“After being in Europe for sometime in exile, I missed the sun. I missed the beach in Brazil. I told my first girlfriend in France this, and she brought me here...”
-on the beaches of Normandy with Luiz Eduardo Prado de Oliveira
Luiz Eduardo Prado de Oliveira never wanted to leave Brazil.
"To leave your country of origin as a political exile is to run the risk of the destruction of your ideals,” he affirms. He and his friends yearned for a return to democracy after the military coup in 1964. And, while he wanted to stay and fight for these ideals, his most basic freedoms were in danger. In December of 1968, the Brazilian Military Government created an amendment (AI-5) to the constitution outlawing any form of political organization that would act in opposition to the regime. Many of his friends were persecuted and held without trial by the police. The only way to be spared the horrors of prison for political reasons was to leave. And so he did.
The night his plane took off from the Galeão airport in Rio de Janeiro, police officials ransacked his home searching for the young man who was teaching groups of young people about Marx and Ché Guevara. “At first, it only interested me to read them because the Brazilian military police immediately began destroying that literature after they took over in 1964.” he tells me smiling, “the lure of forbidden fruit, I guess.”
While he fled that September night to Europe in 1969, Luiz Eduardo still feels like an exile in France: “The same problematic political infrastructure that existed then and forced me to leave, still exist today,” he says. He believes the Brazilian Constitution of 1988 is an example of democratic ideals, but that the corrosive government practices that predate it, and that have remained in existence, leave him hopeless of successfully returning to Brazil. It still angers him to see Brazil’s public security, the health system, and education in such dire straights but he often finds himself longing for his home country and calls himself, “one of the last [Brazilian] exiles in Paris”.
Luiz Eduardo has, since his arrival in 1969, built a life for himself in France. In his early years he worked as a psychologist providing therapy for political prisoners who suffered trauma during their imprisonment. Today he gives lectures around the world on this subject while he maintains his practice in Paris, where he treats a great range psychological issues.
Today he watches from a distance as his home country struggles as a democracy to deal with the [still] vast socio-economic inequalities. To see people on the streets of Brazil protesting and striving to implement some of the same socially conscious ideals that he and his friends fought for in their youth leaves him, “emocionado (or, deeply moved).”
As we would spend the mornings walking on the beaches of Normandy, reflecting on Brazil’s long history of corrupt government practices, Luiz Eduardo is careful to assume that great change will follow the protests, “Let’s wait and see, Let’s see what happens this time...”