By Ben Tavener, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Since São Paulo deputy Marco Feliciano was elected as president of Brazil’s Human Rights and Minorities Commission, or CDHM, he has gained notoriety throughout the country over accusations that he made racist, homophobic, and misogynist statements. These statements sparked protests in over forty cities in Brazil demanding that he be removed from the role.
Feliciano, a member of the PSC, or Partido Social Cristão (Christian Social Party) was voted in by the Commission with a margin of eleven to eighteen on March 7th and, following further debates, it was decided on March 26th that he would keep his position. However, it was reported that attempts to convince Feliciano to step down would continue.
Despite its size, the PSC, has two members on the Commission, whereas the far bigger Partido do Movimento Democrático Brasileiro (Brazilian Democratic Movement Party) and Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira (Brazilian Social Democracy Party) are not represented.
While he has enjoyed general support from his party and Conservative Christian groups, others question whether Feliciano’s views on minorities make him the best choice for Brazil’s top human rights official. In part because in 2011, Feliciano took to Twitter to say that people of African descent were cursed. “The curse which Noah threw on his grandson, Canaan, spilled on the African continent, hence the famine, pestilence, disease, ethnic wars.”
The latest protests calling for his resignation have seen vigils and the burning of effigies in front of government buildings in Brasília. There have also been protests in support of his role and Feliciano has spoken of his determination to stay, saying he has the assurances of the Commission.
However, even members of his own party have turned against him after he said the Commission was previously “ruled by devils”: Commission vice-president and fellow PSC member Antônia Lúcia announced her intention to resign in protest.
The President of the Chamber of Deputies Henrique Eduardo Alves has weighed into the debate, saying that the CDHM, given its importance, cannot remain at this “untenable” impasse. Political analysts believe the fact that the CHDM has not functioned since the election will act as a key arguing point for those wishing to remove him from the position.
Maria do Socorro Sousa Braga, a political scientist at the Federal University of São Carlos (UFSCar) in São Paulo state, believes the fact that he was elected at all “shows a certain disinterest among parliamentarians for the CDHM.”
“[It is] owing to the difficult questions that now have to be answered that are so divisive for the electorate,” she tells The Rio Times, adding she does not believe Feliciano’s position is tenable for much longer, as the forces against him are much stronger.
A major cross-group protest, led by LGBT and anti-racism activists, has been called for April 7th: organizers hope to fill São Paulo’s central Avenida Paulista with protesters. Some celebrities and bands have joined calls for Feliciano to step down: singer-presenter Xuxa branded the pastor “a monster”.
Oscar-nominated actor Fernanda Montenegro kissed fellow actor Camila Amado at an awards ceremony in Rio in protest to the pastor’s homophobic views. Also rapper Criolo used his performance at music festival Lollapalooza in Rio de Janeiro to show his support for the “Fora, Feliciano!” (“Feliciano, Out!”) campaign.
First registered in 1990, the PSC currently has sixteen members in deputy roles around the country, including two in Rio state, and was part of a broad coalition of parties that backed Dilma Rousseff in the 2010 presidential elections.
However the saga ends, some are predicting a surge of support for the PSC at the next countrywide elections, as protests – for and against – have provided the pastor with much greater publicity than he would otherwise have had.