|Not eveyone is happy about Obama's visit to Rio de Janeiro|
Mr. President woke most of the Zona Sul up this morning with his helicopters flying about. There has probably never been anyone in history that has a larger security footprint than Obama. The airports were shut down, the Brazilian Navy parked off of Copacabana, and more than 2000 Brazilian troops occupied the already occupied Cidade de Deus so that the big O could pay a visit. Where Obama goes, or plans on going, many thousands clear tens of thousands of others out of the way. There has been a media frenzy, of course, with everyone wanting to get a USAmerican on record for something (this artilce has momentarily put me in front of Frank Gaffney, from the dark side of the force in a google search for Gaffney Obama).
It’s a shame that NPR hasn’t made their more qualified reporters permanent staff in Brazil. That way those of you in North America could perhaps avoid the flaccid, banner waving drivel that came out before the Obamas descended on Brazil. On Friday, “Brazilians welcome Obama as their own” took on special meaning for football fans, organized labor, and people living in UPP favelas as protestors threw Molotov cocktails at the USA consulate downtown. The general reaction in the news was to ignore this massive protest, but the reaction amongst many Brazilians was that the protestors “estão de parabéns” – they should be congratulated. There were, on various listserves, calls for more protests of this sort, though I imagine that when faced with the FBI, Secret Service, BOPE, and the Brazilian Military, syndicalists, student organizers, and those with a memory that extends beyond 1985 figured that caution was the better part of valor.
After talking to Brazilian business interests and past presidents (with the exception of Lula who felt slighted because he was not asked to the official state dinner personally by Dilma and went to his son’s birthday churrasco instead), Obama gave a speech at the Teatro Municipal (full text here). I’ll pick on some easy things, because it’s Sunday and Obama woke me up this morning.
You play an important role in the global institutions that protect our common security and promote our common prosperity. And you will welcome the world to your shores when the World Cup and the Olympic games come to Rio de Janeiro.
We all know that the World Cup and Olympics have nothing to do with common prosperity, but the prosperity of big civil engineering firms, multi-national corporations, and corrupt sporting oligarchies. Our “common security” is one in which the banks get trillions from the government, R$33 billion gets poured into the World Cup, R$29 billion into the Olympics, and the minimum wage in Brazil is stuck at R$545 a month (US$328 x 12= US$3989 year).
We need world-class infrastructure -- which is why American companies want to help you build and prepare this city for Olympic success
Read: Brazilian money going to pay for USAmerican military and surveillance technology. The FBI has already been working with Brazilian police to install new modes of discipline in Brazilian stadiums.
Together we can also promote energy security and protect our beautiful planet. As two nations that are committed to greener economies, we know that the ultimate solution to our energy challenges lies in clean and renewable power. And that's why half the vehicles in this country can run on biofuels, and most of your electricity comes from hydropower. That's also why, in the United States, we've jumpstarted a new clean energy industry. And that's why the United States and Brazil are creating new energy partnerships -- to share technologies, create new jobs, and leave our children a world that is cleaner and safer than we found it.
There is nothing “clean” about biofuels. They require a massive, underpaid labor force and relegate unimaginably large swaths of the Brazilian northeast to mono-cropping. Brazil and the United States pollute, pollute, and pollute some more while eliminating environmental restrictions in the name of economic competition. The Brazilian Amazon has been re-territorialized so that it can be eviscerated (thanks Lula and Mangabeira Unger!). The “Brazilian dream” is to live in a condo, have at least two cars, and go to Orlando every year. (I’m only being slightly unfair here). Even if a car runs on biofuel, what about the resources needed to bring it into production? Does everyone have to have a car, Mr. President? In southeastern Brazil, the answer is yes, we can, and we bloody well will.
And as two countries that have been greatly enriched by our African heritage, it's absolutely vital that we are working with the continent of Africa to help lift it up.
When in Brasilia, Obama ordered an attack on Libya. Let’s keep the vapid paternalism flowing, that’ll make us feel good about what we’re doing while keeping Africa’s natural resources flowing in a Westerly
direction (and not to China).
The millions in this country who have climbed from poverty into the middle class, they could not do so in a closed economy controlled by the state. You're prospering as a free people with open markets and a government that answers to its citizens. You're proving that the goal of social justice and social inclusion can be best achieved through freedom -- that democracy is the greatest partner of human progress.
“Freedom” is just another word for open markets. In this sense, this is basically the same speech that W. would have given. “Democracy” is the greatest partner of increased profits and ever-expanding economies. In the speech he gave to the bidness folk in Brasilia, Obama said “When we look South towards Brazil, we see 200 million consumers.”
So hopefully once NPR gets some people who don’t just report about what they would like to believe to be true in that soft-spoken NPR world, those of you who are not living in Brazil will get a more complete picture of the perspectives and attitudes towards the USA here. There is massive ambivalence, admiration, disgust, mistrust, sympathy, and historically rooted perceptions that are not going to be overturned by Obama’s visit. People remember well the USA’s long-standing support of the military dictatorship here (and Chile, Argentina, Peru, Uruguay, Paraguay). Lula’s leftish militancy against the imperium was about as hollow as is Chavez’s. They keep their popularity by talking a big game, but in the details they hand everything over to the capitalists, developers, and USA-trained economists.
Obama has disappointed and deceived in many of the same ways as Lula. After much hope for change, he has implemented even more of the neo-liberal tools of governance to further the class-project that received such a tremendous boost under w. No one here is asking Obama how Brazilians are treated in Immigration detention centers. No one here wants to know what has gone so wrong with the “American dream”, as Brazilians are embarking upon a “development project” that is leading to a continental-scale consumer society modeled on the USA . There is no way to be green about this, much in the same way that it is impossible to have a green World Cup or Olympics, principally because there are part and parcel of the same socio-historical trajectory. It will take many, many more Molotov cocktails to alter this path.