Translation of a statement from the Brazilian Society for Scientific Progress (SBPC):
SBPC protests in the strongest possible terms against the judicial and police actions that led to the detention of managers, ex-managers and academics at the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG) on 6 December, in an operation to investigate alleged embezzlement in the construction of the Political Amnesty Memorial in Brazil. The police action has left the academic community at UFMG – and indeed the whole country – in shock at the way in which it was carried out. There can be no justification for the use of force without a due summons, nor for the disregard of the rights, as citizens, of the Rector and Vice-Rectors, and other UFMG directors and staff. Turning judicial actions into a show is not compatible with a democratic society. It is an attack on individual dignity and rights, and could lead to a priori judgement and unjust condemnation. Actions like those that took place previously at the Federal University of Santa Catarina (UFSC), and recently at UFMG, are taking us back to the times of the dictatorship, against which the SBPC fought determinedly, alongside so many Brazilians.
The SBPC recognises that it is the role and the duty of the judicial apparatus and the organs of security in Brazil to investigate any irregularities in public administration, which should be transparent, and to take appropriate penal action where there are transgressions. But such action should always be conducted legally, without political influence and in accordance with the principles of justice and the precepts of the Brazilian constitution. They should not attack people’s honour and dignity, nor the good name of public institutions. Such abuse of power – and overstepping of their own functions – by the authorities cannot happen in a democratic state and should be duly investigated, if and when it occurs.The recent measures taken against Brazilian public universities, such as UFSC and UFMG, are examples of this, and rather than indicating a desire to combat the real, deep-seated problems of this country, point to motives of a completely different nature. In the way in which they have been executed, they are an assault on the democratic state and detrimentally affect those public institutions that, for decades, have made an important contribution to the social and economic development of Brazil. The public universities are essential instruments in qualifying people in all areas of knowledge, including science and technology. They are the property of the Brazilian people and should be preserved and improved still further, and certainly not dismantled.
SBPC, to which about 140 scientific societies are affiliated, stands in solidarity with many other bodies in civil society in demanding that the highest authorities in our country, in the Legislature, the Executive (especially the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Transparency and Budgetary Control) and the Judiciary (in particular the National Council for Justice, the Public Prosecutor’s Office for the Republic, and the Federal Supreme Tribunal) ensure that actions undertaken by agents of the law always follow the rule of law and the precepts of the constitution, especially as regards both the rights of individuals and the institutions of the Republic. In particular, SBPC stands in solidarity with the UFMG community and the communities of other universities that have been affected, and it appeals not only to the scientific and academic community, but to the whole of Brazilian society, to stay vigilant and alert in defence of democracy and of our public teaching and research institutions.
São Paulo, 7 December 2017