On Thursday (06/04), Justice Minister Flávio Dino sent an order for the Federal Police (PF) to open an inquiry to investigate Nazi and neo-Nazi organizations in Brazil. Minister Dino said that there are indications that there is an interstate performance of these types of organizations. The minister also informed that the PF should investigate crimes such as racism and apology for Nazism. The topic has moved to the focus of security forces due to the discovery of Nazi and neo-Nazi cells in the country, in addition to the increase in hate crimes, such as cases of attacks in schools. Many of the perpetrators of these attacks have shown connection with extremist ideas, far-right movements or even boasted direct reference to Nazism.
Dino said that there are indications that there is an interstate performance of these types of organizations, thus, the PF should investigate crimes such as racism and apology for Nazism across the country.
Cell in Santa Catarina
In November 2022, Santa Catarina Civil Police discovered the existence of a branch of an international white supremacy group in Brazil. According to investigations, the group had a plan to implant a radical white supremacy cell in Brazil. Ten men were arrested.
According to the investigations, the suspects were responsible for recruiting young people who participated in other cells, through invitations and selections made over the internet.
Attacks in Schools
Among the factors behind Dino’s decision, there is a series of six attacks in schools during the past 12 months. This number represents a large part of the 17 attacks of this nature that were reported in the country in the past two decades. The quickly increasing frequency of this kind of action sounded an alarm in the government.
The two most recent attacks took place within a bit more than a week one from another. The first took place on 27 March at the Thomazia Montoro State School, in the Vila Sônia neighborhood, in São Paulo, leaving a teacher dead and four people injured. The second occurred on 5 April, at a day care center in Blumenau, Santa Catarina, leaving at least four children dead.
Everyone Meet Online
Reports indicate that the internet is the meeting point for all sorts of extremists, such as neo-Nazis, and the perpetrators of the attacks against schools. The deep web and forums where people can remain anonymous is normally where they share information, motivate each other, and even help to plan attacks.
In 2022, the Nazi cells that communicate over the internet more than doubled in the country, jumping from 530 in October 2021 to 1,117 in November 2022.
Experts say that even though sometimes the attackers do not identify themselves as neo-Nazis, the symbols, references and ideas are shared among them. However, sometimes, the reference is quite direct. In November 2022, in the city of Aracruz, Espírito Santo, the son of a police officer attacked two schools, killing three teachers and a kid. He wore military attire, a swastika on his arm and a skull mask, all far-right and neo-Nazi symbols.
A survey carried out by the NGO Anti-Defamation League (ADL) in 2022 concluded that Brazil is the country where the number of far-right groups grows the most, especially in the states of São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul. According to the study, most of these groups (137) are found in São Paulo, with most of them concentrated in the capital, with 51 cells.
According to the data, there were more than 530 extremist groups in the country in the first months of 2022, against 334 cells that were identified in 2019. They were present in 249 cities in 2021 and in 2022 they were found in 298. Their presence is confirmed in 22 states and the Federal District. State with the largest black population in Brazil, Bahia has four cells. Largest city in the country, São Paulo has 96 cells. In second place in the ranking comes Blumenau (SC), with 63, followed by Curitiba, with 50.
The advance of neo-Nazism in Brazil can be associated to the rise of the extreme right around the world and local movements. In the United States, Donald Trump has been pointed as an important driver for this phenomenon, and in Hungary, it is Viktor Orbán. In Brazil, Nazism is now punished based on the Racial Crimes Law, and the penalty can reach five years in prison. There is debate, however, whether the legislation is clear enough. The text provides that it is a crime to manufacture, market, distribute or convey symbols, emblems, ornaments, badges, or propaganda that use the swastika or swastika cross, for the purposes of disseminating Nazism. Three bills are pending in the Senate to increase the punishment to eight years and criminalize apology for Nazism, the practice of Nazi salutes and the denial, justification, or approval of the Holocaust. According to specialists, there is still a lack of training and a better understanding of the norms in the police, Prosecutor’s Office and the Judiciary.