Monthly Archives: April 2013

TAM Airbus A330-223. Photo by Flickr CCL/lrargerich.

TAM Airbus A330-223. Photo by Flickr CCL/lrargerich

After months of waiting, I have finally been granted a permanent visa and now have a date for my return to Brazil.

From 10 May I will be living in São Paulo, a city that I’ve visited but never lived in. I will probably be located in the Butantã area, near the city’s world famous university, USP – often ranked the best in Latin America.

I will be continuing as a freelance journalist, with a three-month hiatus later on in 2013, when I will be heading to the southern part of the Amazon, in Mato Grosso state, to work as a wildlife guide at Cristalino Jungle Lodge – an opportunity I just couldn’t pass up, and one you’re going to hear lots more about.

Excitement from international news outlets for Brazil and news there is now growing even faster, with the run-up to the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016. The FIFA Confederations Cup this June will certainly help warm things up.

UPDATE: My new local mobile (cell) phone number in São Paulo will be +55 (0)11 987778890.

UPDATE: A ruling by Brazil’s National Judiciary Council (CNJ) now means all notaries public (cartórios) throughout Brazil must “celebrate same-sex civil marriage”; those refusing to grant the marriage licences can be reported to the relevant state judiciary, who can take action against these individuals.


The State of Rio High Court, the Justiça, last week approved so-called “direct authorisation” of same-sex civil marriages, making Rio one of eleven states which have approved gay marriage in Brazil, including São Paulo and the Federal District.

Cláudio Nascimento (left), coordinator of Rio Sem Homofobia (Rio Without Homophobia), seen here at his own civil marriage, said Rio should celebrate the decision. Photo courtesy Governo do RJ.

Cláudio Nascimento (left), coordinator of Rio Sem Homofobia, seen here at his own civil marriage in 2011, said Rio should celebrate the decision. Photo courtesy Governo do RJ.

However, there is uncertainty over whether judges in certain areas of Rio state, particularly in the capital itself, will give permission to such marriages.

Judge Valmir de Oliveira Silva, Magistrate General of Rio State High Court, who presided over the change, told Agência Brasil news agency that the revision was now in force, and that same-sex couples would no longer need to first have a stable union (união estável) to convert to a civil marriage, which is already possible.

While notaries public (cartórios) across the state should now allow same-sex couples to apply for civil marriages, the state will likely see divisions over which judges authorise them: in Rio city itself, judges have argued against such authorisations.

However judges in other districts, such as São Gonçalo, Petrópolis and Teresópolis, are said to be in favour, and notaries public would probably no longer have to submit each request to the judge, in line with general practice with heterosexual marriages. If no challenge to the marriage is made within fifteen days of publication, the couple is considered married.

Previous calls from Brazil’s Supreme Court for judges to allow stable unions to be converted into civil marriages have been disputed by Rio judges, citing the Constitution’s definition of marriage as between a man and a woman; those in favour, however, point to clauses in the Constitution on equality before the law.

Cláudio Nascimento, coordinator of the state’s Rio Sem Homofobia (Rio Without Homophobia) program, described the approval as “a step forward that we should celebrate.” But others slammed the fact that marriage licences would depend on the local judge’s take on the law, meaning clients in one area of Rio would be successful, whereas others would be refused – simply based on address.

However, others have condemned the move – either from an anti-gay marriage point of view, or from more militant gay activists, such as deputy Jean Wyllys, who attacked the decision as one of “absurd inequality,” which had “missed a historic opportunity” to grant true equality to those members of the LGBT community who want to enter into a civil marriage.

Read the full article on The Rio Times website.

CNIg deferido page, Ben Tavener

“DEFERIDO” (“granted”, not “deferred”) was the magic word I had so long been waiting for. Immigration processes are all transparent and freely accessible online – anyone can see migrants’ applications.

It has finally happened.

After over a year of gathering documents, filling in forms, lawyers, judges and a lot of waiting, I have finally been granted a permanent visa, the Brazilian equivalent of the UK’s “indefinite leave to remain”, in accordance with the now-famous Resolução Normativa 77, a piece of legislation from 2008 that granted “stable partners” a raft of new rights, including the opportunity to bring their partner to Brazil on a temporary or permanent visa, regardless of gender.

The law allows a Brazilian to bring their “stable partner”, i.e. in an união estável (“stable union”) – less than “married”, but with many of the legal rights and safeguards, regardless of gender, into Brazil to live, work and stay.

Full marriage would have made the process much simpler, but we were not ready for that (and gay marriage had not been introduced in any states at that point) and were happy with the união estável solution, which appeared simple. In essence it is, but there have been many unforeseeable hurdles and we have come up against more than our fair share of useless people.

One of the big problems is that an união estável is easy to do – you walk into a cartório (legal registry office), pay R$90 or whatever it was, and you are partners – with many legal rights, including pensions and – now – immigration rights for your partner.

However, the fact that it is easily obtained means that if you wish to bring your partner into the country, you must supplement this união estável with other documents, and in some cases an audience with a judge, to back up the claim you’re asserting that you are a couple – and not just trying to get into Brazil on a “visa of convenience” for work or whatever else.

However, many of these documents have to be of a certain “age” – at least one or two years old. Some of the documents are rather “catch 22”, such as having a joint bank account: we couldn’t open one without me having the appropriate visa. Some of the documents were too big for us – joint mortgages, joint property…

deferido closer, ben tavener

For a number of reasons, mainly incorrect advice from a number of sources (even some official advice was wrong), we did not take out the easier documents – a will, life insurance – at an earliest stage in proceedings, and this demanded a more difficult solution – the legal trump card.

This trump card is an application to the local federal or family court to get a judge to vouch for you as a couple – for this, he or she looks into your relationship – with all the supporting documents (photos, statements, plane tickets, etc.) that you can muster. Then an audience of your friends is called for them to vouch for you, your status as a couple and your reason for wanting a permanent visa.

If the judge is satisfied, you get a document that goes to along with your application. This more or less forces the Immigration Service’s hand.

However, this takes time, and our our first, useless lawyer messed up proceedings in spectacular – initially not even lodging the application for a number of months, and then asking for the wrong document from the judge. In the time, thinking that the application was moving on, I decided not to renew my temporary visa – which could have been renewed for another year – and came back to Brazil after a summer break on a tourist visa.

We then discovered the application still had not been made and forced the lawyer to do his job. Luckily, we soon found a better, specialist lawyer to take over the case.

But the process took a long time: from August 2012 when it was initiated lodged with the judge, we finally got the document we needed in February 2013. By this point, my tourist visa had run out and I was stuck outside Brazil.

With an array of documents, plus our judge-signed trump card, I applied to Brasília and, to give them credit, my application for a permanent visa was authorised in a little over a month, and the word DEFERIDO (“granted”) finally appears on my application – all of which are visible to the public.

Now, once authorisation has reached the Brazilian Consulate in London, I can finally apply for the permanent visa that goes in my passport – for the princely sum of £160 (plus a reciprocal fee of £124).

That is the final step allowing me to return to my life in Brazil – return to a new chapter, as I will be living in São Paulo and not Curitiba.

Please get in touch if you would like information about the specialist lawyer that helped me in my visa authorisation application and court audience.

To mark the start of the trial, students at the University of São Paulo give a poignant reminder of the number of prisoners killed in the massacre, photo by Marcelo Camargo/ABr.

To mark the start of the trial, São Paulo University (USP) students give a poignant reminder of the 111 prisoners killed in the massacre, photo by Marcelo Camargo/ABr.

Over twenty years after the infamous massacre in São Paulo’s Carandiru prison, in which a police operation to quell a riot left over a hundred prisoners dead, the first of 79 officers are to be put on trial for their involvement.

The trial of 26 officers over the murder of fifteen inmates will now begin on 15 April, after it was adjourned following complications with a jury member.

On 2 October 1992, officers were sent into Carandiru prison to stop a riot that had broken out after a fight between rival gangs escalated; the ensuing carnage left at least 111 prisoners dead, most of which were shot dead by police, many at point-blank range.

The new case will be held in at least four stages, and if found guilty, those accused could face between twelve and thirty years’ imprisonment.

O Globo newspaper drew attention to the fact that at least eight of the first 26 defendants are still on active police service, and many others have continued high-ranking civil servant careers.

To date the only person to face trial over the massacre was Colonel Ubiratan Guimarães, who led the operation; he was subsequently killed in what was officially recorded as an unrelated attack.

The rise of the First Command of the Capital, or PCC – a major criminal group operating inside São Paulo’s prisons, which was recently linked to revenge killings on police officers, supposedly in retaliation for the murder of PCC members – has been linked directly to events at Carandiru.

Chronic overcrowding was identified as one of the main contributing factors to the grisly death toll at Carandiru: the 3,500-capacity facility – Latin America’s biggest at the time – was reportedly housing between 7,000 and 10,000 inmates at the time of the massacre.

The case was not taken to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which labelled officers’ actions as “brutal and savage,” on the condition that prison overcrowding be reduced.

Yet just days before the new trial, Agência Estado news agency reported that the São Paulo prison population had exceeded 200,000 – more than double the total in 2001 – and that a third of prisons in the state were now even more overcrowded than Carandiru was in 1992.

Read the full article on The Rio Times website.

Ever since São Paulo deputy and Christian Social Party (PSC) member Marco Feliciano was elected as president of Brazil’s Human Rights and Minorities Commission (CDHM), he has gained notoriety throughout the country over accusations that he made racist, homophobic and misogynist statements, which sparked protests in over forty cities in Brazil, and other countries including the US and France, demanding that he be removed from the role.

Protest against Marco Feliciano. Photo by José Cruz/ABr.

Protest against Marco Feliciano have spread to 43 cities in Brazil and as far abroad as Berlin and Paris. Photo by José Cruz/ABr.

Feliciano was voted in by the Commission with eleven votes of a possible 18 (only twelve took part in the end) on 7 March and, following further debates, it was decided on 26 March that he would keep his position.

However, it was reported that attempts to convince Feliciano to step down would continue, including by Henrique Eduardo Alves, President of the Chamber of Deputies, who has weighed into the debate, saying that the CDHM, given its importance, cannot remain at this “untenable” impasse.

Despite its size, the PSC has two members on the Commission, whereas the far bigger Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB) and Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB) 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 and has also made many comments seen as extremely offensive by sexual minorities and atheists.

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.

Commentators believe his position is untenable and if he does not resign, he will have to be removed from office as the Commission has not functioned in any meaningful way since the controversial election.

Read the full article on The Rio Times website.