Struggle and grief, disappointment and cheer, strength and pain. There are also many other untranslatable feelings that are part of the tireless routine of 36-year-old Mirtes Renata Santana from Pernambuco. “Three years of longing, pain and frustration”. From the Barro neighborhood, on the outskirts of Recife (PE), where she lives, she starts her day at 6:30 am every day. From the head, the idea of seeking justice has not ceased for exactly three years. A former domestic worker, she is currently serving in the Legislative Assembly of Pernambuco, in an advisory capacity. The route involves two trips by bus and one by subway. After work, she goes to college, where she studies law. It’s in the fifth semester. There she wants to learn how justice is done. She comes home late at night. This Friday (2), however, the routine will be different. “The concentration of the demonstration will be at 2 pm in front of the crime scene. We will carry banners and posters with pictures of my son”. The son is Miguel Otávio, who died at the age of 5. Mirtes will return to the vicinity of the luxury residential building from which the boy fell, Pier Maurício de Nassau (known as Torres Gêmeas), in downtown Recife. “I didn’t see racism”, says Miguel’s mother- Personal Archive From there, the group will walk a little over a kilometer to the Pernambuco Court of Justice (TJPE). There, they will perform an act to honor the boy. She asks that people, if possible, attend in white and blue. Crime in the pandemic Mirtes seeks justice after the death of his son, which occurred on June 2, 2020. The then domestic worker took the boy to work because the daycare center was closed due to the pandemic. Even at that moment when the government of Pernambuco had defined that domestic work was not essential, Mirtes had to go to work so as not to lose his job and income. According to what was witnessed and ascertained, the maid was tasked with walking the dog of her then employer, Sari Corte Real, while the lady of the house had her nails done. The employer then stayed with Miguel, but the boy asked for his mother. Sari, with her manicure at home and out of patience, put the boy in the building’s elevator and pressed the button for the ninth floor. Alone, the boy reached a machinery area and fell from a height of more than 35 meters. Miguel was rescued, but died. Justice Sari was sentenced, in the first instance, to eight years and six months in prison for abandonment of the incapable, followed by death. However, she appeals the decision in freedom, which disappoints her mother Mirtes. “I am frustrated with the Judiciary of Pernambuco”. The case is now in the second instance under the care of Judge Cláudio Jean Nogueira In a note to Agência Brasil, the press office of the Pernambuco Court of Justice stated that an appeal is being processed by the 3rd Criminal Chamber of the TJPE, but in secrecy of justice. “The appeal report will be forwarded in June to the reviewing judge. After review, it will be included in the docket for judgment ”, he pointed out. The TJPE did not clarify for the report why the process was secret of justice. The Judiciary also informed that another lawsuit is running in the civil area in relation to the claim for compensation. “The process proceeded normally and, once the instruction was closed, the case has a deadline for final arguments by the parties (…) After the final arguments, the case will be ready for trial and will be included in the list of facts in chronological order of conclusion ”. The prosecution’s assistant, lawyer Maria Clara D’ávila, says that she does not understand why the criminal process runs in secrecy of justice. “We filed an appeal asking that other circumstances of the crime and also regarding the sentence be considered. We ask that some parts be removed. The decision, despite having condemned the defendant, brought arguments considered racist”. Judge José Renato Bizerra’s sentence included the possibility of investigating the boy’s mother and grandmother for possible mistreatment. The crime and the tragic outcome led the local Legislature to approve the Miguel Law, which prohibits children up to 12 years of age from using an elevator unaccompanied by adults. Summary of Brazil Faced with so many absurdities, Mirtes understood that all the events surrounding his family’s history are related to racism. “I did not see racism. After I went through a period of political training, I started working in two partner organizations. I really saw that there was racism in my son’s case. Unfortunately, the judiciary does not see that there was racism, even to accuse me”, laments Mirtes. For Professor Hugo Monteiro Ferreira, director of the Menino Miguel Institute, an entity linked to human rights at the Federal Rural University of Pernambuco, the crime explains the racist and elitist culture in the country. “If you want to summarize Brazil, read the Miguel case carefully. It is Brazil made explicit. It is a country with a black majority that was constantly retaliated against by the logic of whiteness and segregation”, says the researcher. Ferreira understands that one of the main confrontations that the institute carries out is in relation to violence against children and adolescents, since these are situations that lead to a social upheaval. “Instituto Menino Miguel acts, for example, in the training of advisors and guardianship advisors in an attempt to improve the performance of the rights guarantee system”. He claims that legislation has evolved to combat racism, but this is just one of the dimensions. “We have violence committed even by the State itself against black youth. And there are many dead black children who are associated with ethnicity, race and social situation. I have no doubt that, if it had been the other way around (a white child had died), Mirtes would have been arrested and not responding freely”, he points out. Educator Mônica Oliveira, from the network of black women in Pernambuco, also considers the case of the boy Miguel emblematic because she highlights how racism marks the lives of all black people since before their birth in Brazil. “All these inequalities are proven in research. Brazil is a country where there is little accountability for racism. From the point of view of society’s imagination, Brazil is a country that would have racism, but not racists”. For the activist, it is necessary to make a great effort to highlight this and all racist violence. “Racism is a system of oppression. Legislation alone does not resolve. That’s one side of the question. We have a judicial system that avoids convicting people of this crime because it is non-bailable and non-payable”. “The finger of the button is the same as the whip” Historian Humberto Miranda, also a researcher at the Federal Rural University of Pernambuco, observes that the case of the boy Miguel has to do with the relationship between “Casa Grande and Senzala”. “I usually say that the hand that pressed the elevator button is the same hand with the whip. Who understood the child as a future domestic worker, as a future manual worker”. He believes that there is in history an example of the objectification of this black, poor and peripheral child who “was bothering” the woman when she was getting her nails done. “His story reveals this white ‘adultocentrism’ that denies the black child’s childhood. We watched several episodes where the child is seen as the object of interest for adults” Struggle When night comes, Mirtes only thinks about studying. She thinks about her son and the future she wanted for him. She remembers that before she said that she wanted to take the management course. The crime that her son was a victim of made her change her mind. At night, Mirtes thinks about her son and the future she wanted for him- Personal archive “I decided to go to law school precisely to help other mothers not to go through what I’m going through today. I’m going to pursue a career as a lawyer and, later on, I’m going to be a prosecutor”. She is in the fifth semester of the course and loves what she is learning, as well as the strength she has received from her classmates and professors. “I came across situations, with several cases and I saw that it is not just Miguel’s case. I also talk about black children who were killed because of racism and living children going through it. Thus, I strengthen myself”. On weekends, she says she studies non-stop. She looks at her son’s photos, takes care of the house and dreams to fuel the certainty of today’s and tomorrow’s journey. “I will fight”.
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