12 January 2013

Battle for the Aldeia

The government moved to take the Aldeia Maracanã today. The Aldeia, a centuries old indigenous heritage site, is wedged between the Estádio Mario Filho and 14 lanes of traffic and train. The government claims that the Aldeia is going to congest the flow of fans from the stadium to public transport and so needs to be made into a parking lot. This parking lot was not in any of the plans for 2014 reform deform and FIFA has never called for the elimination of the Aldeia. Of course, being FIFA, they haven`t made a case for it either.

The state government insists, and people in the football industry agree, that the Maracanã complex needs to be privatized. The desire for privatization is shared by stadium management companies and “sports business experts” who see in the World Cup stadium deforms a chance to make a killing. The terms of the Maraca privatization will only require the “arena manager” to pay back a miniscule percentage of the R$1.2 billion project. The Maraca, is no longer a stadium but a multi-use arena that will perform to the degree that it is “rentable”. Once again, the Brazilian bullet train towards “modernity” and “global tendencies” lurches between stations of self-deception and insecurity before running indecently off the tracks into a cesspool of debt and moral lassitude.

The truth is that without public participation, no entity, private or public, would have the capacity to deal with the Maracanã, much less collaborate with the people at the Aldeia. The absence of transparency and dialogue is certainly true of SUDERJ (the state superintendence of sports) and the CBF is a paradigm of obscurantism and chicanery. The closed and secretive nature of the management and deformation of the Maraca, and along with it the Aldeia are, if nothing else, consistent and reflective of the interests and allies of the state and city.   

Workers at the Maracana applaud the Aldeia. 
Despite the failings of the government, there are a million arguments for preserving Aldeia Maracanã and for keeping the sporting complex in public hands. There are a thousand ways to use the deformed Mario Filho in socially useful and interesting ways. There are dozens of schemas for stadium management that could make productive use out of the billions in public investment.  The government does not want to have this debate, never did.  Out of ideas and patience, perhaps being pressured by FIFA, the state is opting for the least creative, most truculent and most violent mechanisms at its disposal. The ethnic groups and citizens camped at the Aldeia are agitating in defense of not just the rights of those who live and work at there, but in defense of the collective rights that are being stripped from all us for the “good of the game”.

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