General elections in Brazil: a short guide for humanists
In October 2014 Brazilians will vote and choose the next president, federal deputies and senators. Here is a summary of the state of affairs in the topics that humanists worry about.
Leading polls as a presidential candidate now is Marina Silva (PSB, Brazilian Socialist Party), who comes from a poor background in the heart of the Amazon forest. Silva, who converted to Evangelicalism in the 1990s, says her conversion happened because of a miracle that doesn't sound too miraculous: she recalled the name of an experimental drug to treat the mercury poisoning she suffered from. Some supporters of the re-election of Dilma Rousseff (PT, Workers' Party) accuse Silva of being a fundamentalist. This is hard to argue for, since she can be seen saying "even" atheists can have good, moral lives, and also sounds hypocritical because Rousseff has failed in clearly defending a progressive agenda. But also hard to argue against, because Silva, after launching an excellent plan for LGBT rights, recanted large chunks of the plan 24 hours later, removing support to the criminalisation of anti-LGBT discrimination and hate speech, and insisting, despite the judiciary's decisions, on calling gay marriage a "civil union," as though the word "marriage" belonged solely to the religious. Silva's catch-all mantra about contentious human rights issues, from abortion to smoking weed, is that she will submit them to referenda.
President Dilma Rousseff indeed has failed in being as progressive as she appeared to be before her first term and being true to what she really believes. In 2007, when asked if she believed in God, she answered "I balance myself on this issue". Three years later, when running for president, she "forgot" completely about her agnosticism of sorts and kneeled before Our Lady of Aparecida in the large Catholic shrine. In her first year in office, she vetoed an educational material known as the anti-homophobia kit saying to the press her government wouldn't allow "sexual option propaganda". "Sexual option" is how many Brazilians ignorantly call sexual orientation, by the way. In her second year, Rousseff's Chief of Staff signed off a dismissal for a senior employee at the Ministry for Health, the reason being that this employee was creating too progressive anti-HIV campaigns for gay men and prostitutes. The phrase "sexual option", the mark of ignorance, made into a second coming in Rousseff's early government programme for her next term in office. Her campaign staff quickly redacted the text, but kept it superficial enough not to make any clear specific agenda for the LGBT, who hope to have gay marriage not only sanctioned by the courts but written into law, and to have homophobic discrimination criminalised as much as racism. Now in her second campaign for president, Dilma Rousseff is again doing her spectacle of insincere faith: she attended the inauguration of the "Temple of Solomon" in São Paulo, said "the state is secular but happy is the nation whose god is the Lord" in another Evangelical church, and, betraying feminist colleagues, she applauded when a theocratic deputy (in a church, accompanied by the president) celebrated the veto to a healthcare policy directed at the exceptions where women can have abortions in Brazil (rape, life risk and anencephalic foetuses).
Behind Silva and Rousseff, Aécio Neves (PSDB, Brazilian Social Democracy Party) focuses on economic issues, pays little attention to human rights except to promise he will put people in jail at a younger age, to pass superficial pro-LGBT messages that don't upset homophobes, and to swear he shall not move a finger to change the cruel anti-abortion laws. His party, along with the president's, is riddled with corruption scandals.
The scariest of all presidential candidates, arguably, is the candidate in the 4th position, with 1% of votes in polls. Pastor Everaldo (PSC, Social Christian Party), as he calls himself, is defending a chimeric blend of social conservatism and extreme economic liberalism. Ciphering his message to call homophobe votes, he says he is campaigning "in favour of the family" defined as man, woman and children. He promises to privatise key state-owned industries like Petrobras. Pastor Everaldo is the tip of an iceberg of candidates for the legislative: from the last elections in 2010, the number of candidates for the bicameral parliament who name themselves with religious titles like "pastor", "bishop" and "father/sister" has grown by 47%.
Supporting Everaldo in the same party and trying a re-election is Pastor Marco Feliciano, who for a year presided over the human rights commission of the Chamber of Deputies for the bafflement of human rights activists. Among Feliciano's famous soundbites of wisdom, my favourite is this: “Jesus’s DNA was not like ours. He had X chromosomes, however, the Y chromosomes were not human. (...) His carnal involvement with a woman could lead to a superior race.” Besides Feliciano, Everaldo has a supporter in Pastor Silas Malafaia, classified as a millionaire by Forbes magazine, and most famous homophobe in Brazil. When I made a video last year replying to Malafaia's claims that child abuse causes half of homosexuality and the other half of gay people just choose to be so, he attacked me on his TV show calling me a "pseudo-doctor who's defending his own cause" and "a lad who hasn't changed his nappies in genetics". Since then, when he makes a list of his enemies, he never forgets to list humanists among them.