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BRAZIL: Former Senator and long-term BIG activist arrested for protesting the eviction of poor people

Former Senator Eduardo Suplicy, has been arrested in Sao Paolo for protesting the eviction of poor people from “favelas.”

Updated – 13:00 CET

A favela is a Brazilian term for a shantytown—it is a place where people live if they have nowhere else to go. Partly in anticipation of the upcoming Olympics, Brazilian authorities have been evicting people from favela—  often to make way for businesses and for housing for more advantaged individuals.

Suplicy has campaigned for Basic Income for decades. He particular he is reknonew for having succeeded in making the right to basic income part of the Brazilian constitution in 2004.

“Almost 350 families were occupying this area which belongs to the Municipality of São Paulo. The protest began at dawn and residents set up barricades with mattresses and woods on the entrance to the area,” explained Katarina Pitasse Fragoso, a spokesperson for the Eduardo Suplicy.

Suplicy’s son, Supla, said that he has been able to speak with Suplicy who said that he is well. Police authorities said that the former senator was arrested obstructing and resisting arrest, lying on the ground to prevent the policy from performing the evictions.

The following videos show Suplicy lying down in protest and then being carried away by police:

“His imprisonment was mostly symbolic”

“Suplicy tried to support these people through his presence which he thought would deter the police. His imprisonment was mostly symbolic – he was allowed to leave after three hours. He is nevertheless still accused of civil disobedience. So there are going to be clear legal repercussions” Katarina Pitasse Fragoso said.

“Politically, the repercussions are less clear. The pictures of Suplicy’s imprisonment spread in all the media, and this media attention was certainly greater than it would have been in the absence of the arrest. Viewed through this lens, Suplicy achieved his purpose of drawing attention to the wider social problem of evictions. In a way, he lost the battle, but might still win the wider political war on this topic. We, therefore, might not need to be too sad today but have hope that this event will be politically useful in the long-run.”

Josh Martin, of the Basic Income Earth Network, responded: “This arrest illustrates why Suplicy has been a hero to the Basic Income movement. His lifetime activism stems from a deep concern with the world’s most disadvantaged people.” Guy Standing, of the University of London, said, “I can imagine him singing ‘Blowin’ in the wind’ as they dragged him away. He is right to protest at the loss of social values in contemporary Brazil as it opts for eventism over basic human needs.”

For additional information see the following two articles

In English:
AM Post “Suplicy is held in protest against repossession in the West Zone Sao Paolo,” AM Post, 25/07/2016

In Portuguese:
Pedro Willmersdorf “Vídeo mostra Eduardo Suplicy sendo carregado por policiais durante reintegração de posse em SP,” Extra, 25/07/16

Suplicy é carregado por policiais durante protesto em reintegração de posse em SP.

Suplicy being carried by police during protest in Sao Paolo during repossession. By

About Karl Widerquist

Karl Widerquist has written 952 articles.

Karl Widerquist is an Associate Professor of political philosophy at SFS-Qatar, Georgetown University, specializing in distributive justice—the ethics of who has what. Much of his work involves Universal Basic Income (UBI). He is a co-founder of the U.S. Basic Income Guarantee Network (USBIG). He served as co-chair of the Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN) for 7 years, and now serves as vice-chair. He was the Editor of the USBIG NewsFlash for 15 years and of the BIEN NewsFlash for 4 years. He is a cofounder of BIEN’s news website, Basic Income News, the main source of just-the-facts reporting on UBI worldwide. He is a cofounder and editor of the journal Basic Income Studies, the only academic journal devoted to research on UBI. Widerquist has published several books and many articles on UBI both in academic journals and in the popular media. He has appeared on or been quoted by many major media outlets, such as NPR’s On Point, NPR’s Marketplace, PRI’s the World, CNBC, Al-Jazeera, 538, Vice, Dissent, the New York Times, Forbes, the Financial Times, and the Atlantic Monthly, which called him “a leader of the worldwide basic income movement.” Widerquist holds two doctorates—one in Political Theory form Oxford University (2006) and one in Economics from the City University of New York (1996). He has published seven books, including Prehistoric Myths in Modern Political Philosophy (Edinburgh University Press 2017, coauthored by Grant S. McCall) and Independence, Propertylessness, and Basic Income: A Theory of Freedom as the Power to Say No (Palgrave Macmillan 2013). He has published more than a twenty scholarly articles and book chapters. Most Karl Widerquist’s writing is available on his “Selected Works” website ( More information about him is available on his BIEN profile and on Wikipedia. He writes the blog "the Indepentarian" for Basic Income News.

The views expressed in this Op-Ed piece are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the view of Basic Income News or BIEN. BIEN and Basic Income News do not endorse any particular policy, but Basic Income News welcomes discussion from all points of view in its Op-Ed section.

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