File: brazil.press.92 The Globe & Mail December 21, 1992 (A1-A2) CYCLE OF VIOLENCE / Jews, homosexuals, migrant workers are the targets of brutality NEO-NAZIS, SKINHEADS ON THE ATTACK IN BRAZIL By Isabel Vincent, South American Bureau, Rio de Janero Brazilian neo-Nazi and skinhead gangs have unleashed a wave of terror against non-white groups and Jews in recent weeks, raising fears of a cycle of violence and counter-violence in one of the world's most racially diverse countries. A string of violent attacks against Jews, homosexuals and racially mixed migrant workers from the country's backward northeast have coicided with a recent wave of similar attacks in Germany and elsewhere in Europe. In cities throughout Brazil, gangs with ties to European neo-Nazis are attacking with greater brutality. In Porto Alegre, in southern Brazil, neo-Nazi groups recently vandalized a Jewish cemetery. In Sao Paulo, the country's most populous city, neo-Nazi gangs are responsible for hundreds of violent attacks in the past few months against homosexuals, Orthodox Jews and northeastern Brazilians, whom they call "sub-human." In grafitti, swastikas have become more numerous and are accompanied by the scrawled declaration, "Blacks, Jews and Northeasterners must die now." Beatings of Jews and northeasterners have become so rampant and have so alarmed legislators in Sao Paulo that the state government recently set up its first formal inquiry into neo-Nazi activities. "There have always been extreme right-wing groups in Brazil, but we're very worried that something big is about to happen, and we want to stop it before it blows up," said entrepreneur Sami Goldstein, administrative director of Rio's Israeli Religious Organization. Although Mr. Goldstein said the violence does not appear to be ideologically driven, his group is taking precautions. Mr. Goldstein's synagogue in a middle-class neighborhood in Rio has been vandalized and received several bomb threats from callers identifying themselves as part of the White Power group, the country's best-organized and most violent neo-Nazi organization. It claims more than 1,000 members in Sao Paulo, a headquarters of sorts for neo-Nazi groups in Brazil. To counter the violence, Mr. Goldstein and other targeted groups have decided to take matters into their own hands and form defense patrols. Mr. Goldstein said his association is organizing groups of young Jewish volunteers to provide security at synagogues during festivities and to check regularly for bombs. "In terms of security we are on our own," said Mr. Goldstein, adding that he cannot count on the understaffed Rio police department to stop racial violence in a city already beset by serious crime. "The only thing we can do is fight the Carecas (skinheads) on our own. We must cut the organization off at the root, and if that means using violence to counter violence, we're prepared for that," said Arcelio Faria Jose, a spokesman for the national black organization Articulacao National de Negros. Mr. Faria Jose said his groups will be meeting representatives from the Jewish and northeastern communities shortly to come up with a collective strategy to counter the attacks. In a country with one of the world's richest ethnic and cultural mixes, where more than 40 per cent of the population is either black or mulatto, the surge of white supremacy might seem surprising. But it comes at a time when Brazil is reeling from its worst economic and political crisis in generations. Inflation is 25 per cent a month and unemployment has been at 15 per cent for the past year. Morale is low, especially among the middle class from which the militant right-wing groups draw most of their members. White Power, which has ties to the Ku Klux Klan, and the skinheads preach a Brazilian nationalism and Aryan racial "purity" that would see the extermination of Jews, blacks, homosexuals and northeasterners. Gang members, who are all male with shaved heads, carry machetes and switchblades and say they are against drugs and alcohol. "We're not racist. We just don't like Jews because they behave like foreigners in our country," said 22-year-old skinhead and unemployed metal-worker Chacal in an interview in the newsweekly Veja. "The foreigners are taking all of our jobs. That's why we have to get rid of them." Brazilian historian Aspasia Camargo said the attitude reflects the motivation behind the recent attacks in Germany. In Europe, the neo-Nazis are lashing out at immigrants from the impoverished countries such as Turkey and Algeria. In Brazil, they are striking against impoverished northeasterers, who have been flooding the cities in search of work. "In Brazil, Germany and Grance, neo-Nazi violence is a reaction against a fear of becoming poor or allowing the poor to take your space in society. We see it in France with the Algerians, who are now disputing with the whites for work. In Europe and now in South America, the neo-Nazis are groups of unemployed youths threatened by the fear of outsiders," Ms. Camargo said. Although they are not represented by a political party in Brazil, many skinhead groups preach a return to morality and decency in politics.
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