Brazil Is Criminalizing Protests Ahead of World Cup


Shortly after Brazil’s 1964 military coup, Dilma Rousseff joined an armed guerrilla group opposed to the new dictatorship and was eventually imprisoned. Now, as the 50th anniversary of the military takeover approaches at the end of March, President Rousseff is pushing anti-terror legislation through the National Congress that could be used to classify protests as terrorism, punishable by anywhere from 15 to 30 years in prison.

The anti-terror law defines terrorism as any act that could “cause or incite terror or widespread panic.” While several progressive senators have questioned the need for such a bill, Rousseff is expected to sign the legislation in time for the World Cup in June. It is one of 16 bills currently up for debate in Congress that seek to restrict protest activities. Another of these would prohibit the use of masks during demonstrations, targeting a favorite tactic of “black blocs” — groups of masked anarchists that have dominated coverage of Brazil’s protests.

The legislation is meant to improve public security ahead of the World Cup, which will be a major showcase event for Latin America’s largest economy. Both FIFA and the United States have expressed concern about the security of the estimated 1.5 million tourists that will descend on Brazil in less than three months.

“Brazil is becoming increasingly international,” Cândido Vaccareza, a federal deputy and co-sponsor of the anti-terror bill, told VICE News. “Last year, the Pope came to Brazil and the whole world watched. This year, it’s the World Cup. We need to have a law on the books that defines terrorism in case of any terrorist event.”

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