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Police in Sao Paulo
Police in Sao Paulo
Clóvis Rossi

SAO PAULO — During my time in the early 1980s as a correspondent for Folha de S. Paulo in Buenos Aires, I covered more demonstrations of the “Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo” — and then of the “Grandmothers” — than I could count. Brave women, their faces furrowed by time and pain, their heads covered with white scarves, asking for the return of their sons and grandsons who had disappeared under the regime’s repression.

In truth, they had all been killed, but again and again the cries came, “You took them alive, we want them back alive.”

I heard similar shouts in Chile and Uruguay, other countries where the repressive regime’s savagery produced victims on an industrial scale. The dictatorships are gone in these three countries and in the rest of Latin America — with the exception of Cuba — and the cries were gradually replaced by official explanations, and/or by the trial and sentencing of those responsible for the state-sponsored massacres.

So for me it is simply shocking to read that in 2014, in Mexico, the same cry was heard again. “You took them alive, we want them back alive,” shouted parents and friends of the 43 students abducted in September, and missing since then.

The most tragic thing about this story is that instead of "alive," the families of the disappeared students were told this week by the attorney general that they will probably get them back in the form of ashes found in garbage bags in a river.

A sinister pact

Equally tragic is the fact that Brazil seems to be paying little attention to this landmark event for the Mexican democracy — as if Brazil was a haven of safety and there weren’t, here as well as there, a collusion between part of the repressive forces and narcotrafficking.

In a column in El País, Mexican writer and intellectual Enrique Krauze wrote, “Mexico demands a security and judicial system that protects what’s most precious: human life. The unremitting wave of crime not only must be contained, it must be reverted by the legitimate action of the law. Every day that passes, citizens — let down by all the parties, by politicians and politics — sink deeper into despair and hopelessness.”

Writing about Mexico, social scientist Rubén Aguilar Valenzuela on the website Infolatam, might have just as well been referring to Brazil. “In the modern and inclusive Mexico we all desire, the structural weakness of the security and judicial system needs to be overcome. It is an inalienable obligation and a responsibility of the three levels of government as well as society.”

Brazilians must remember the debates of the recent presidential campaign, during which both candidates, Dilma Rousseff and Aécio Neves, promised to get the federal government involved in an area nowadays left to the states — although they are clearly too incompetent to even contain our own “unremitting wave of crime.”

We must insist that these promises are kept. Otherwise, if things continue on their current path, Brazil risks sinking into the state of affairs we now witness in Mexico. Spanish journalist Anatonio Navalón boiled down the stakes to one sentence: “The sinister pact between political corruption and organized crime is deadly for any country.”

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