News & Documents

Brazil – Italy session

It is with utter distress and sorrow that we, members of the Brazilian Organizational Committee of the 35th CIHA World Congress 2019/2020, have been following the news in the last two weeks, as newspapers and TV channels all over the world report on the fires that have been devastating the most important biome of the world: The Amazon Forest. It is, of course, in the best interest of the survival of mankind that alarms were raised in the globe in view of such monstrous images of the rainforest in flames.

The many focuses of fires, as reported by international agencies, research agencies and NGOs active in the region, grew in a rate of 82% only from January to August 2019. The thing is that the destruction of the rainforest in such an accelerated rate in the half year of the new Brazilian government’s tenure is just the tip of the iceberg of what looks now as a systematic destruction of the institutions in the country. The fires came as an immediate consequence of a constitutional amendment, designed by Brazil’s President, now under debate in the Parliament, to put an end to indigenous land demarcation, which will signify the exploitation of natural resources by international companies. Just by announcing the submission of the new constitutional amendment, Brazilian President seems to have given his agreement for unscrupulous landowners to burn the forests and invade indigenous lands – protected by the still valid Constitution of 1988. This, of course, has raised the attack on indigenous communities all over the country and will result in what probably will be one of the major genocides of these populations in the 21st century.

This is followed by a huge rise in violence against Afro-Brazilian peoples, slum inhabitants, LGBTQ communities and women. Just to give a number of femicide rates in Brazil, since January 2019, 4 women per day are killed in the country, making it one of the most violent ones against women in Latin America – and responding to 40% of femicides in the continent.

The systematic destruction of the nation goes further, as the new government dissolved the Ministry of Culture, and restructured the Ministry of Science and Technology and the Ministry of Education. Since May, organisms such as the Brazilian Institute of Museums (IBRAM), CAPES and CNPq (the two major agencies for research support in the country) have had large amounts of their financial resources cut, which now means that Brazilian research and science development is running the risk to have no financial support. The Ministry of Education, at the same time, announced a freeze in the Federal Universities’ budgets, which means that by this month, major universities in the country  will not have money to keep their activities going. These Brazilian universities, alongside some state universities are major centres of research in Latin America, and some of them are listed in the top 100 best universities in the world. They are also guardians of vital research collections in the country, as well as some of our most important museums.

Finally, this programmed destruction has been constantly attacking the arts. In the last week, there has been discussion in the President’s Office to create an amendment to restore censorship in agencies like the Brazilian Film Agency (ANCINE), and the cultural events selected by the 2018 call for artists by what was then the Ministry of Culture, and that contemplated the issue of the LGBT community with documentaries to be broadcast by the national TV, were cancelled. These are among the various threats that have been falling upon the arts.

The rise of anti-intellectualism has come hand-in-hand with an obscurantist mentality that treats Science findings as purely ideological, the liberation of fire weapons purchase for common citizens, and the questioning of civil rights and universal human rights also as ideological. This fatal mixture will cost Brazil’s future. If it goes further at this rampant rate, it is on the verge to cost the future of mankind.

Given that we are organizing, together with our Italian colleagues, an art history congress of global scale shared by the two countries, we should see it as an instrument to resist barbarism and more then ever fight for our transnational dialogues to be kept alive.