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One month after winning the Brazilian presidential elections with 55% of the votes, Jair Bolsonaro has already confirmed what many feared. Already during his electoral campaign, in fact, the ultra-right wing leader of the Partido Social Liberal announced his will to clean Brazilian higher education from the bad Western influences.
Those threats are quickly turning into reality. According to different news sources, some professors have been arrested by the military police upon accusation of “brainwashing” students with subjects like “gender studies” or “fake news”. Students are encouraged to denounce professors who speak out against the president. To this aim, an anonymous phone line has been set up. Teaching materials are being confiscated as well, on the presumption that they contain propaganda and false information on Brazil’s political history. One of the main targets of this attack is Paulo Freire, one of the most famous Brazilian authors, who wrote in 1968 Pedagogy of the Oppressed.
Bolsonaro has also announced a cut-saving measure consisting in merging the Higher Education Ministry with the Ministry for Science, Technology, Innovation and Communication. This is a risk for the country’s research sector, which has so far been quite prominent in the region.
This measures taste like a bitter déjà-vu. About 50 years ago, in fact, the country underwent a heavy dictatorship which lasted from 1964 until 1985 and during which many students and professors were killed for their leftist ideas. This is what scares the Brazilian academic world the most right now. By consequence, a number of protests have taken place across different Brazilian citizens.
On 26 November, Ricardo Velez Rodriguez has been appointed Minister of Education and he will start his office in January. Velez Rodrigues is a conservative Catholic philosopher and theologian, famous for being a strong opponent to the “Marxist ideology”.