We at Catalytic Communities (CatComm) are gravely concerned for the safety of the thousands of favela-based community organizers we have been supporting for nineteen years, and for indigenous and quilombola leaders across Brazil. Their lives and communities are now at direct risk from the new administrations—both at the federal and state levels—that are already showing extreme disrespect for human rights, women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, affirmative action, and democracy broadly speaking.
Of particular concern to our work, Brazil’s new president’s primary policy proposals towards favelas are of repression, whether towards land rights in treating occupations as ‘terrorism,’ or in encouraging extrajudicial killings by police. According to him, “the poor are only worth it for their votes… Only birth control [through sterilization] can save us from chaos.” During his campaign and since taking office, he also declared that “there will be no more NGOs,” that his “[adversaries will] either go into exile or go to jail,” and that “activism will not be permitted” under his administration. He has shown a strong tendency towards reducing press freedoms, including since the election, and says he will end demarcation of indigenous and quilombola lands.
Meanwhile, at the state level, Rio de Janeiro state’s new governor has consistently affirmed a policy that police should be free to kill with impunity, already with disastrous consequences. He has been actively pursuing adding snipers to Rio’s policing and sourcing drones with facial recognition software. He hopes to apply what Achille Mbembe terms necropolitics, the use of power to determine who lives and who dies.
In short, this new scenario poses significant threats to the three key threads necessary to human progress: human rights, democracy and the environment. And Brazil may not have the robust institutions to withstand such threats.
Meanwhile, for nearly two decades we at CatComm have been working towards a long-term vision, building the basis for a full-fledged community-led and community-controlled integration of favelas with the formal city. CatComm was founded on the basis of favela communities’ attributes, built over generations, that already existed but were unrecognized, and so we began a long-term mission of strengthening, recognizing, and building on that potential.
As we observe and react to the new political scenario in Rio de Janeiro, we recognize that all of these years of work may be upended or entirely interrupted. At the very least we are having to shift course. The CatComm team has come up with five courses of action, depending on the unfolding of the situation in Brazil, each of which involves slight or large variations to our previous programming. In all of them, we are committed to ensuring the safety of our collaborators and community organizers, in particular favela-based journalists and communicators, with whom we are currently developing support systems.
We will also continue to invest in each of our major current programs, all of which have been expanding in exciting ways:
With so much uncertainty in the context surrounding our actions, and in order to respond flexibly, in creative and effective ways to those threats, we need you to express your ongoing support. We simply will not be able to respond effectively if, in addition to the political uncertainty we are working in, our financial stability is uncertain too. To continue to invest in these and other flexible, responsive programs, we need a dependable network of supporters working together to guarantee we have the financial means necessary to plan new programs to support and protect favela organizers as we continue building a sustainable and inclusive urban future in Rio de Janeiro and around the world.
Monthly donations are the most helpful, as they bring the dependable, sustained support we will need going forward, but any recurring support (quarterly, annually) is fantastic, as it also allows us to plan ahead. One-time donations are also welcome. Please give what you can, however you can.
Catalytic Communities (CatComm) is a 19-year-old community planning and advocacy nonprofit with 501(c)(3) status in the USA, working on-the-ground across hundreds of Rio’s favelas with local leaders and organizers.
Read below a collection of some of Brazil’s president-elect’s most worrisome statements and views:
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