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Originally published Wednesday, August 8, 2012 at 8:57 AM

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Brazil approves university affirmative action bill

The Brazilian Senate has approved an affirmative action bill that reserves half the spots in federal universities for high school graduates of public schools, and distributes them according to the racial makeup of each state.

Associated Press

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SAO PAULO —

The Brazilian Senate has approved an affirmative action bill that reserves half the spots in federal universities for high school graduates of public schools, and distributes them according to the racial makeup of each state.

The Senate's news agency says the bill that was approved late Tuesday now goes to President Dilma Rousseff, who is expected to approve it.

The reserved spots will be distributed among black, mixed race and indigenous students proportionally to the racial composition of each state, the official agency said.

Sen. Paulo Paim said the bill will benefit most Brazilian students because private schools account for just one of 10 students.

The Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that it was constitutional for universities to use racial quotas.

Brazil has more citizens of African ancestry than any nation other than Nigeria. Fifty-one percent of Brazil's 192 million people are black or of mixed-race,

Backers say the use of scholarships, quotas and other policies aimed at getting more blacks and mixed-race Brazilians into universities is needed to right the historic wrongs of slavery, centuries of stark economic inequality and a society in which whites are overwhelmingly in leadership roles in government and business.

"The bill makes social justice with a majority of Brazil's population," said Senator Ana Rita.

Sen. Aloysio Nunes Ferreira voted against the bill, saying, "It straitjackets universities because it violates their management autonomy."

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