29 December 2010

Laws, Evictions,and Demolitions, oh my!

This is the link to Law 12.350/2010 that will "abrir as pernas" (open the legs) of Brazil for FIFA.

FIFA will not pay taxes of any kind. Nothing imported for "use" during the World Cup, including trophies, banners, commemorative materials, print materials, etc. will be subject to import taxes. Oh, and neither will anything else, like comupters, structural engineering equipment, durable goods, pharmaceuticals (?), etc. FIFA will also not have to pay and tax on industrial products (IPI). Do you get the idea? FIFA is going to make a killing in Brazil! This will be the best World Cup ever!

But first the Brazilian Government has to kill some people. Don't worry, they're all guilty. Except when they are teenage girls surfing the web in their homes.

Or forcefully evict them from their homes. This new "Forced Eviction Count" will be tracking the total number of evictions in Rio as the city delivers xmas presents with a bulldozer. As of this writing the count is 2092. I predict that we will reach 10,000 by mid-2011.

Or restructure parts of the city (or cities) without thinking twice about the ironies and contradictions. I particularly like this recent bit, where Paes and Lula symbolically detonate the Perimetral (elevated highway) in Rio's Zona Portuaria. The mayor called the perimetral a "monstrengo" (monster) that had to be demolished. The Little Prince of Rio also confirmed the idea that mega-events are a great chance to unleash projects that have been waiting in the wings for decades. In this case, Paes suggests that the Zona Portuaria project has been 40 years in the making.

The planned demolition of the perimetral is not only rediculous but stupid. Even the brown-nosing Oglobo published alternative plans from architects to turn the highway into a park or to use alternative transportation lines on an infrastructure that was admittedly ill-conceived, but that is also very far from the end of its life-span. So while the city, state and federal governments are dipping into guaranteed social funds (FGTS) to demolish a bad idea to replace it with a worse one, they are also spending billions to build new types of perimetrals thoughout the city. These are called BRTs and if you look at the contador de depejas, you will see that all of the evictions are due to the installation of these really, really bad modes of transpotation (as I talked about a few posts ago).

The good news: there is significant mobilization working towards building a better city. Individuals, groups, and institutions are organizing, and quickly, to meet the immense challenges presented by the onslaught of mega-events. More good news comes from the fact that many of these projects have yet to leave paper, so there is time, but that time is running out.

The bad news: basically everything else. When I talk to people about what is happening in Rio in regard to the upcoming mega-events, it is very hard to find anything positive to say. The city is more expensive than ever. The city government is taking every possible step to homogenize culture and create neutered spaces of entertainment for a fickle global elite. The streets are becoming increasingly militarized.  The mayor himself is in debt to huge real-estate and civil engineering firms who funded his campaigns, thousands of people, normal, hard-working, law-abiding people, are being evicted from their homes to make way for transportation lines and stadiums that will leave no short or long term benefits for the city. The federal government is giving away the shop to FIFA  The Zona Portuaria is being turned into a privately managed realm of isolated spaces of consumption that will have no connection with the tens of thousands of people living there, mostly because they won't be able to live there anymore. IBM is arriving to give Big Brother a bigger, more mobile eye. Who knows, perhaps this is all inevitable...

That's all for a very entertaining and difficult 2010! Welcome to the thousands of new readers and thanks to those of you who tune in regularly. 2011 promises to be just as busy so please keep coming back. I'm taking a few weeks of holiday in the frigid USA, so I'll be back once I've resettled in the Cidade Maravilhosa.

Ate logo!

21 December 2010

The APO doesn't exist! Rio 2016 and the failure to deliver authority

One of the most confusing and potentially harmful elements of hosting an Olympic Games is the creation of a legal authority created to "deliver" them. In the case of London there is the Olympic Delivery Authority, a non-governmental entity that has tremendous power to direct the budget, contract builders, and assume responsibility for the games. I have suggested in other places that the creation of a temporary, extra-governmental authority that is charged with delivering the Olympics only to disappear soon after, is akin to the installation of an authoritarian regime similar to the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in post-invasion Iraq.

On March 14 of 2010, the slippery Minister of Sport gave an extensive explanation about how the Autoridade Público Olímpico (APO – Rio’s version of London’s ODA) would function. Minister Silva said, “We are going to have an executive department and will perhaps create a privatized, public company so that we can have flexibility in terms of contracting. This way, we will be able to pay market salaries to attract high level professionals to participate in the project”( Vamos ter um departamento executivo, talvez constituir uma empresa pública de direito privado, para termos flexibilidade em termos de contração. Com isso, poderemos pagar salários praticados pelo mercado e atrair profissionais de alto nível para participarem do projeto.) Minister Silva was tapped by Lula to head the APO and was put in the position of describing it without, perhaps, knowing exactly how it was going to work.

Things have changed since the elections.

Now, the PCdoB (Communist Party of Brasil) wants to keep Silva at the head of the Sports Ministry for the Rousseff government. Dilma agreed. This may explain why just the other day, Silva was pretending not to know anything about the existence of the APO, saying “this thing is an idea, a concept, an organization that doesn’t exist.” This, despite the fact that Lula went to some trouble to approve a Medida Provisória (MP ) brining it into existence. However, the APO requires the approval of all three levels of government and Eduardo Paes, the little prince of Rio, has begun to grumble about the extraordinary authority given over to the APO. Without the approval (or involvement) of Paes in the APO it is unlikely that his cabal of city council members will approve the MP, leaving the 2016 Olympics without an organizing structure. I am not against the disappearance of the APO, as it appeared to be an institution designed to deliver money to the contractor friends of the governor and mayor. But the IOC must really be wondering what the hell is going on with the organization of the 2016 Games, as 15 months after awarding them to Rio, there is no clear direction being taken for their implementation.

There has been rumor that the Dilma government will create an independent ministry to organize the Olympics. This is exactly what Brazil needs: another level of bureaucracy to smooth out the problems of chronic delay that already plague public works.

It is clear that no one really knows what is going on. On the front page of the Rio 2016 website is a Maracanã project that is not being planned (according to the SUDERJ and Brazil 2014 descriptions). The main news that is being spammed to the media outlets is about the countdown to the launching of the Rio 2016 brand on New Year’s Eve (oh, so exciting). The city government is launching aggressive and violent campaigns to kick people out of their homes so that huge concrete sluices can carry buses back and forth to the Olympic Zone in Barra de Tijuca. City, State, and Federal troops are occupying hills throughout the city.

Is this surprising? No. Why not? The same people who were in charge of the Pan American Games are directing the Olympics. The “legacy” benefits of that event were ZERO. Orlando Silva cited the event that he helped to direct as a failure (I heard him say this personally). Silva went so far as to blame the bloody defeat of Cesar Maia (former Rio mayor) in his bid for State Senator on the failures of the Pan. Ten years from now, who will we blame for the housing crisis, the lack of functional transportation, the poor air and water quality, the lack of decent jobs in the city, the absence of legacy benefits from the 2016 Olympics?

BRTs, forced removals and end of year terror

The forced, violent removal of people and homes in preparation for the crashing wave of mega-events has begun. In addition to the 119 favelas marked for removal by the city government last year, there are many thousands more homes, businesses, and temples that will be eliminated to make way for the soon-to-be-infamous BRT lines. A bit of explanation:

BRT = Bus Rapid Transit. BRT lines are dedicated bus lines that function like rail lines in that they have fewer stops and only permit one kind of vehicle in a designated space. In Brazil, BRT lines are hailed as a solution to the chronic transportation problems created by planning cities for cars. Why? Because in the 1970s, they were installed in Coritiba and have had a reasonable degree of success there, turning BRTs into a kind of hegemonic transportation solution for urban planners worldwide. Rio de Janeiro is in the process of installing 3 BRTs. Each one will claim around 3,800 homes and businesses and have upset every religion in Brazil by announcing the demolition of 50 houses of worship.

These are the principal problems with the construction of BRT lines in Rio:

  • Forced removal of at least 10,000 homes, businesses, and public spaces
  • The continued dependence on the internal combustion engine and “things on rubber wheels” for mobility
  • The solution for 21st century transportation problems in a city of 13 million is the same as a 1970s solution for a city of 1.5 million
  • BRTs require dedicated concrete sluices that will divide communities in the same way as elevated highways (like the Linha Amarela)
  • BRTs deliver only 30% of the passenger capacity as light rail
  • All of the BRT lines will have their terminal points in Barra de Tijuca. There will be no linking of the city from East-West, nor will there be connections between the Baixada Fluminense and the City of Rio
  • This will augment, not reduce, the influence of the Rio bus mafia in city affairs
  • The three BRT lines will alter urban space forever, further fragmenting the city along class and geographic lines
  • The three BRT projects are being constructed with public money yet will be run by private concessionaries. These projects will consume tens of billions of reales and have not been sufficiently discussed in public forums before being implemented. 
There has already been significant resistance to the forced removals. The city government is attacking homes in the night with bulldozers, continuing a long tradition of the SMH (City housing authority) of violence against those who don’t get out of their way immediately. The BRT projects are part of a larger Olympic building initative that is targeting favelas for removal before 2012. I will be presenting a paper at the ANPUR conference in Rio in May about the BRTs of Rio de Janeiro. My paper abstract (in Portuguese) is below. For more information about the terrorist actions of the city government in the Vila Harmonia and Vila Recreio II favelas, see the Newsletternomade.

ANPUR abstract:

As linhas BRT do Rio de Janeiro – fragmentação através de integração 

Uma peça fundamental do projeto olímpico do Rio de Janeiro é a instalação de três linhas de BRT, Bus Rapid Transit. A prefeitura do Rio, em parceria com o Comitê Olímpico Brasileiro, projetou as linhas sem qualquer discussão em audiências públicas, justificando o investimento nesse tipo de transporte como necessário para a maior integração do “anel olímpico” – uma invenção retórico-geográfica que disfarça as carências de transporte na cidade.

O presente trabalho está baseado na perspectiva de que as linhas de BRT compõem parte de uma estratégia de fragmentação sócio-espacial do município. Ao invés de atender as necessidades atuais do transporte metropolitano, tomando-se em conta o fluxo de veículos e seu uso, as BRTs se limitarão a atender as exigências das classes dominantes. O resultado será desastroso para o transporte públicoafetando negativamente a mobilidade da maioria da população e fragmentando barrios e comunidades. Tendo em vista que essas intervenções determinarão a estrutura de transporte na cidade pelos próximos cem anos, elas demandam uma discussão urgente e mais ampla, baseada no pensamento crítico.

Combinando mapas e dados obtidos junto à prefeitura do Rio sobre as trajetórias das BRTs e visitas aos locais onde serão implantadas (com milhares de desapropriações), e comparando a experiência recente da instalação de uma BRT em Johanesburgo durante a Copa do Mundo 2010, este trabalho mostrará que as três linhas de BRT na capital fluminense irão agravar a fragmentação e a segmentação da cidade, privilegiando zonas já favorecidas com altos índices de investimento público. A pesquisa alerta para a possibilidade da criação intencional de uma metrópole na qual a classe operária se vê isolada e impedida de locomover-se com facilidade dentro das regiões que ocupa – pois o transporte de massa está disponível apenas para levá-la às zonas mais ricas, para trabalhar. A falta de integração entre as zonas menos favorecidas limitará as possibilidades de desenvolvimento econômico local e fortalecerá as divisões sócio-geográficas já existentes na cidade.

10 December 2010

2016 Olympic Village apartments to cost R$400.000 each, to build...

The mega-builder Carvalho Hosken (one of the largest land holders in Barra de Tijuca the neighborhood where the majority of 2016 Olympic installations will be located), signed a contract today with Rio 2016 and the Rio city government to build the Olympic Village at a cost of R$1 Billion. Even without having fully negotated the terms of the loan from the Caixa Economica, Carvalho Hosken is set to build the 2.500 apartment residential complex.

The math is simple. One Billion divided by 2.500 = R$400.000. According to today's story, the "idea is to sell the apartments on the open market."

Looking back to the Pan American Games and the resulting emptiness of the Vila PanAmericana (which contrary to today's rosy reporting, has an occupancy level lower than 30% even though the majority of the apartments were sold after the Pan), we might be staring the same beast in the face. The VilaPan did not have sufficient financial backing, the scope of the project was reduced and the condominiums are mostly empty.

The head of Carvalho Hosken said of the 2016 Olympic Village "if I feel like I'm not going to be able to complete the project, I'll tell Nuzman (head of Rio 2016) and give up on the project." Great. So if C.H. can't finish the Olympic Village for a BILLION reales, then he'll give up and force someone else to take over at the last minute? Imagine what the average price for one of the apartments will be after this happens...R$500.000, R$600.000? This will certainly solve the grave housing crisis in Rio de Janeiro.

While this is going on, the Rio city government is ticking off a list of 119 favelas to be removed in the lead-up to the games. Many of these are within sight of the future Olympic Village. The Tribunal das Contas da União, responsible for monitoring government spending is going to have its work cut out for it. They still haven't finished processing people for the PAN 2007.

In other news, the Communist Party of Brasil (CPdoB) has begun to insist that the current Minister of Sport, Orlando Silva, maintain his post and not be shuffled over to head the Autoridade Publico Olímpico, the parallel government that will be responsible for building the Olympic City. We have already seen the ousting of Ricardo Leyser from the position of CEO of BRASIL 2016 (the private company that will be contracted  by the APO on a no-bid basis). Are the deck chairs being shuffled because the stink of the PAN is still heavy around all these Olympic insiders? Or is there a genuine effort to find people who are qualified for the job?

09 December 2010

Wikileaks, the USA, Brazil, military operations, profit, and mega-events

Yeah, Wikileaks. http://wikileaks.ch/cable/2009/12/09BRASILIA1383.html

1. (S)SUMMARY: On November 10 at 22:13, Brazil experienced a blackout that plunged 18 of Brazil's 27 states into darkness for periods ranging from 20 minutes to 6 hours. A government commission is investigating, with a draft report and recommendations expected mid-December. GOB has recently begun to focus more attention on infrastructure security, both within the President's office and at Mines and Energy (MME), while an intensive process is also underway to develop recommendations to avoid outage problems in the future. The newly heightened concerns about Brazil's infrastructure as a result of this blackout, combined with the need to address infrastructure challenges in the run-up to the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics, present the United States opportunities for engagement on infrastructure development as well critical infrastructure protection and possibly cyber security. Mission encourages USG agencies, including DOD, DHS, FCC, TDA and others, to explore these opportunities in the near-term. END SUMMARY

Some notable phrases from the summary: "Opportunity for engagement"; "infrastructure protection", DOD = Department of Defense, DHS = Department of Homeland Security, FCC = Federal Communications Commission, TDA = Trade and Development Agency. The wikileaks site has an excellent summary of the extended posting written by Natalia Viana.

Viana explains: The U.S. is not alone in the effort to profit from the Olympics. On November 11, 2009, Israeli President Shimon Peres led a delegation of 40 Israeli companies to Rio de Janeiro. "Just as we did with the Olympics in Greece and China, we are offering special technologies of communication and security," he said during the visit.

And it is good to know that jorunalists and researchers are not the only people having trouble getting in touch with officials from the Ministry of Sports: 

Kubiske also complained that the Brazilian government has made many promises but done very little planning or taken any other action to date. "Articulating the big picture goals and leaving details to the last minute may be a typically Brazilian approach, but could lead to problems,” Kubiske wrote in her cable. She complained that the U.S. embassy has not been able to get in touch with the Brazilian Ministry of Sports, noting that the UK government - which will host the Olympics in 2012 – has also been unsuccessful in such efforts.

Athough I was optomistic about the chances of getting to explore the archives of SUDERJ and get access to information from the 2014 LOC (which three years after Brazil was selected as WC host still does not have an official website), I have been ignored in all of my attempts via phone and email to gain access to people and information. Not entirely true: I received this email from Saint-Clair Milesi, press secretary for Brazil 2014: 

Dear Mr. Gaffney,

Thanks for your contact. The Local Organising Committee is 100% funded by FIFA and does not build stadia or infrastructure. Construction work is a responsibility of the owners of the stadia and the three levels of governments.

We are structured in three main areas: Strategic Planning and Operations Support (headed by Joana Havelange), Operations (headed by Ricardo Trade) and Communications (Rodrigo Paiva). The committee is growing as necessary and we have about 40 people working with us, but we also work with consultants Ernst&Young and Arena (stadia consultants).

Best regards,


My reply which has yet to be answered: 

Dear Saint-Clair,
Thank you for your reply. I understand that the construction work is the responsibility of the owners of the stadium projects, but these projects are heavily influenced by FIFA and the LOC (in terms of financing, architecture, locale, etc). I have several questions regarding the organization of the 2014 World Cup.
Does the LOC have information regarding the 12 projects and how they are being managed within the structure of the LOC? 
Though there are of course many people working within the LOC, am I to understand that the executive committee itself is run by 4 or 5 people?
What is the role of the consultancy groups? Do they provide economic analyses or work with urban planners to ensure that the stadia will have post-cup uses? Does FIFA pay these consultancy groups as sub-contractors or does the CBF finance the work of Ernst&Young and Arena? I also understand that the CBF receives money from the Minstry of Sport. How does this money go into the financing of the World Cup?
Is there a website that identifies the structure of the LOC and the roles, responsibilities and qualifications of the people involved? If not, will this information be made available? Is there information regarding all of the World Cup stadium projects and their associated infrastructures that the LOC will make available to the general public? How are the positions within the LOC filled - by concurso publico or by ad-hoc hiring?
Thank you in advance for your help and I look forward to our continued communication.
Warm Regards,
Chris Gaffney

06 December 2010

A partial response to a question unanswered

Of the many elements of my question that Lula did not respond to, the notion of changing federal, state, and local laws in order to host mega-events is one of the most important and insidious. In Brazil, we are staring down the barrel of multiple mega-events, none of which will be produced and consumed using the slow and cumbersome tools available to fledging democracies.

One of the methods used by the Brazilian executive branch to dribble democratic processes is known as a MP (Medida Provisória), similar to the kind executive order used by George W. to invade Iraq

In July 2010, President Lula signed  MP  496/10  that allows cities that will host the World Cup to extend their debt levels above their level of revenue, violating a federal law that requires cities to maintain balanced budgets. This MP opens the path for excessive public spending. According to lawyers and economists, this will encourage reckless public spending under “emergency conditions”, creating a situation similar to the 2007 Pan American Games which was ten times over budget, was able to sidestep well-established contracting procedures, left behind useless and decaying structures,  and resulted in multiple lawsuits against the organizers.

Lula held the contrary view, saying that “this is important so that we don’t repeat the errors of the Pan. We tried to construct a pact to figure out who was responsible for what and it didn’t work”. Acho que isso é muito importante para a gente não repetir os [erros dos] Jogos Pan-americanos. A gente tentou construiu um pacto para saber qual a responsabilidade do governo federal, estadual e municipal. Não deu certo”, lembrou.

Not satisfied with the indebtedness of cities, it is also necessary to open the nation’s frontiers to any and all materials imported to construct, amplify, or reform buidings for the World Cup and Olympics. MP 497/10 creates a free trade zone that is equivalent to a massive public subsidy for foreign firms to do business in Brazil, putting national firms at a competitive disadvantage. The elimination of trade barriers of this kind requires specific legislation that contravenes existing norms, using the excuse of the “emergency” of the mega-event to open the gates to Trojan horses disguised as white elephants.

Last week, the city government of Rio de Janeiro passed the Pacote Olímpico, a series of laws that opens up areas of the city and gives financial incentives for hotel construction, allows for reforms of specific buildings such as the Sambódromo and Gasómetro. The full details of the law are not yet available to the public.

We’ve seen over the last weeks the ways in which the state has been violently intervening in Rio de Janeiro in order to securitize urban space for these events. To be sure, the mega-events are not the only motivation for invading and occupying strategic parts of the city with state and federal troops, but the perpetual “state of emergency” that Rio and Brazil are now living under as we adequately prepare ourselves to receive the FIFA and IOC overlords is forcing some radical change in the city.

(I’m not sure if any one has undertaken a larger sociological examination of the role that “inviting the world to Rio” is going to have on Carioca society. Cariocas’ are generally reluctant to invite people into their homes, preferring to meet in public spaces, bars, street corners, etc. The airing of dirty laundry in the face of the world’s press, which will undoubtedly be going through the metaphorical closets, might be rather embarrassing and can be considered one of the risks of hosting mega-events).

Lula, of course, is in favor of the World Cup and Olympics as they represent significant gains in Brazil’s political-economic standing. For him, it is well worth spending as much as 100 billion public dollars, which in the larger scheme of the Brazilian economy is barely noticeable. The problem is not that the World Cup and Olympics are happening, but that they are being used to promote agendas that will weaken already fragile institutions, create non-democratic space and places, exclude the majority of the population from active participation, and subsidize record profits for national and trans-national corporations with public money. This is hardly the kind of platform that Lula would have promoted 8 years ago, but one that is painfully consistent with the political-economy of the PT over the past 5-6 years.

There is no evidence to support the notion that cities, states, or nations ever recuperate their investment in mega-events. The short and medium term consequences for what I would consider necessary social spending (housing, education, transportation, health) are dire. In the case of Rio de Janeiro, the investments in transportation infrastructure are not going to attend to the real needs of the city, but will rather further segment the city along class lines and contribute to the enrichment of areas that are already privileged in the urban context.

This is nothing new, but it is interesting to hear how the “leftist” president of Brazil justifies all of the public spending in the name of creating a consumer society predicated upon a “unsustainable” model of development. I use quotes there because the idea of “sustainability” has become a farcical and empty trope that makes people feel better (or ignore entirely) that their consumer choices are false ones (i.e. Prius or Lexus / Pepsi or Coke / Brahma ou Skol – the same decision processes that have the same result of perpetuating cycles of production and consumption).

Lula is justifiably proud of many of the accomplishments of his government, but the idea of eliminating or lowering tariffs on foreign companies and altering laws so that FIFA and the IOC can come in and contribute to the explosive growth of a consumer society (of which the recent invasions are meant to “secure”) is abusive, short-sighted, and un-democratic. The proof is in the alteration of laws which will stimulate short term gains for a few, which the cities and their residents will live with the debt and alterations to urban space for the next generations.

Lula’s closing comments at the collective interview provide deep insight into the way he (and the incoming president, Dilma) view the role of government.

“If you look at the world today, among the largest hydroelectric dams under construction, the three largest are being built in Brazil, Santo Antônio, Girão, Belo Monte. That’s 418 megawatts of energy being constructed simultaneously in Brazil. If you were to analyze the railways being constructed in the world, three of the largest are being built in Brazil: norte-sul, de 1.530 km, nordestino that will link Ceará and Pernambuco passing for Piauí, 1.900 km, and the East-West that will link Bahia with Belém. So we have three of the biggest rail lines in the world under construction. If you look at what we are doing, you will see that we are also building for of the biggest refineries in the world, Comperj in Rio de Janeiro (US$ 20 billion), Maranhão (US$9 billion), Ceará (US$12 billion), Pernambuco (US$12 billion). If you were to analyze the investments in petroleum exploration being undertaken around the world, you would find that the biggest investment being made in the world today is being done in Brazil and through 2014 will be invested US$224 billions in oil exploration. I am saying all of this to you to demonstrate the volume and solidity of investment being undertaken in Brazil.”

This is the new look of the Worker’s Party in Brazil. It is a very different one than took the stage 8 years ago. The discourses of social justice and democracy have flown out the window as quickly as the economy has grown. The environment is something to be exploited and sold, either as valuable commodity or as an “authentic” tourist experience. Economies and democratic institutions are not growing at equal rates.   The prevailing idea is that as long as everyone is getting at least a little bit more wealthy, and people can buy things and have their lights on, then bring on the mega-events to show the world that Brazil is capable of being just like Europe and North America, where financial and social troubles were left behind when Reagan, Thatcher, Kohl, and Chirac took office.

What Lula doesn’t say, and refused to answer, was that he has signed laws and is working to create cities that will encourage private urban governance and the spectacularization of consumption and leisure in the form of blinged-out stadiums, fancy waterfront restaurants, and exclusive shopping districts.

Get your authenticity packaged up by staying in a 2 star boutique hotel in the Complexo de Alemão, or Pavão-Pavãozinho, where just last year drug traffickers ruled! Don’t worry, it’s occupied by shock troops, nothing to fear (anymore). Come to Rio, your safe, yet legally justified, debt-laden haven for unlimited capital accumulation where things will look just like Barcelona by 2016, if everything goes according to plan.

03 December 2010

Question about mega-events for Lula

(This morning there was a collective interview for the foreign journalists in Brazil with President Lula. My question made it into the list and I was able to get it across to him. For the moment I am going to leave the question and response up here without my commentary as there are many other questions that he responded to that I am going to weave into a larger post.)

A couple of notes to contetualize the question and response. 1) BNDES, the National Development Bank, is providing R$400 million in sub-prime loans to states who are building World Cup stadiums. 2) Any and all materials having to do with the World Cup are exempt from import taxes and employees are expempt from income taxes. This is a requirement of FIFA and one that several Dutch and  Belgium PMs called attention to, undoubtedly blasting huge holes in their bid for the World Cup 3) Brazil has passed multiple laws at all levels of government that allow for the 'dribbling' of constitutional processes that would interfere with the expediencies required to host mega-events. 4) Lula is the head of the Worker's Party which formerly represented the political left in Brazil.

Pergunta Para Lula ; Question for Lula

Em 2007 seu governo, atravez do ministerio do esporte, guarantiu que não haverá dineiro publico para construir estádios pela copa do mundo. Hoje em dia o governo está disposto gastar bilhões nos estádios alem de dar isensão fiscal a todo que tem que ver com a Copa, qual é um evento privado de FIFA. Em 2009, o senhor assinou um contrato com COI  garantindo R$29 bilhões pela realização dos Jogos Olímpicos no Rio. Para realizar esse eventos é preciso altera leis nacionais, estaduais e municipais para permitir que esses eventos se-realizam. Na face dos grandes prejuiços que sofreram Grecia e Africa do Sul depois dos mega-eventos é possivel que os mega-eventos vão atropelhar processos democraticos e aumenta desigualidades sociais no Brasil?

In 2007 your government, via the Minister of Sport, guaranteed that there would not be any public money spent on World Cup stadiums. Today, the government is prepared to spend billions on the stadiums in addition to giving full tax exemption to everything that has to do with the World Cup, which is a private event run by FIFA. In 2009, you signed a contract with the IOC guaranteeing R$29 billion for the realization of the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. To carry off these events, it is necessary to alter federal, state, and municipal laws. In the face of the economic damages that Athens and South Africa suffered after mega-events, is it possible that mega-events are going to harm democratic processes and increase social inequalities in Brazil?

Resposta ; Response

Se a Copa do Mundo fosse tããão desastrosa economicamente, não teria tanta gente atras dela. (ironicamente)

If the World Cup was such a financial disaster there wouldn’t be so many people after it. (ironically).

Todo pais deveria fazer uma Copa do Mundo não é apenas uma cuestao de dinheiro porque é um espectáculo que da dimensão a um pais. O que a gente ve quando vemos o que aconteceu na China, em quanto conheciamos a China antes e quando connheciamos depois?

Every country should host a World Cup and it is not merely a question of money because it is a spectacle tat gives an added dimension to a country. What did we see when we saw what happened in China, how much did we know about China before [the Olympics] and how much did we know after?

O governo não está colocado dinheiro publico. O governo abriu uma linha de financiamento à cada estado que de responsibilidade de cuidar dos estádios porque os proprios governadores apresentavam os projectos para poder conquistar o direito cediar a Copa do Mundo. O que nos fizemos foi colocar a disposição do cada estado uma quantia em dinheiro financiado pelo Banco nacional de desenvolvimento. Por tanto o governador vai pegar o seu dinheiro e vai contrair um empréstimo e vai pagar.

The government is not spending public money. The government opened a line of financing for every state that is taking responsibility for building the stadiums because it was the governors of the state that presented the projects in order to conquer the right to host the World Cup. What we did was to place at the disposition of every state a quantity of money financed by the National Development Bank (BNDES) [R$400 million per stadium]. From there, each governor can take their money, assume the loan and then pay it back.

E obviamente nos interesse baratear o custo das coisas para que a copa do mundo será o mais barata que..o seja. Acho que e incompensible que tenha pessoas que faça a vida inteira dizendo que nos fizemos reduzir impostos, reduzir impostos, reduzir impostos...quando a gente redizimos impostos, quando a gente reduz impostos pra fazer um estádio as pessoas falam que o Estado está perdendo.

It’s obvious that it interests us to keep the costs low so that the Cup will be as cheap as possible. That is, I think that it’s incomprehensible that we have people that go their entire lives saying that we need to reduce taxes, reduce taxes, reduce taxes, and when we reduce taxes to build a stadium people say that the state is losing out.

O mundo deveria ter copiado o Brasil. O Brasil foi o primeiro pais a tomar todas as medidas anti-cíclicas que foram tomadao depois pela China, e ai rediuzimos impostos para o povo poder comprar uma escada, para o povo comprar mais carro, para o povo comprar a geladeira, para o povo comprar uma maquina de lavar, para o povo comprar uma televisão. Reduzimos tantos impostos de construção civil. Então, é importante que a gente reduze impostos para a construcao dessas obras que depois que depois de estiverem prontas elas vao ser motivo de aumento da arrecadacao do proprio estado seja o estado, seja a cidade, e seja a União.

The world should have copied Brazil. Brazil was the first country to take all of the anti-cyclical measures that were taken after by China. We reduced taxes so that people could buy a ladder, but a car, buy a refrigerator, buy a washing machine, buy a television. We reduced civil construction taxes a lot. It is therefore important that we reduce the taxes [and tariffs] for the construction of these projects so that after they are ready they will be able to contribute to the increase in the receipts of the state, city, or country.

Vamos fazer uma extraordinaria copa do mundo. Eu tenho certeza absoluta que cada entity federativo vai cumprir com a suas obrigações. E que vamos fazer uma copa do mundo exemplar e que espera que muita gente vieram aqui para ver de o que estamos capaz.

We are going to have an extraordinary World Cup. I have absolute certainty that all of the federal entities are going to meet their obligations. We are going to put on an exemplary World Cup and I hope that a lot of people come here to see what we are capable of.

O que não pode acontecer e o Brasil perder a Copa do Mundo aqui no Maracanã como foi em cinquenta, vai ser um disastre economico. E vamos nos preparar para que Brasil seja campeão.

What can’t happen is that Brazil loses the World Cup in the Maracanã like we did in 1950, it will be an economic disaster. We are going to prepare ourselves so Brazil becomes champion.

02 December 2010

Russia 2018, Quatar 2022. Does FIFA make you sick too?

FIFA's decisions are the final nails in the coffin of the World Cup as an populist event. It's been going this way for some time, but it should be clear to everyone that FIFA goes where they can "do business" their way. Where corruption and petro-dollars reside (South Africa, Brasil, Russia, Quatar), there goes FIFA. 2006 was an abberation to give some credibility to the institution, or to give the Europeans a chance to see the Cup. But now, we are seeing the depths to which FIFA has fallen and I am considering a personal boycot of international football. It will certainly free months of my life up to do something useful. So, to all of you who were thinking of coming to Brasil for the 2014 World Cup, my apartment will be empty as I'll be off in the Pantanal, far from televisions, internet, and radio. FIFA perpetrates crimes against humanity with the full support of the public.

A flight from Rio de Janeiro to Doha, for one month, US$2,284.
A flight from Rio de Janeiro to Moscow: US$1,300 (not bad actually!)

If you're revolted by these two decisions, start paying attention to what is going to happen in Brasil and to what just happened in South Africa, as it's all part of the same putrid puzzle.

01 December 2010

The Stadium as Disciplinary Space

Facial identification of fans to be installed at the Engenhão stadium in Rio

One of the terrifying elements of going to events like Soccerex and Expoestádio is that I get to see all of the new technologies being developed in order to control fans. As I wrote with Gilmar Mascharenas some time ago, stadiums are places of discipline, where everyone is watched, measured, evaluated, judged, reformed, controlled. The players suffer the greatest scrutiny, followed by the referee, the coaching staff, the fans. Going to stadiums is a contradictory practice. We go to public space to lose ourselves in the crowd, but at the same time we are controlled, shunted, forced, and watched over like never before. The seating arrangements determine our behavior to some degree, the way that space is structured in and around the stadium directs our movement, the police lord over the crowd, the advertisers target us, and we watch each other – 80,000 cell phone cameras record everything.  

With the arrival of the World Cup in Brazil, and given the recent events in Rio, all people want to talk about is “security”. The concept of security as it is used in the media and by football officials is woefully narrow, focusing solely on the physical integrity of the fan. The security to come and go from the stadium without suffering robbery, attack, or threat is a fundamental one but surely security pertains to much more than what should be a fundamental condition of citizenship. In Brazil, the Law of the Fan is basically a penal code that creates extraordinary statutes for violent acts that occur in and around stadia. The “rights” of the fan to be “secure” do not extend past the limited conception of physical integrity. We could also consider security to pertain to culture and social well-being:

Are we secure in the knowledge that our rights as citizens will be protected? How will the information gathered about fans be used? Is there security of information? Do we have guarantees that public money being spent on stadia is meeting social needs, or is the huge expenditure going to decrease social welfare?  What are the opportunity costs of hosting mega-events and do they contribute to social security other than an increase in policing (which is not, in Rio de Janeiro, synonymous with security)?

With all this in mind I was perturbed to read a press release from Axis communications expressing in very press-release terms that soccerex would host the launching of a new camera that would identify football fans’ facial features as they go through the turnstiles:

 “the prototype, developed in Brazil, will be presented a the BWA stand, a business that offers complete solutions for the control of access to events…as the fans approaches the ticket reader (electronic, with specific seat), they will have their image registered in high definition and stored in a data bank. In the case that something happens in a determined seat, it will be possible to immediately identify the face and the data of the fan that occupied that place…after Soccerex, the camera will be tested in various stadiums that will host the World Cup.”

Because none of the stadiums that will host the World Cup will be ready until 2013, the test is going to take place at Rio's Engenhão (Fechadão, Stadium Rio, Estádio Olímpico J.H.). It might be tested this Sunday as the stadium will be full to see Fluminense grab their first Brasileirão title in 26 years.

This new camera, combined with microphones that can pick up a conversation from 500 meters between two people in a crowd and the multi-billion real investment in security apparatuses for the mega-event city are all part of a larger disciplinary scheme that is making Rio de Janeiro and its stadiums, and its stadium cultures, ever more docile, ever more ready to facilitate the free flow of capital. The new model of fandom is well known in other parts of the world. Buy your ticket, pay to park, walk quietly to the stadium, buy some things at the shop, sit down, buy some food, applaud, control yourself (or others will), consume, get out, come back. Repeat.

In summary: Brazil 2014 is making the world safe for capital accumulation, one high-tech security apparatus at a time. 

Soccerex and the 2014 World Cup

This is a link to an article published today in TheShinGuardian about soccerex and the 2014 World Cup.

Brazil 2014: Soccerex & BBC Response

Professor Christopher Gaffney checks in again from Brazil…
The Soccerex Global Convention was held last week in the Copacabana Fort, attached to the Sofitel in Rio de Janeiro. The title of the convention, Uniting the Football World, made as much sense as FIFA’s slogan, For the Good of the Game. The world of football is huge, as big as the world itself, but we know what they meant: Bringing together people who are in the business of football.
Soccerex is the biggest football business event of the year, dwarfing Expo Estádio, which has also been held in Rio the past two years. The entry fee to Soccerex was a tidy ₤800. It will be held in Rio every November through 2013.
I’m writing about Soccerex because it gives deep insight into the precarious and bordering-on corrupt state of Brazilian football, the preparedness of Rio for mega-events, and the general absurdities that are pertaining in the run up to 2014.
Let’s begin with the World Cup.
Only five of the twelve host cities were represented at Soccerex: Rio de Janiero, Belo Horizonte. São Paulo, Porto Alegre, and Salvador da Bahia. Of the five, only Belo Horizonte had a thoroughly professional team in place to answer questions about the Minerão stadium project. (A project that, surprisingly, is not being financed by the city government but rather by a Public-Private-Partnership).
The Minerão project is not without its problems, but the team they sent to attend media inquiries were willing and able to respond to some difficult questions and have sent alonginformation regarding the project.
São Paulo’s booth was lovely, but as we know, there is currently no stadium project underway for Brazil’s biggest city and main point of entry.
Let me repeat that. São Paulo, Brazil’s biggest city, does not have a stadium project for 2014….yet.
The idea is that Corinthians are going to build a new stadium, but ground is closer to exploding than breaking, literally.
Well, there is a Petrobras gas pipeline that runs through the site. Surely São Paulo will have a stadium for the World Cup. Raquel Rolink, a well-known Brazilian urbanist and UN delegate, has suggested that São Paulo’s Morumbi project was not sufficiently expensive to allow for FIFA to gain monies from and thus was dropped from consideration.
There is also the likelihood that Ricardo Teixeira, head of the Brazilian Football Confederation is working with his longtime confidante Andre Sanchez, president of Corinthans, who is assumed to be next in line for the CBf presidency should Teixeira head for Switzerland and FIFA House to escape the recent corruption claims.
Salvador had a touching video of the Novo Fonte Nova, some Bahianas dressed up in traditional garb, but nothing concrete to offer.
Porto Alegre had set up a small room that looked like place to open a bank account: not very inviting and clearly targeting a limited audience. The Beira-Rio project is one of the few that is being financed by a private entity (Internacional F.C.) and as a result is the stadium project with the lowest cost and perhaps greatest post-Cup use value.
The big show, of course, was reserved for Rio and the Novo Maracanã project. The show was led by the mono-lingual state secretary for tourism and leisure, Marcia Lins, who stood proudly over the stadium model showing the unquestioning media all of the “improvements” that would be made to the no-longer-so-colossal stadium.
Let’s remember that the Maracanã underwent hundreds of millions of dollars of reforms from 2005-2007 to “prepare” it for the Pan American games. All of those reforms have just been blasted through to get started on the “facelift” the 60-year-old ground will get for 2014. It’s an expensive lift. A project that was projected to cost R$500 million in May of 2009, jumped to R$709 million one year later – without actually doing any work!
Imagine how much it is going to cost by the time 2013 and the Confederation Cup rolls around. There is no justification for this kind of expenditure of public money on stadiums that will be handed over to FIFA and the IOC for private profit.
Soccerex was a relatively small event in a small space. That doesn’t explain why there was almost no information about what was happening on a daily basis. The only way to get a schedule of events and talks was to download it to an ipad or iphone. There was nothing available in paper on the day of the event. Speakers changed rooms and times without warning. The press conference rooms were small and ill-prepared. The bathrooms were port-a-potties with no paper towels. Sure it’s a fort, but come on! For 800 pounds I would have expected more.
As I commented in my previous article, the 2014 Local Organizing Committee is headed by five people.
Ricardo Teixeira and the head and the other departments (as I was informed by the LOC press secretary) are: Strategic Planning and Operations Support (Joana Havelange), Operations (Ricardo Trade) and Communications (Rodrigo Paiva). What are the qualifications of these people to do what they do? Ms. Havelange is 33 years old. She willonly report to her father. Let’s talk about him.
Ricardo Teixeira: Questionable
Ricardo Teixeira was named in the Andrew Jenning’s BBC report as a recipient of bribes paid out during the long running ISL – FIFA scandal.
The media in Brazil did some much-delayed back flips when it was revealed last week that it will be possible for Teixeira to direct all of the profits of the 2014 LOC to himself.
How? In order to register as a corporation, the 2014 LOC needed to have a real person as a partner (apparently). Teixeira was made a .01% owner of the World Cup yet was given the power to direct profits where he sees fit. This is already the first time that the head of the national football federation will be heading up the LOC. Now the head of both of those organizations has been accused (and not for the first time) of being on the happy end of bribery schemes and has put himself in a position to make hundreds of millions off of the World Cup that is being constructed and financed with pubic money.
The stadium projects will forcibly dislocate people from their homes. They will all be way over budget. The majority will be mono-functional structures that have no articulation with their urban environments. Transportation infrastructures will not attend to the demands and needs of the local context but will ram through neighborhoods to link the stadiums to tourist areas. Everything associated with the World Cup will be exempt from taxation, visas procedures, and regular fiscalization by any level of government. The documents and legal exemptions that Andrew Jennings highlights in his videos are already reality in Brazil.

30 November 2010

Other considerations for the “War on/in/of Rio”

After listening to Luis Eduardo Soares last night on tv rodaviva, I have a few more things that I would like to add to my commentary about the Complexo.

This is one of the most important developments in the modern history of Rio de Janeiro and any analysis needs to be taken with that in mind. It is not just about “preparing” the city for mega-events, though that is undoubtedly a motivating factor. As Soares points out in his interview, this is an opportunity to “clean” the police of corruption, to professionalize the institutional structures and functioning of public security in Brazil and to vitalize the perception of the police force in the public consciousness (note that I’m not using “re” in front of any words). This is a worthwhile project, but one that has so many tentacles into the highest levels of government that it will be at least as many years in the untangling as in the tangling. Fundamental to this project is to pay the police a decent wage. Perhaps some of the R$50 billion headed to the bullet train could go towards this? I should have an opportunity to ask Lula that question on Friday.

The idea of war is propagated through the media in order to justify extraordinary measures. There were some major abuses that occurred during the occupation of Alemão and Cruzeiro. Though the death penalty is unconstitutional in Brazil, people openly clamored for the summary execution of bandidos. In the case of mega-events, the state of emergency allows for the suspension of the constitution. In the case of "war" the death penalty can be imposed. Yesterday, I wrote that this is a class war. That’s not entirely correct either. It’s a struggle for resources, social inclusion, equal rights, social and urban services, education, opportunity etc. that defines this mind-boggling intricate conjuncture in Rio de Janeiro and Brazil. While peace and prosperity pertain in the Zona Sul as never before, the Zona Norte is the scene and scenario of “trouble”. Surely the two worlds are related. "War" it's not and those watching from should understand that. It's something else. 

This is a geo-political and economic project that is in an accelerated cycle of implementation. EVERYONE agrees that the UPPs are bringing some benefit to the way that Rio de Janeiro is governed. However, the secondary and tertiary effects have not been thought through to the point that there are governmental or institutional responses to deal with them. The mayor is concerned with applying “shocks” of all kinds to the Zona Sul of Rio: order, small crime, peeing in the street, trash. “They” propose huge development projects worth hundreds of millions as if these will solve systematic problems that emerge as symptomatic expressions of poverty, crime, informal economies, drug trade, corruption, etc. Will the government go so far as to begin to redistribute wealth, not just in the form of higher salaries and investment in social services, but through the implementation of a urban plan that will attend to the needs and desires of those left out of the “Olympic City”? From the looks of the investments scheduled over the next years, not bloody likely.

Therefore, in the absence of structural changes to the economic-geographic realities that have always defined the city, we can understand these adjustments as partial attempts to control strategic areas of the city that can then be more easily inserted into systems of capital. The security situation in Alemão was critical and was a major threat to the mega-events and capital accumulation at large. The problem (but not the cause) was opportunistically solved, allowing us to ask the government: what’s next? Will you address the cause? These are the same questions we’ve been asking about the UPPs. Rocinha and Vidigal have to be next (especially after the relative embarrassment of the hostage taking in São Conrado). When and how Nem and his troops in the Zona Sul are going to be confronted will be the next chapter in the larger pacification and unlocking of Rio de Janeiro.

FIFA continues to make me sick

The following two videos are from the BBC's panorama series. Investigative journalist Andrew Jennings (transparencyinsport.org) follows up on his years' long investigations into FIFA corruption just ahead of the vote for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. The process is opaque, business interests and corruption grease each other up in dark, smoky rooms in the Swiss Alps, and the macho / misogynist heirarchy of FIFA continues to claim "Fair Play" while making record profits due to abusive (and illegal) tax exemptions, the creation of a homogenized consumer culture, and the elimination of democratic processes in order to, as a British MP says in the video, "get on one's knees" for FIFA. Next up we'll see how Soccerex contributes to the current model of mega-event development that in turn creates "states of emergency" in cities and countries that allow for the suspension of urban and social normalcy. The technologies and tactics imposed during these altered states become permanent apparatuses of state control and create structural adustments in the very fabric of society.

Notable in the BBC videos are the continued claims of Ricardo Teixeira's involvement in FIFA corruption scandals. Surprised?

For those in a betting frame of mind, Russia is currently at 9/2 odds to host 2018. I'd take that bet.


29 November 2010

It is WAR! Unless it is something else…um complexo

For those that have been living under a Barack there has been more violence that usual in Rio over the past week. As I was headed to the market in Gloria yesterday morning a troop transport stuffed with camouflaged soldiers rolled to the Zona Norte. I had a quick snapshot of what it must have been like to live in Brazil under the military dictatorship (1964-1985). Later on in the day, I found the scene on the beaches of Leme, Copacabana, Ipanema, and Leblon to be like any other November weekend. Sun, beer, altinha, fute-voli, bunda e sunga, mar, ambulates, areia, paz, e relax. But everyone was talking about the same thing: the massive military action to “pacify” the Vila Cruzeiro and the Complexo do Alemão – Rio’s drug trading center and second largest favela complex.

Last Monday, bandidos associated with Rio’s very well entrenched and organized drug trafficking factions began to burn cars and buses, carrying out a general and decentralized campaign of mayhem that was begging for a response from the state. The large media outlets claimed that this sudden outburst was a response to the continued installation of UPPs. I have my doubts about this claim as only 13 of Rio’s 1000+ favelas have been “pacified”.

The military responses over the following 6 days have changed forever the profile of drug trafficking in Rio de Janeiro. What the media is calling the “War for Rio” returned two massive areas of the city to state control after years of a parallel, autonomous form of government. How and why this happened, as well as the residual effects of this week will take a long time to sort out, but I’ll give it a go from where I sit (Center of Rio) and with the information I have at my disposal. (I also highly recommend reading these commentaries: Luiz Eduardo Soares; Gustavo Barreto).

I’m going to start with the premise that this is not a “war”. In a war, there are generally two sides battling, some casualties on both sides, and official declarations of intent. In this case, there were ZERO fatalities on the side of the invading forces and a very ambiguous death toll on the side of the drug trafficking factions. A 14 year old girl was killed inside her home, struck in the chest by a stray bullet and a reporter was shot in the arm. There was undoubtedly more “collateral damage” including the general casting aside of human rights that always accompanies massive military action. Many people (via fbook, twitter, conversations) were demanding the summary execution of all the drug traffickers, calling for helicopters to fly in a give a general strafing, celebrating the sudden death of individuals with as much sentiment as playing a video game. Others have been calling this state-sponsored terrorism. I thought it might be a kind of civil war, but have come to the realization that it’s a class struggle, where the state is intervening to correct some “inadequacies” in the social, geographic, and economic structures of Rio de Janeiro in order to better prepare it for the free circulation of capital that mega-events both stimulate and demand. This is the military version of Ireland’s structural adjustment plan.

The violence in Rio has many of the characteristics of war but cannot be rightly identified as such. It could be part of a larger training regimen for Brazil’s police forces, an opportunity to test new systems of centralized command in preparation for the gazillion mega-events coming to Rio, or simply an opportune time to obtain one of the necessary geographic objectives to establish the rule of law in Rio de Janeiro. Since the announcement of the Olympics, Rio de Janeiro has been pushed into a continual state of emergency where extraordinary measures have become “necessary” instruments to “prepare” the city for these events. The World Cup and Olympics are invoked, chanted, mantra-fied, in order to justify just about anything that will accelerate capital flows and secure urban space.  Without question, the “taking” of the Complexo do Alemão is a fundamental piece of the puzzle and one that can be elaborated with a quick anecdote.

When I was returning to Rio from Buenos Aires, coming into Galeão at night, the flight path took us from West to East over Rio. The final approach brought us along the South face of the Complexo do Alemão. As we passed, first one, then two, then three high powered green lasers began to flash by the windows. It was evident that the plane was being tracked as it landed. Were these lasers attached to high powered rifles? RPGs? Are there anti-aircraft guns hidden in the hills? It would only take one airplane going into the ground as a result of gun-fire from the Complexo to ruin the tourist economy, put an end to the mega-event wet-dream of the Brazilian Brahmans, and to install a general panic about the capacity of the state to control the beast it has so diligently created. As I watched the lasers flash in my window, it occurred to me that I was sitting in a nice, meaty, flammable, spectacular, undefended target.

The Face of Terror: Mister M
His mom convinced him to turn himself in, the only one to do so.
How many people died this week? More than 100? 200? We’ll never know. Why did the violence flare up this week, so soon after the elections? Theories abound. Were election promised unfulfilled? Did the orders to start “blowing shit up” come from the prisons as a reaction to the continued installation of UPPs? Were these autonomous collectives out for some incendiary fun all over the city? Why start this fight now? What are the immediate results and the next steps?

Economic and geographic logics are fundamental here. Let’s look at some consequences of this week’s violence.

More than 40 toneladas of marijuana were found in the military operations this week. 40 tons. That is 80,000 pounds of weed, people. To my knowledge, no one has yet undertaken a scientific analysis of the street value of 40 toneladas (my estimate is US$20-25 million), but it is certainly enough to get the entire world high for the month of the World Cup. This massive seizure has permanently altered the nature of the drug economy in Rio. If we assume that a large part of the power wielded by traffickers was their ability to exchange maconha for money and weapons, then this was a major setback for organized drug trafficking. I don’t think the police expected to find as much as they did. I don’t think that the plan was for them to take the Complexo this week, but the opportunity presented itself and they had to take it. This also makes me think that there was no coordinated plan of systematized violence on the part of the drug factions, or else they would have taken their cash crop with them to other parts of the city. Could the provocations have been a huge miscalculation that resulted with the end of armed drug trafficking in Rio?

What are the police going to do with all that pot? If we assume that the invasion of the Complexo do Alemão and Vila Cruzeiro has cost the state a lot of money (another thing that is never discussed), wouldn’t it make sense to try to recuperate some of that money through the reselling of the spoils? What better time to legalize marijuana than when the state has just come across a bumper crop? By legalizing, regulating, and selling the drugs obtained in this raid the state has a chance to regularize and make permanent the changes that this week’s military operations as well as recuperate the money spent on the raid. The structural change has already occurred; the sensible action would be to make the social change at the same time.

The scope and scale of arms encountered in the Complexo do Alemão surprised even the police. Life will be much better for residents with only one armed group running the show. Let’s hope there is going to be an increased presence of the state in regard to urbanization, education, health, and environment. The day after the invasion of the Vila Cruzeiro, the mayor announced a program to invest R$400 million in projects for the Penha region. This is a good start, though it is only one third of what the state is investing in the Maracanã. If these projects were so ready to fly into the press, why weren’t they announced until the day after the invasion? Who was blowing up all those cars and buses anyway?

As Raquel Rolink noted in a talk she gave at a Seminar on the Challenges of Mega-Events last week, a state of war is the ultimate instance in which the state can impose its authority through its refusal to impose the rule of law. That is, the state makes exceptions and exemptions to the law when there are states of emergency. In addition to the permanent emergency status that Rio is in because of the deadlines imposed by mega-events, the extra emergency of “war” allows for the further suspension of normalcy.

What this week’s battle in Rio reminded me of was the USA invasion of Iraq. This was a show of highly technologized, overwhelming force against an enemy that had been portrayed to be deadlier than deadly, more organized than the police themselves. The television outlets gave too many details about the kinds of tanks and weaponry employed (a spectacularization of power as the traficantes fled helter skelter into the kills, running for their lives). Detailed maps showing the routes of invasion, the locations of drug and arms caches, and high definition images of night vision goggles, BOPE training, sequences of command, and all of the accoutrements of a war gave me the sense that all of this was happening in a far off country, where I could watch the bombs fall and see the flames rise, but not have to deal with the untidy mess of exploded limbs and charred remains. This “war” is produced and consumed and instantly historicized (naturalized) like any other. OGlobo works with BOPE and the Rio PM in the same way that CNN and Fox worked with the US DOD.  The terminology used, the smug images of Sergio Cabral (Brazil’s George W.) overseeing the operation from on high, the video montages, the absence of critical perspective…it’s all the same. Shock and Awe, baby. Come on down to Rio for the World Cup y’all – we’ve done got rid of the band-ee-toes.

In her talk, Rolink also highlighted the role of the state in “unlocking” value. This is undoubtedly an important element of what is going on in Rio. We have see this with the installation of the UPPs, where rents and land values have increased by 400% in the favelas and more than doubled in the asfalto neighborhoods around them. The “pacification” of Alemão, combined with some confused projects like the teleferico (which turned into a symbol of conquest as the Brazilian flag was hoisted), will undoubtedly allow for the continuation of real estate speculation in Rio, allowing money to flow from areas in which is was trapped by the presence of the drug traffickers and the absence of the state.

The “Battles” of Alemão and Vila Cruzeiro had to happen if the governments of Rio de Janeiro were to ever get control of their urban space (no matter the secondary and tertiary motives). The installation of UPPs in the favelas of the Zona Sul has concentrated arms and drug trafficking in the major favelas of the Zona Norte and Rocinha. Whatever one thinks of the way in which this has all happened, the fact is that last week, the Complexo do Alemão was under the martial law of the drug dealers, and this week it is under the control of the state. This is an important and critical moment in the geo-political history of the city that will have profound and rippling effects.  Next up is Rocinha, which received words of warning all week from the PM: “Keep quiet over there, lads, if you know what’s good for you.”

No word about how the governor and mayor are planning on dealing with the dozens of favelas controlled milícias, (organized crime run by cops that give the big bosses political support), or the other favelas occupied by armed drug factions.

I don’t know what more to say about this other than that it’s complicated, historically situated, confusing, contradictory, and apparently inevitable.


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