Report of a Gang-Rape in Rio de Janeiro Shocks Brazil

BRASÍLIA — Shortly after midnight on Wednesday, 20-year-old Michel Brasil da Silva uploaded a 30-second clip to Twitter, accompanied by the words: “They smashed the chick. Do you get it or do you not get it? lol”

The clip showed an undressed, unconscious woman lying on a bare mattress. She was being filmed by two men, both fully dressed, who took turns manhandling and mocking her.

“This one just got knocked up by 30 guys,” one of them says.

“Check out the state she’s in. Bleeding,” says the other, directing the camera toward her visibly injured genitals. At one point, the man positioned his head next to the unresponsive woman’s buttocks, stuck out his tongue, and took a selfie.

The footage set off a firestorm on social media and brought national attention to the reported gang-rape of a 16-year-old by as many as 33 men in Rio de Janeiro over the weekend — a crime the police had no knowledge of until social media users contacted them en masse.

Rio de Janeiro’s Public Prosecutor’s Office had received some 800 tips within hours of the short clip and selfie going online, according to news site G1. By Wednesday evening, the Prosecutor’s Office had launched an investigation and said it had identified the victim. In herstatement to police, obtained by Brazilian magazine Veja, the minor said that she’d met up with Lucas Perdomo Duarte Santos, a 19-year-old classmate she’d been dating for three years, at his house around 1 a.m. on Saturday. They were alone, according to the victim.

The next thing she remembers, she said, is waking up on Sunday. She was naked, drugged, and surrounded by 33 armed men, in a house she did not recognize.

The acts recorded in the video occurred one day after the reported gang-rape of another teenager — a 17-year-old allegedly victimized by five teenagers she knew, in the northeastern state of Piauí.

The confidence with which the Rio suspects boasted about what had just taken place, coupled with their decision to not only record, but disseminate, incriminating evidence, has prompted a vigorous discussion here about sexism, violence against women and impunity.

“This case has rattled Brazilians,” said Vanessa Dios, a researcher at the Brasília-based feminist institute Anis. She added that the irrefutable visual proof has kept more familiar responses to rape cases in Brazil from taking hold, such as “I don’t think that’s what really happened,” and “the girl is probably exaggerating.”

“Even so,” Dios said, “many people responded to the footage with justifications” that the victim had brought this on herself. “The day-to-day culture of codifying women’s bodies persists in Brazil. They are constantly given signals to what constitutes acceptable behavior. Among men, the notion that they are allowed to touch and grab women without permission endures.”

By the time his Twitter account was suspended, Silva had already retweeted a deluge of replies to his uploaded video — a characteristic one being, “They wrecked that one’s body hahahahahahahahaha the train ripped her hard.” In response to those who told him to take the footage down, Silva wrote, “People see worst stuff in this [expletive] and don’t complain. Just because I posted the chick’s video they now wanna talk crap. [Expletive] it… The video stays. If it bothers you, don’t follow me.”

Silva did not respond to several attempts to reach him by phone. A Facebook profile widely attributed to him by social media users who have attempted to crowdsource information about the crime has been taken offline.

On Thursday, Cybercrime Police Department Sheriff Alessandro Thiers lodged a judicial request to have four suspects arrested, Veja reported. The magazine names them as Silva, the 20-year-old who uploaded the video, Marcelo Miranda da Cruz Corrêa, 18, who also circulated footage of the crime, Raphael Assis Duarte Belo, 41, who allegedly appeared in the clip and took a selfie with the victim’s body, and Santos, the victim’s romantic interest, whom police suspect of direct involvement in the gang-rape.

“What we have in Brazil is a cultural stew of sexism and sexual violence,” Congressman Marcelo Freixo, president of the Human Rights Commission of Rio de Janeiro, said in a telephone interview. According to Freixo, Rio de Janeiro registered 4,725 rapes in 2014 — an average of 13 per day. “We can’t say that we live in a democratic country with rates of sexual violence like these,” Freixo said. “We’re talking about a city that’s about to host the Olympics.”

Freixo on Wednesday accompanied the victim to her first medical exam since the attack. He later announced that the commission will monitor the investigation and make sure that the victim receives psychological support.

“It’s a systemic issue, not confined to one economic class or the other,” he said, regarding rape cases across the country. “And there are politicians who get elected thanks to hate speech.”

Though Freixo didn’t mention him by name, Congress Jair Balsonaro, who represents Rio, has built a reputation for spouting off avowedly anti-feminist and anti-LGBT comments. In 2014, Balsonaro told a fellow congresswoman that he’d never rape her because she didn’t deserve it. In April, he dedicated his vote in favor of impeaching now-suspended President Dilma Rousseff to her “boogeyman,” the colonel who oversaw the torture she endured as a young activist during Brazil’s dictatorship.

Bolsonaro was the most-voted Rio de Janeiro candidate for congress in the 2014 election.

On the same weekend that the Rio teenager was reportedly gang-raped, a 17-year-old girl was found bound and gagged in Bom Jesus, a city in the northern state of Piauí. The victim and the suspects — five teenage boys — knew each other, and socialized on the night of the attack. The crime in Piauí came almost a year to the day after a similar tragedy stunned the state: four teenage girls were gang-raped, beaten and thrown off a cliff. One of them died.

But news of the Rio and Piauí crimes reverberated across social media on Thursday. On Twitter, the hashtag #EstuproNuncaMais (#RapeNeverAgain in English) trended worldwide. On Facebook, São Paulo-based artists Luciana Fernandes and Beatriz Rezende mobilized feminist circles and created Por Todas Elas (For All the Women, in English), a mass protest group with demonstrations now scheduled across five cities.

On Thursday evening, in a Facebook page widely reported across Brazilian media to belong to the Rio victim, she wrote, “Thank you for everyone’s support. I had honestly expected that I’d be judged harshly.”

Trump to Mario Lopez: ‘My Relationship with Hispanics Is Fantastic’

Entertainment television show EXTRA published the excerpt of a new interview Republican candidate Donald Trump had with co-host Mario Lopez, where the presumptive GOP presidential nominee insisted that his “relationship with Hispanics is fantastic.” In the clip, released online on Wednesday afternoon, Lopez asked Trump about last summer’s anti-Mexican comments that launched his campaign and angered many U.S. Latinos. Here is a transcript of that exchange.

Mario Lopez: “I’m Latino, happen to also be conservative, a child of Mexican immigrants, and when you initially announced, you did so where some people thought there was some harsh rhetoric, maybe disappointed some Hispanics. How do you gain their support and trust?”

Donald Trump: “I know all about your heritage and respect it greatly. My relationship with Hispanics is fantastic. I know so many; so many are friends… they buy apartments from me… they rent apartments from me. I have so many employees that are Hispanic, they are incredible people and the way that people are going to love me is that I’m gonna produce jobs like nobody’s ever produced jobs. We’re gonna take our jobs back from China and we’re gonna take them back from Mexico. We’re gonna have tremendous jobs for Hispanics, for everybody. You may have seen the recent polls; I’m starting to do really well with Hispanics, because they want — especially the ones that are here legally — they have their homes, they have their jobs, they don’t want it taken away…. It’s only gonna better, because I’m gonna produce jobs, and ultimately it’s about the economy, it’s about jobs, Mario.”

Latest polling would counter Trump’s claims that his popularity with Latinos is growing. His best polling performance with Latinos was a recent NBC News/Survey Monkey poll that had Trump with 28% of Latino support. A FOX News Latino poll conducted after the NBC News poll shows Trump with 23% Latino support. In addition, a poll from Florida International University/Adsmovil shows Trump getting only 15% of Latino support.

All those polls do not take into account if Trump will see some fallout for his critical remarks of New Mexico governor Susana Martinez, the country’s only Latina governor and a Republican. An article by Adrian Carrasquillo of BuzzFeed News also reported that many Latino Republicans believe efforts to broaden the party’s outreach to Latinos will have all been wasted now that Trump is the likely GOP nominee.

94 Percent of California’s Registered Latino Voters Predicted to Cast Ballot in 2016 Election

The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) predicted this week that 94 percent of California’s 4.1 million registered Latino voters will participate in the November 2016 election. According to NALEO’s latest state profile of Latino voters, it estimated that over 3,839,000 California Latino voters will go to the polls. If that number holds, according to NALEO, it would “mark a 22 percent increase in Latino turnout in the state from Election 2012, and a 12 percent increase in the Latino share of the vote in the state from Election 2012.”

Other highlights from the NALEO profile include the following:

  • Latinos account for nearly one of every four registered voters in California. There are 17,075,641 registered voters in California.
  • 54% of California’s Latino registered voters identify as Democrats, 29% are unaffiliated and 17% identify as Republican.

For the complete report, see below.

Philanthropy Group Announces New Four-Year College Scholarship for 500 DREAMers

In an effort to provide DREAMers with more opportunities to attend four-year colleges in places that do not allow in-state tuition for undocumented students, philanthropy group TheDream.US has partnered with Eastern Connecticut State University and Delaware State University to offer a new four-year scholarship to attend these two schools.

According to a media release, TheDream.US Opportunity Scholarship “will provide a pathway to higher education for 500 highly-motivated immigrant students with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) or Temporary Protective Status (TPS) who live in states where they are ‘locked out’ of access to a college education because they are required to pay out-of-state tuition or prohibited from enrolling in the state’s colleges and universities altogether.”

Eligible students have until June 9 to go online and apply. According to TheDream.US, both Eastern Connecticut State University and Delaware State University “have the capacity to admit DREAMer Scholars without depriving any Connecticut or Delaware state students of the opportunity to attend these colleges.” Funding for the scholarship will come from private donors.

The announcement of this new program earned the praise of both Connecticut governor Dannel P. Malloy (D) and Delaware governor Delaware governor Jack Markell (D).

“We’re pleased to take part in this program and do what we can to give hardworking students the chance to succeed,” Malloy said. “Our state stands to benefit from welcoming them —along with their talents and potential— to our communities and to our schools.”

“This partnership will add to Delaware State’s incredible legacy of creating new opportunities for students to get a great education and pursue their dreams,” said Delaware Governor Jack Markell. “I’m grateful to [TheDream.US co-founder] Don Graham, [Delaware State President Dr. Harry Lee Williams] and their teams for their hard work to make this program possible for the deserving scholarship recipients. These students will make Delaware State a stronger institution for everyone, and I am thrilled that we are welcoming these talented young people to Delaware.”

In addition, TheDream.US said that it will provide 100 scholarships of up to $7,250 each to in-state DREAMers attending Eastern Connecticut State University or Delaware State University.

Univision’s María Elena Salinas Booed and Heckled During Commencement Speech at Cal State Fullerton

UPDATE, May 27, 2016: Salinas wrote an opinion piece for Univision about the incident where she felt that the original OC Weekly story was sensationalist and not fully accurate. OC Weekly’s Gustavo Arellano has responded to Salinas’ opinion piece.

A Monday article published by OC Weekly and written by Cal State Fullerton graduating senior Denise De La Cruz gave a firsthand account of a commencement speech by Univision news anchor María Elena Salinas, where Salinas was booed and heckled by some audience members for speaking Spanish and discussing Donald Trump. At the time of that OC Weekly story, a video of Salinas’ remarks at the university’s College of Communications ceremony was not available, although her keynote address to the entire graduating class was.

On Tuesday, The Washington Post published a video of that specific speech to the College of Communications (above) and also published Salinas’ reaction to her speech, which included shouts of “No!” when the award-winning journalist asked to speak in Spanish and “Get off the stage!” near the end of her appearance. This is what Salinas said on Tuesday: “It’s really sad. And it’s a testament to what has happened in our country. Our country is really divided.”

At an earlier point in The Washington Post video, Salinas mentioned Trump: “They blame us so much for so many things, that now they’re even blaming us, the media, for creating Donald Trump. Imagine that. Isn’t that terrible? But we didn’t, right? Who did it? I don’t know. Who did it? But they’re to blame.” During those comments, shouts and boos can be heard.

According to the Post, Salinas also said that “University leaders had encouraged her to say a few words in Spanish.” Forty percent of Cal State Fullerton’s student body is Latino.

Salinas’s Twitter profile did share praise from students who saw her speak that day during the larger keynote speech:

There was also a Twitter exchange between Salinas’ profile and a student who was at Salinas’ College of Communications speech:

That exchange led to other reactions:

Latest Aeroméxico Ad Targets Donald Trump’s Immigration Rhetoric

A new ad from Aeroméxico spends over a minute talking about borders and taking aim at Donald Trump’s campaign position that Mexico should build and pay for a wall. The ad debuted in Spanish on April 30 at Aeroméxico’s YouTube, getting over 330,000 views. On May 10, the Mexican airline posted the same Spanish-language video on its Facebook page. That posting earned an additional 334,000 views

Eventually, an English version was also posted online:

Ogilvy & Mather México is the agency credited for producing the ad. As Ad Week writes, “The copy even touches on issues of intolerance toward others’ religions or sexual orientation, decrying the fact that we wall ourselves off from others—or worse, engage in abuse and discrimination—simply because “someone didn’t want anything to do with someone next door.”

While online reaction to the ad has been mostly positive, some are making sure to remind the Internet that Aeroméxico had to apologize three years ago for a casting call announcement saying that no dark-skinned people need audition.

Sanders Answers Questions About Venezuela and Latin America in Interview with La Opinión

In a Monday interview with journalist Pilar Marrero of La Opinión, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders shared his views about the current crisis in Venezuela, saying that he although he is focusing more on domestic issues, the United States still needs pay attention to what is happening in Latin America.

Marrero, who had seven minutes with Sanders before at a campaign stop in East Los Angeles, asked the Vermont senator if he was following the recent events in Venezuela, which have once again reached crisis levels.

“Right now, my focus on this campaign… that’s a very important question, I am aware of the instability in Venezuela. My focus right now is on this country,” Sanders told Marrero, who is originally from Venezuela. “Clearly, but I will tell you, is that in general I do not believe, whether it is Venezuela or Mexico or any place else, that we have paid the kind of attention that we should to Latin America. And what we have seen in recent years is are countries like China making very significant investments in countries throughout Latin America, and that concerns me. Latin America is natural and strong ally of the United States, and I think we have got to pay a lot more attention to that continent than we have in recent years.”

Besides answering questions about American-made guns used by Mexican drug cartels and his immigration voting record, Sanders also answered Marrero’s question about the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966, which expedites permanent residency for Cubans. Sanders admitted to Marrero that he couldn’t offer “a definitive answer” about his position.

“Well, I think I can’t give you a definitive answer. It’s something that I’m going to want to study. But I do believe that we need comprehensive immigration reform. When I talk about comprehensive immigration reform, it certainly means taking a look at immigration and how it applies to people not only from Latin America or Cuba or Mexico, but all over this world. And that’s an issue we’re going to want to address, but I can’t give you a definitive answer.”

Marrero posted the full seven-minute interview on her Soundcloud page.

This Web Series Spotlights How Gentrification Impacts Latinx Communities

A new web series is shining a light on how gentrification impacts Latinxs living in the Boyle Heights section of Los Angeles.

Gente-fied” is a dramatic comedy web series that follows seven characters as they fight to stay rooted in their quickly gentrifying neighborhood.

The series describes itself as “an explosion of fusion tacos, LGBTQ raza, micheladas, defiant murals, generational clashes and more,” and features little to no mention of guns, cartels or drugs. Okay, so there’s a little marijuana, but it’s mostly a story about Latinx people struggling to hold onto their roots in a rapidly changing community.

Read more at HuffPost Latino Voices.

Late-Night Laughs with Grace

Grace Parra is a screenwriter, actor and comic. One of the few Latinas on late-night television, Parra currently works for The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore. She talks to Latino USA senior producer Daisy Rosario about how being the first member of her family born in the United States helps inform her work and how older female comedians are forging the way to new roles for women in comedy.

Featured image: Grace Parra from her Hispandering skit