23 March 2013

Beyond Incredulity

It may be that the readers of Hunting White Elephants are growing tired of the bad news coming out of Rio de Janeiro. I too, am weary of reporting and analyzing the daily acts of brutality, ignorance and aggression that the coalition of interests running the Games, Cup, State and City are raining down upon an all-too-passive population. For years, I have been pointing out the obvious, trying to make some sense of the disaster. It turns out that what I write here, say there, teach and publish generally may result in um grande zero because the rot has sunk so deep into the hearts and minds of Brazil’s classe dirigiste that there is no escape. Yesterday’s violent occupation of the Aldeia Maracanã was yet another clear example that could have been avoided with even the minimum of decency. 

Let's talk this over. OBobo photo. 
There was widespread and arbitrary use of tear gas and pepper spray. According to one eyewitness report, as the Military Police were negotiating with a group of indigenous people over the Aldeia wall, one became visibly upset, took out his spray and fired it into their eyes in the middle of the conversation. Evicting an unarmed group with chemical warfare and shock troops is a tactic taken from the pages of Columbus’ diaries.

Journalists were hit with both pepper spray and tear gas, manhandled by the MP, and had cameras broken before being shoved onto the median of a busy highway. The State Government simply does not care about how they appear in the press, national or international. When the ball is rolling for the Confederations Cup, no one will remember what happened on March 22. One hopes that the national and international press corps that were brutalized yesterday will remember that they have colleagues who cover sporting events as if they happen in de-contextualized space.

There’s much more but there’s other work and emergency meetings to get to on a Saturday morning.  

The new Rio de Janeiro State Secretary for Sport and Leisure (SEEL), whose name I hope to never write down, said in an interview this week that: “The place for Indians is in the forest. That’s why we’re protecting the Amazon, isn’t it?” This charming fellow gives me a cheek-full of saudade for his predecessor, Marcia Lins, who obtousely managed to not respond to any of my requests for information about the Maracanã for three years. 

The tactics of the MP here are neither new nor restricted to Rio or to Brazil, but their consistent and constant application to clear urban space for the implementation of privatization schemes is what is clearly marking Rio de Janeiro as an Olympic and World Cup host city. The same happened in Mexico '68, LA '84, Seoul '88, Barcelona '92, Atlanta '96, Athens '04, Beijing '08, Vancouver '10 and worse things are happening in Putin’s Sochi '14. The IOC and FIFA never make pronouncements about this kind of thing, remaining high on their Swiss perches holding moralistic discussions among themselves about “reform” and “transparency”.  Light me another torch, please, it’s cold out here in the American wilderness.

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