Last April 29th, approximately 200 teachers were injured by the police in Curitiba, home of 1.8 million people in Brazil.
It could initially look like a normal protest and confrontation day in Brazil, just like the ones we have been seeing all through the past few years, but the Brazilian news on the subject also brought a side effect of the use of violence to control demonstrations and strikes for so long: police are starting to rebel.
Last Wednesday, 17 men from the Paraná State police refused to shoot rubber bullets and gas bombs on those angry, dangerous-looking teachers and are currently under arrest. It is possible that they’ll loose their jobs.
A Quick History insert:
Officially, Brazil is a democracy since 1985. Until then, the country was ruled by soldiers who left the power on their own decision. No revolution was started, and the whole administrative structure of the country remained the same after 20 years of military dictatorship followed by 30 years of democracy. In Brazil, security is granted by four different kinds of police, each one with its own head, and financed by different spheres of power. The State police sent by the governor of Paraná, Beto Richa, to frighten the unhappy teachers, is the only one with military organization, just like the army. In Brazil, information is mainly brought by TV channels and newspapers, mostly controlled by (rich) families and oligarchies.
So far, the usual web searches won’t tell us who those 17 men are, or what they were thinking when they told their superiors they wouldn’t shoot teachers, or if they knew the consequences of disobeying those orders. And, if we need to wait until a reporter of one of those big Brazilian TV channels or newspapers decides to go after that information, it will take so long that we’ll have forgotten all this.
I can only suppose that, when people decide to join the Brazilian police, they don’t dream of becoming repressors of fair demonstrations. I can only suppose that the ones who end up by sending her dogs over protesting teachers don’t know that they are actually defending inequality and privileges, in the name of their own careers: they only expect to grow up in the hierarchy and maybe one day be able to pay a decent, private school to their kids — and this is the biggest irony, as teachers have been fighting against the destruction of the public educational system since the beginning of the military dictatorship, during which some few private schools started to make fortunes over monthly fees of US$ 2,000 per student.
Maybe those 17 heroes have never heard about Adolf Eichmann, but somehow they refused to be like him. It is possible that they finally realized that their dreams of becoming a source of security and tranquility for their own people were suffocated by the oligarchies who won’t move an inch back on keeping control.
But they are showing that, despite the usual brutality used by Brazilian police on democratic protests, there are people inside the uniforms. People who can think about the consequences of whatever they are doing, and who can take decisions. People who bring a glimpse of hope for Brazil, as it might become a country where “all power belongs to the people”, as its own constitution states. It seems to be common sense in Brazil that the future relies on education. It certainly does. And it also relies on policemen who can think about their own acts.
Chances are that none of those 17 men will ever read these lines. Well, chances are that I’ll never get to know their names. But those are heroes. The kind of heroes that Brazil desperately needs.