Social Issues

Lula moves to address racial inequality in Brazil

Brasilia, Mar 21 (EFE).- President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva announced here Tuesday a set of measures to combat discrimination against Brazilians of African descent, who continue to lag behind whites in a broad range of socio-economic categories despite their being the majority in this nation of more than 216 million people.

He presented the program at Planalto Palace, the seat of government, during a ceremony to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

“Combating racism, we combat the historical roots of the inequalities of this country,” Lula said, noting that Afro-Brazilians “suffer the worst social indicators” and bear the greatest brunt of exclusion.

One of the executive orders the president signed mandates that at least 30 percent of federal political appointees must be Afro-Brazilian.

Another initiative aims to ensure that the more than 1 million Brazilians who reside in “quilombos” – communities founded in the 19th century by escaped slaves – receive access to land and public services.

To that end, the president granted land titles to residents of three quilombos who have been waiting two decades for official recognition of their tenure.

The previous president, rightist Jair Bolsonaro, halted the processing of title applications from quilombos even as his government turned a blind eye to wildcat miners and white settlers encroaching on indigenous reserves.

Lula likewise ordered the formation of inter-ministerial working groups to protect the “access and permanence of black students” in state-funded universities and to devise mandatory affirmative action quotas in public employment.

The working groups will also be responsible for developing a plan to reduce homicides and “social vulnerabilities” among Afro-Brazilian youth.

Official statistics show that the poverty rate for Brazilians of African descent is nearly twice as high as for whites. And Afro-Brazilians account for roughly 85 percent of victims of police violence.

Rebuilding Brazil “with ever more inclusive policies is an obligatory task” for his government after “the last four years of attempts to return to the colonial past through inaction or deliberate actions,” Lula said.

“No country in the world will experience a true democracy as long as people’s color determines the opportunities they will or won’t have over the course of their lives,” he said, promising Afro-Brazilians that they will be the “protagonists of their own history.”

Brazil’s first minister of Racial Equality, Afro-Brazilian Anielle Franco, said that she will not rest until the country is rid of “systemic racism.”

“Our Brazil is one of racial equality,” added the sister of Marielle Franco, a Rio de Janeiro city councilwoman and advocate for the Afro-Brazilian and LGBT communities who was assassinated five years ago.

Lula, a former two-term president who narrowly defeated Bolsonaro in the October 2022 election, established the Racial Equality Ministry as part of efforts to honor the Brazilian state’s “historic debt” to Afro-Brazilians for the 350 years of slavery. EFE


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