neighbourhoods, as well as into traditional communities, such as quilombolas, fishing communities and, particularly, those of indigenous peoples, where deaths have been recorded.

CESE has supported emergency projects in defence of vulnerable groups.  It has also made appeals and publicized campaigns aimed at the public authorities and for the population to remain, as far as possible, at home.  If there is a need and obligation to go out to work, it requires employers to define safety protocols specific to this moment, as well as to clean work locations, distribute equipment and basic services, such as the provision of water, hand sanitizer and prevention masks.  It has advised public administrators to provide clean transport of sufficient quantity for the commute to work, so as not to create crowds, applied pressure for an efficient public health service, and for minimum income for families most in need, particularly for the unemployed and those who survive on informal labour.  Our incredible solidarity network of local groups has been supported and stimulated by CESE.

To further aggravate the situation we are confronting, once again, we witnessed with horror the President of the Republic’s participation in and support of a public act in Brasilia last Sunday (19 April) in which protestors defied the constituted powers and democracy by calling for a military coup, the publication of a new AI5 (an infamous decree from the military dictatorship) and the closure of Congress and the High Court.  Authoritarian phrases, well-known to the history of Brazilian fascism, were used: ‘now it’s the people in power’, ‘we don’t want to negotiate’, ‘the time for villainy is over’.

After the long and terrible journey that goes back to the re-democratization of 1985 and the Constitution of 1988, the events of the last three years (aggravated by the way in which the recent pandemic has been addressed by certain privileged sectors in our unequal society) reinforce the sad conclusion that Brazil has still not managed to achieve full democracy.  Any path back to the past would be a profound setback to what has been constructed, with suffering and also much joy, throughout our history.

In its 47 years of history, CESE has based its trajectory on the unconditional defence of a republican direction for the country and repudiates any initiative against our democracy, however weak and in need of improvements it may be.  As an ecumenical organization that works uncompromisingly in the defence of rights, democracy and liberty, the agendas defended at these events (and by the President of the Republic) constitute an affront to the most elementary principles of civilization and scandalize the most profound Christian values, values upon which we have constructed our mission, consolidated our work and nourished our hope. For this reason, we express profound concern about the country’s direction and demand a firm and resolute attitude from the National Congress to guarantee that the structures that underpin our country’s democratic edifice are not shaken by movements of this nature.