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News > Brazil

Brazilian Universities Reject Budget Cuts to Science, Education

  • Brazilian college students demonstrate against President Jair Bolsonaro in Sao Paulo, Brazil, May 8, 2019.

    Brazilian college students demonstrate against President Jair Bolsonaro in Sao Paulo, Brazil, May 8, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 10 May 2019

Students, teachers and researchers demonstrated against President Jair Bolsonaro's policies in Sao Paulo, Niteroi, Curitiba, Porto Alegre, Recife and Natal.

A few days before the May 15 nationwide strike against social security reforms, Brazilian teachers, students and researchers held the 'Scientific March Against Budget Cuts and Education Dismantling" across the nation.

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The Brazilian academic community was reacting to a Wednesday announcement by President Jair Bolsonaro's administration announcing it will "block" 30 percent of the national budget already allocated to federal universities and research institutes.

The rapid response to authorities by students in Sao Paulo, Niteroi, Curitiba, Porto Alegre, Recife and Natal was unprecedented. According to Brazil de Fat, about 3,000 people gathered Thursday along the Paulista Avenue in Sao Paulo where the headquarters of the secretary of the presidency is located.

"[The budget cut] is a disaster now and will be worse in the future. Our country will remain underdeveloped and miserable, selling raw materials and buying technology," Mariana Moura, an energy scientist at the University of Sao Paulo said. She added that budget cuts in research & development (R&D) will seriously affect the Brazilian economy.

"Photojournalism is socializing, humanizing and philosophizing this week’s student demonstrations in Brazil.” The banners read: "At the beginning of every disaster film, there are scientists being ignored," "The government wants to overthrow education because education overthrows governments," "I will kill education, dig it," "If you are rich, you hire a lawyer. If you are very rich, you hire a judge. If you are stealing a country, you hire the Supreme Federal Court."

In Natal, the Brazilian Society for the Progress of Science (SBPC) held free open lectures, scientific shows and artistic activities. In Recife, the deans of the city's five public universities announced a series of upcoming protests. Over 10,000 people joined a march in Niteroi never before seen of that magnitude.

It was also announced that the Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel (Capes) will suspended scholarships for masters and doctorate students throughout the country in a new austerity policy that will negatively impact students of all disciplines.

"How are we going to produce more and improve our economy?" Keully Leal, a private university student asked, saying, "now we understand how [Bolsonaro's government] dismantles everything."

"Across the country, hundreds of students have assembled against Bolsonaro's education-related budget cuts. The student movement and its unstoppable force need to stand at the worker's side and against the social security reform too."

The far-right government's fiscal policies prompted a meeting between Brazilian progressive political forces.

"Education must be a public, continuous, and stable project that will be never left to the whim of chaninging government policies. ... Education is the society's fundamental investment and each individual's safest bet. This is so even in times of adversity. This does not allow for political differences," stated the "In Defense of Education" manifesto jointly signed by the Socialism and Freedom Party (PSOL), the Worker’s Party, the Brazilian Socialist Party, and the Communist Party.

Thursday, seven former Brazilian environment ministers, who served under governments that had different political ideologies, spread a manifesto questioning Bolsonaro's remarkable disinterest to protect the Amazon, the world's biggest tropical forest and basin.

"We are witnessing a series of unprecedented actions that deplete the environmental ministry’s capacity for policy design and practice" the manifesto reads. The document says the Bolsonaro administration is destroying more than 40 years of struggles to protect and conserve the vast ecological basin.

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