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The Globe & Mail
December 21, 1992 (A1-A2)

CYCLE OF VIOLENCE / Jews, homosexuals, migrant workers are the targets of


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

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

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

"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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