04 April 2012

Sei la, mil coisas

As usual, a million things happening and no time to cover them all.

First, as predicted the non-transparent fat cats at the CBF and CONMEBOL danced around some chairs and put Ricardo Texeira’s allies in positions of power. The following week, FIFA welcomed the president of the São Paulo football federation as the new CONMEBOL representative and the Brazilian football clubs gave a vote of confidence to the 78 year old Jose Marin as head of the CBF. Football directors in Brazil are born without spinal cords. 

The same week there was a predictable and avoidable conflict between Corinthians and Palmeiras fans in São Paulo. Before the season began all the torcidas organizadas of São Paulo sat down with the Military Police to indicate parts of the city that were most likely to see fighting or conflict. The idea was that policing would be re-enforced in those areas. However, because it behooves the police to have violence in order to guarantee overtime, the fans were pushed into those very same areas and conflict ensued, duh. So not only are the police frequently the most violent actors, they also stimulate and encourage violence. Then the media jumps all over the fans for being violent. Watching the videos from the stadium it's clear that the police are the agitators. 

Brazil suffers from an irony deficiency.

At the same time in Rio, a bunch of septuagenarian, crusty old bastards who apparently liked the firm hand of the military crushing dissent, homosexuality, and freedom of expression  gathered at the Club Militar in the center of Rio de Janeiro to, get this, celebrate the anniversary of the 1964 military coup!!!!! The Military Police were, of course and as is their wont, spraying pepper at protester and passer-by while heavily-pensioned, slack-jawed torturers were able to celebrate their former actions with total impunity! This in a country whose president was arrested and tortured by military dictatorship! Imagine Obama saying nothing about a major rally to celebrate the anniversary of the founding of the Confederacy and all that socio-political-economic system implied. I wonder what João Havelange thought about all of this. Probably oatmeal.

The spate of recent articles trickling down from the north about how wonderful all of this investment is going to be for Rio are based on visions of the world that have nothing to do with the realities on the ground or an understanding of the paucity of planning and respect for human rights in Rio de Janeiro. This continues to be a very violent culture that is at the same time hyper-passive politically. The more one looks into the World Cup and the Olympics from the perspective of urban functionality, opportunity costs, and efficient use of scarce resources the more one cannot believe that people who should know better, don’t.

But wait, perhaps it is not in the interests of politicians and their friends in the civil construction and real-estate businesses to know better. Corruption is rampant, politicians are tied to multi-billion dollar interests and democratic institutions are weak. Half of Rio de Janerio isn’t even under the control of the state! Where the state has gone in to try to establish a new order, such as in Rocinha, they can’t control the explosion of violence that results. In two months there have been nine recorded murders in Rocinha, including the head of one of the resident’s associations an yesterday a member of the Military Police. This is in addition to the uncounted knifing deaths whose vicitms have been thrown in the forest. To make matters even more whatever the PM commanders have decided that all, all new PM recruits will do their training in Rocinha! Come on, using a neighborhood of 100,000 people as a training ground for new recruits while that neighborhood is in the middle of a massive socio-political-economic restructuring and is clearly going through a wave of gang-style murders? Fala sério.

The discussion about Rio’s Olympic Era in the New York Times was excellent as a way of highlighting the differences in perspective. Theresa Williamson set up her ducks and knocked them nicely down while the risk management specialist blew holes in his own argument (see my comments on the site and please contribute). There is no justification for these events, it’s all gone wrong by design, the most we can hope for is damage mitigation while the rich get fantastically richer, the middle class gets pushed out of the city  and those who rent anywhere are squeezed by micro and macro-economic forces that roam the land like angry Greek gods. Maybe as the days get shorter I start to lose my optimism, but barring any evidence to the contrary...

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