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Bishops condemn abuse of police power in state-attacks on universities in Brazil

Posted on: December 12, 2017 3:45 PM
Professor Luiz Carlos Cancellier de Olivo, Rector of the Federal University of Santa Catarina, killed himself after he was arrested in what one Brazilian Senator called “a clear abuse of power.”
Photo Credit: Federal University of Santa Catarina

Bishops from the Igreja Episcopal Anglicana do Brasil (IEAB) – the Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil – have spoken out against state and police attacks on universities. In one case, the Rector of the Federal University of Santa Catarina, Professor Luiz Carlos Cancellier de Olivo, killed himself after he was arrested and barred from his university campus in what one Senator told the National Congress was “a clear abuse of power.” The Primate of the IEAB, Bishop Francisco de Assis da Silva of South Western Brazil, is the lead signatory on a statement calling for an end to what they call “a dangerous process of intimidation” by “the illegitimate government”.

Cancellier was arrested along with six of his colleagues on 14 September. They were held for a day in prison but were not allowed to present evidence or question the depositions on which their arrest had been based. Police say they arrested Cancellier for obstructing an investigation into the misappropriation of 80 million Reals (approximately £18.1 million GBP) destined for a distance learning project before he became Rector. The police have been accused of providing selective information to the media to damage his reputation.

In their letter, the police accuse the government of “systematic budget dismantling” which jeopardises research programmes and even basic university services. They say that political reasons are behind the removal of those who are opposing the budget cuts, “in a process that only finds similarity with identical processes used in the period of the military dictatorship.”

The bishops say: “We are concerned about the systematic adoption of practices that damage the democratic state of law that lead to coercion and breaches the principle of autonomy for universities. If applied indiscriminately, it sets a precedent for other institutions to be the target of persecution by state investigative apparatus.”

They continue: “The rule of law presupposes solid, free institutions and where justice is practiced and applied with the predominance of objectivity, clarity and materiality. When justice depends more on the media performance of its agents we are the whole society at serious risk.”