UFMG: In Defence Of The Rule Of Law And Public University In Brazil

Two manifestos circulated by North American and European Professors, Intellectuals and Students in support of their Brazilian counterparts, who face a wave of intimidation unseen since the Military Dictatorship of 1964-1985.

Those working and studying in Brazilian Universities have our unequivocal solidarity – Editors.

Manifesto by North American Professors

We, intellectuals, professors, students and directors of academic institutions, proclaim our perplexity at and our vigorous protest against the judicial and police actions carried out against a public university, in the invasion of the UFMG campus and the forcible removal of the rectors, directors, and administrators of this university by the Federal Police on December 6, 2017.

In recent years, numerous mechanisms of legal exception have been created and justified by the need to fight corruption. Unwarranted preventive imprisonments and forcible detentions that violate the penal code have become routine in the country.

Police operations have become increasingly exceptional, insofar as they deny legal due process in all investigations related to corruption, in violation of the Constitution, including articles that guarantee the autonomy of the university.

Brazilian society cannot continue to tolerate the destruction of a legal tradition constructed with so much difficulty during Brazil’s democratization, in the name of a moralism for show, that by seeking media attention tries to produce a rapid and weakly grounded verdict in the court of public opinion.

In the last few months, these actions have targeted Brazilian public universities. It is important to remember here that unlike many parts of the political system, the public university is under the control of the CGU (Comptroller General) and the TCU (e.g. National Accounts Tribunal), abides by all the legal norms and accounting principles of public finance in its activities and procedures. Consequently, there is no reason that it should be subject to spectacular corruption control actions.

The Brazilian public university has made noteworthy contributions to the development of higher education, graduate education, science, and technology, that have put Brazil on the map among developing countries. Only public universities in Brazil number among the 20 best education and research institutions in Latin America, according to the Times Higher Education Ranking. The UFMG, always highly placed in these international rankings, has 33,000 undergraduates, 14,000 graduate students, 75 undergraduate majors, 77 masters programs and 63 doctoral programs. Besides its educational and research excellence, the UFMG is well known for its public outreach in the areas of health and education.

Thus, intellectuals and members of the university community demand that their directors be respected and treated with dignity, and that any necessary investigations of university activities be carried out in accordance with the principles of justice and legality supposedly in force in the country, and not with the goal of making a show of police actions to fight corruption. There is an insidious repressive apparatus emerging, intended not just for enforcement, but also to intimidate and silence dissenting voices on the pretext of fighting corruption. Its real target, however, is not corruption, but to put a gag on society, especially those institutions that, by the nature of what they do, lend themselves to the critical examination of national life. It is no accident that the motive for this violence against the university and its leaders was the construction of a memorial to the efforts to restore the principles of justice and the rule of law so extensively violated during the authoritarian period that followed the military coup of 1964. The Amnesty Memorial aims to render explicit the authoritarian abuses perpetrated during that period of exception, because only by publicizing them can we prevent future generations from repeating the same errors.
For these reasons, intellectuals, professors and students call upon all the democrats in this country to condemn this act of aggression against justice, against the public university, the rule of law, and the memory of this country.

To sign the manifesto write to: [email protected]
Additional information.

Manifesto by European Professors

On Wednesday, December 6th, 2017, the Brazilian Federal Police issued an order to arrest six colleagues from the Federal University of Minas Gerais, including the President and Vice-President of this great institution. Without receiving any witness statements from these individuals, police forces entered the campus, armed with assault rifles and some wearing masks, in order to detain our colleagues under duress in the police station.

The reason for this operation is the participation of these university members in the Memorial of Political Amnesty in Belo Horizonte, an homage commemorating the victims of the last military dictatorship, the construction of which explicitly contradicts the conservative networks in power in the Brazilian state. The information disseminated so far by the police indicates no suspicion of malfeasance, but rather the hypothetical use of funds for the Memorial in other research activities and scholarship endeavors. Beyond the evident asymmetry between the object of the investigation and the means employed, the purpose of this use of force is to intimidate those colleagues engaged in work about the memory of the crimes committed under the dictatorship with the Memorial and their participation in the National Commission of Truth (2012-2014). The name of the police operation, “Tightrope Walker,” with incredible cynicism plays with the title of one of the most famous songs of struggle for amnesty and the restoration of democracy.

The arrests carried out on the campus of the Federal University of Minas Gerais have nothing to do with the regular functions of the police: it is a terror operation. They aim to intimidate Brazilian academia, to discourage political positions of intellectuals, and to prevent the pursuit of memorial policies and transnational justice concerning the military dictatorship. It is not a question of isolated measures: in recent months, teachers and researchers identified as hostile to the government or as having participated in memorial projects about the dictatorship have been subjected to unjustified legal proceedings throughout the country. A few weeks ago, this persecution led to the suicide of the president of the Federal University of Santa Catarina.

We, teachers and researchers of all nationalities, strongly condemn the treatment inflicted on our colleagues at the Federal University of Minas Gerais. We believe that the use of police coercion and prosecution for the purpose of political persecution, or lawfare, is incompatible with the rule of law. These processes dramatically affect Brazil’s image abroad and its identification by the international community as a true democracy.

If you wish to join in this issue of transnational solidarity, please send your name, surname, position, discipline and institutional affiliation to: [email protected]

Translated from French by Justin Tice


Large numbers of heavily armed Federal Police conducted the raid on UFMG and forcibly detained staff.