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The Henry Borel Case : Death, Militias, And The Media In Rio De Janeriro 1
File:Allegory of Justice.jpg (Image by Wikimedia,org / This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International)

Luciane Silva, Tiago Abud, Eliz Rosa – Researches with the Núcleo Cidade Cultura e Conflito of UENF

The death of Henry Borel, a child of 4 years, has captured the attention of the researchers for the Núcleo de Pesquisa Cidade, Cultura e Conflito (NUC) of the North Fluminense State University (UENF). In this article we apply Content Analysis (CA), a technique that enables the study of feelings, positioning, and idealogies from disperse elements. CA can be performed based on the letters of soldiers fighting in wars, newspaper columns, police reports, and the lyrics of songs. The idea is to think of the material at hand as a dataset able to provide insight into a particular group with respect to feelings related to a professional category or even a society at a determined conjuncture. By using headlines, video channels, and discussion sites, this reflexive exercise strives to comprehend the evaluation of Fluminense residents (especially those living in Rio de Janeiro) regarding the Henry Borel case and investigate how this comprehension can play a useful role in investigating questions involving morals, democracy, and public security.

The Case

On March 8, Henry Borel, a resident of Barra da Tijuca was rushed to the hospital. Officials later announced that he had been dead on arrival. Claims made by the boy´s mother and stepfather that he had died falling from bed were inconsistent with the 23 lesions found on Henry´s body.

The Accused

The autopsy report refuted the allegation that the boy´s death had been caused by accidental domestic injury (a fall from bed while sleeping). The stepfather, Rio de Janeiro City Councilman and physician Jairo Souza Santos Júnior (“Dr. Jairinho”), and Monique Medeiros, Henry´s biological mother, have been detained as suspects in the crime of qualified homicide.

The Investigation

A task force was assembled by Henrique Damasceno, the police superintendent of the 16 th Police Delegacy in Barra da Tijuca. The Civil Police of Rio de Janeiro proceeded to conduct a rigorous state-of-the-art investigation making use of forensics, witnesses, high-tech tools, and crime simulations. The investigation´s final report is expected by the end of April. The two accused parties, Dr. Jairinho and Monique Medeiros, will very likely be formally accused of doubly qualified homicide and the use of torture on a defenseless victim.

1 We are grateful the NUC researches for the contributions made to this article

The Media Coverage

All the mainstream television and radio media outlets have been issuing daily reports on the case. The platform, however, that has multiple channels providing live coverage related to the investigation and crime, as well the public´s reaction, is Youtube.

Content Analysis of the Media and Youtube

Since the beginning of the case we have been analysing the content of manifestations appearing on television channels, blogs, newspapers, and other media platforms. Some of this content deserves special attention due to its ability to deepen understanding regarding reactions to the hurtful act and the meanings represented.

In the first place, Henry´s mother has seemed cruel and vain, and frequently seen as responsible for her son´s death. Thus, a maternal figure considered responsible for the family´s well-being has become a central figure in a crime in which one of the accused has a history of aggression and the use of torture against women and children.

In second place, the psychopath hypothesis reduces the events to the actions of evil people. Accepting this hypothesis ignores the regularity and intensity by which Brazilian children and teens are subjected to mistreatment. It fails to recognize the domestic violence unleashed on a child, violence frequently also applied to other family members. While it may seem more comforting to respond to the crime with hatred toward the couple, the killing of Henry reveals the vulnerability of children in our country. This fact cannot be addressed by assigning psychopathy to the adults of this case, because reductions in harm of this nature require public policies aimed at assistence and social protection. We do not stand before people suffering from mental impairment. We are confronted with social practices that are highly recognizable to a large segment of the public.

Thirdly, the coverage of the Henry Borel case and investigation place in stark relief the selective nature of State action depending on the profile of victims. This 23 rd day of April, 2021, marks four months since the unresolved disappearance of 11-year-old Fernando Henrique, 10-year-old Alexandre da Silva, and 8-year-old Lucas Matheus. The three boys were last scene playing in the street in Castelar, Belford Roxo. Family members assert that an investigation should have begun immediately afterward, something that failed to happen.

What Remains to be Resolved and What Would Resolving It Mean?

Lastly, it is worth noting the most interesting element of this case. An analysis of the published content from various media types reveals considerable public outrage with respect to the barbaric act committed against a child of 4 years of age. Accusations against Monique Medeiros have also been frequent. When criticism is leveled separately against City Councilman Jairinho, however, it typically involves characterizations of a corrupt political system. THE FACT THAT THE CITY COUNCILMAN HAS BEEN IDENTIFIED AS A MEMBER OF A MILITIA GROUP IS RARELY MENTIONED. Jairo Santos, the son of Colonel Jairo, was accused of torturing journalists of the O Dia newspaper in the favela of Batan.

Why is this Fact so Important to the Henry Case?

For decades Rio de Janeiro has been waging a war against drugs 2 . This war has come at the cost of thousands of lives anually – both those of civilians and agents of the State. Residents of both Rio and Brazil tend to associate any perceived evil in low-income areas with drug trafficking. Rio de Janeiro State Governor Wilson Witzel won an election using this narrative, fired shots from a helicopter, and commanded official strikes on favelas that caused the deaths of innocent children while failing to have any practical impact on the drug market. When he assumed office, the governor already knew the maps of the city of and state of Rio de Janeiro did not present trafficking as a major problem of public security.

It is noteworthy that Dr. Jairinho called acting governor Cláudio Castro on the day of the crime.  It is also significant that he tried to secure a quick solution to his legal problems through string pulling at the hospital (as if such a thing were possible). In an interview with Publica on January 29 th , 2019, researcher José Cláudio Souza Alves stated “in Rio de Janeiro the militia is not a power parallel to the State.  It IS the State” (our translation, with emphasis added). Alves has published books and given interviews detailing the tangled web the militia has cast within the State apparatus and its effects on legislative processes, such as the use of intimidation for the filling of key congressional committee positions and expanding influence through related institutions.

It is horrible to think that after having committed so many crimes, a child had to be killed for Jairinho to be arrested. It is terrible to think that the militia in Rio das Pedras gave newly elected Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes a public shout-out. And it is terrible to reflect that residents of the northern sector of the city have defended the Liga da Justiça, of which Colonel Jairo is considered a leader. This is no isolated incident, but rather a common practice of this group. It involves the repeated banalization of evil, catalyzed through the fear of its victims, a scenario that allowed Jairinho to continue torturing children for years.

It is terrible to think that we still don´t know who ordered the killing of Marielle.

All of these crimes converge within the same phenomenon. It must be called out and brought to the attention of each and every reader when discussing the case of Henry Borel. Militia groups are gaining ground, unopposed, and strengthening ties within the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial branches of government.

This is the central question that has received insufficent attention in the mainstream press.

2 We are grateful for Rafael Barros Vieira’s insight and suggestions.

03.05.2021 – Buenos Aires, Argentina – REHUNO – Red Humanista de Noticias en Salud

This post is also available in: Spanish

Future Challenges in Health
(Image by Sasint Tiipchai)

The future has always been an unknown that is difficult to unravel and has generated different feelings depending on the present state of those who wonder about it.

By Jorge Pompei

Thus, with regard to health, some see an irreversible process of deterioration in the face of the increase in the age of the population associated with illness and disability.

Others, on the other hand, believe that advances in knowledge will allow a growing understanding that will lead to overcoming illness, reducing risks and improving the health of the years gained in life expectancy.

One way or the other, the future of health is presented to us as something new and changing that will confront us with new challenges that we will have to face.

To do this, we will start by developing a hypothesis based on a study of current trends in the field of health.

Thus, we will choose three aspects of the health universe and study the possible scenarios that could be presented to us.

These three aspects concern the concept of health, the treatment of illness and health in its community dimension.

The concept of health

Let us begin by asking what is health?

The first thing we see is that, in order to answer this question, we must place ourselves in time and space, since the idea of health changes with cultures and over time.

In other words, what we think about health is socially, culturally and historically determined.

The history of health and what is believed about it is as long as human history and it could not be otherwise because health has always been one of the most cherished values in any society.

Thus, in broad strokes, we can imagine different approaches to health at different times and places.

The first approach corresponds to a magical paradigm, where health was the result of the action of supernatural forces that “rewarded” or “punished” the actions of mortals. The response to this approach was the ritual treatment of illness, which sought to appease the “punishment”.

Some peoples developed a less ritualistic approach that emphasised the use of natural plant, mineral or animal products which, through trial and error, proved their efficacy over time and allowed each community to build up its own pharmacopoeia.

As Europe entered the modern age, we saw new visions that sought other explanations. In the 19th century, many scientists of the time defended miasmatic theories that found the origin of diseases in putrefactive substances in the environment.

This view changed with the experiments of Pasteur who, in the second half of the 19th century, successfully demonstrated that there was no such thing as spontaneous generation and thus opened the door to the discovery of the microbial agents causing the prevalent diseases of the time.

Let us recall the health impact at the time of tuberculosis, leprosy, cholera and so many other diseases that originated from bacterial infection.

This discovery, in turn, led to the development of antibiotics which, together with the change in living conditions, modified the epidemiological profile of European populations.

The idea of health associated with infectious diseases, which were caused by a single causative agent, became more complex as the role of the environment in which the agent-host relationship took place was understood.

Thus, improved living conditions and the use of antibiotics allowed for effective treatment of infectious and parasitic diseases.

From then on, the main determinants of illness and death were no longer infectious and contagious diseases, but the new protagonists, chronic degenerative diseases.

Today, the focus is on high blood pressure, diabetes and tumours, with heart attacks and strokes being the main causes of death.

To this must be added the deaths and disabilities resulting from accidents, violence and a series of causes that have their origin in environmental and social deterioration.

All of this makes the concept of health more complex and comprehensive.

From the single-causal view of the late 19th century, progress was made towards an ecological view that involves the environment. Later, in the mid-20th century, the WHO defined health as a state of equilibrium in which the biological, psychological and social aspects are involved, and not just the absence of disease.

This definition, which was a step forward at the time, must now necessarily incorporate the environment as a determinant of the utmost importance and must move on from a static view, placing it in process and considering how health changes and improves through the conquest of better living conditions.

In this sense, we believe that in the future, health will have to stop being an aspiration for improvement and become a fundamental human right.

Treatment of illness

With regard to the treatment of illness, in its clinical aspect, it is clear that care has changed significantly since the last century.

From general practitioners, often family doctors, there has been a shift to specialists.

This change came about as a result of the so-called Flexner report of 1910, which was promoted by the Rockefeller Foundation.

Abraham Flexner, an educator, carried out an investigation of US medical schools and concluded that teaching was very deficient and proposed changes that would end up being implemented by all Western countries and that transformed the way medicine was studied and practiced.

From then on, care was organized into specialties with a biological approach and a strong pharmacological component, oriented towards treating symptoms.

This gradually led to the diversification of consultations, requiring the care of several specialists for each patient and the chronic use of medication to treat the disease.

At the same time, the specialties and later subspecialties required increasingly sophisticated equipment for more precise diagnosis and therapy.

This was widely accepted by providers and patients who saw in this deployment a better quality of care.

If we add to this the ageing population with its burden of disease, we find that an important part of the life of the elderly is devoted to medical visits and the purchase of drugs.

At the same time, from the second half of the 20th century onwards, new concepts were developed that went beyond the field of illness and studied the risks of people who, although healthy, present conditions or situations that make them more prone to suffering harm and which must be attended to.

Thus, Leavell and Clark in 1953 described, based on what they called the natural history of the disease, the levels of prevention to be considered at the different stages of the health-disease process.

This led to the development of tools to anticipate the disease by treating the risks.

Finally, along with the prevention of disease, the idea of health promotion was developed, a fact that proposes a different concept to that of disease. An important concept is that of treating healthy people to strengthen their own capacity to stay healthy.

People are now looking for solutions that involve less investment of resources and time, so new specialties such as general practitioners and family doctors are being developed to solve most of the health problems that arise in the doctor’s office.

At the same time, the growing access to the internet, today strongly driven by the COVID 19 pandemic, spreads care strategies that are little recognized by academia and little known by the general population, such as Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda, Tibetan Medicine, Orthomolecular Medicine, Neural Therapy, Anthroposophical Medicine and several others that have a holistic view that differs from that of the specialist.

All this leads to the challenge of creating new modalities of care that satisfy the needs and expectations of the patients, generating a first level of continent-wide care and a body of specialists for those who require it, but who are not the entry point to the system.

This will require the formation of a health team trained in a vision that integrates biological, psychological, environmental, community and spiritual aspects and the different strategies of different cultures.

Population health

It was in the 20th century, and especially after the Second World War, that a number of significant events took place in the field of health.

On the one hand, we witnessed an unprecedented demographic phenomenon. The world population, which by 1950 had slowly reached 2.5 billion inhabitants, had risen to 8 billion in 70 years.

On the other hand, life expectancy, which in Europe at the beginning of the 20th century was around 40 years, is now approaching 80 years, and we are already beginning to see the appearance of a generation of centenarians.

Today, living conditions for the general population are not improving. The environment is rapidly deteriorating as a result, among other causes, of the uncontrolled action of industries that depredate the seas, forests, soils and the use of hydrocarbons as a source of energy.

At the same time, community life is also suffering from the fragmentation of the times, and although the world’s population is moving towards urbanization, which brings people physically closer together, personal conflicts and the feeling of loneliness are increasingly deteriorating human life in cities.

In summary, we can see that, although the life expectancy of populations is tending to increase, reaching situations that were unimaginable until recently, the deterioration of the natural and social environment is endangering the lives of large sectors of the population.

Health care involves allocating more and more economic resources, without which it is impossible for the health care system to function and for living conditions to improve. But the costs of the care model and the deterioration of the environment are increasing and threaten its sustainability.

Although in today’s society the right to health care and health is increasingly being taken into account and the population’s demands are being heard more loudly, there are still major problems with access to services.

To summarize. The concept of health must necessarily move towards a model that favors the maintenance of health rather than the treatment of illness.

The care of consultations should be resolved by health teams trained in a holistic view of the person and who can resolve the majority of consultations, leaving only a small percentage for specialist care.

It will be necessary to implement the incorporation of other practices and other non-traditional knowledge (such as traditional medicines) that are recognized and requested by the population.

We note finally that, despite all the existing impediments, progress will be made to the extent that health becomes a fundamental and effective human right that guarantees for all people universal coverage in equity with quality and opportunity and without any kind of discrimination.

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer

We must act and dare the appropiateness and not whatever comes to our mind not floating in the likelihood but grasp the reality as brave as we can be freedom lies in action not in the absence of mind obedience knows the essence of good and satisfies it, freedom dares to act and returns God the ultimate judgment of what is right and what is wrong, Obedience performs blindly but Freedom is wide awake Freedom wants to know why, Obedience has its hands tied, Freedom is inventive obedient man respects God’s commands and by virtu of his Freedom, he creats new commands. Both Obedience and Freedom come true in responsability (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

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