23 June 2013

A Calm Between Storms

I took the header photo at the São Cristóvão metro station in between waves of assaults by the military police on peaceful protesters. Those familiar with Rio’s geo-political scenario will probably get the implication. C.V. stands for Comando Vermelho, Rio’s largest drug trafficking faction. So far, they’ve been quiet, as have the P.C.C. in São Paulo. It is good to remember that earlier this year there was a massive, diffuse and deadly conflict in São Paulo between various police factions and the P.C.C. The C.V. has lost much of its most valuable territory in Rio’s zona sul with the UPPs. The majority of Rio’s western suburbs are under the control of milicias. It is impossible to know what kind of agreements have been made between the powers that be and those that sometimes are, but if, for some reason, the drug factions or milicias want to break the status quo as much as those they sell drugs to…

It has become clear that the protests were infiltrated from the very beginning by police, right wing loonies and paid vandals. In all the looting and vandalism that happened on Thursday night in Rio, the police only managed 6 arrests. If they had any interest at all in stopping it, they could have done so quite easily. The systematic attempts to de-legitimate peaceful, democratic protests by those in power and the fringe elements that want to push Brazil back into the 17th century are supported by the very same people that held power way back then! Chega. Como dizen los hermanos, “Que se vayan todos”.

The city government has been criminally negligent in the handling of these protests. None of the people I talked to during or after saw any sign of emergency first aid services. There was a group of young doctors and medical students who volunteered, but that was it. The government knew very well what it was going to do and to whom. Paes and Cabral willingly endangered the health and safety of citizens without providing any kind of service for when their pre-meditated violence actually worked out in practice. This is as reprehensible as it is incomprehensible and I would very much like to hear the opinion of the Pope on this subject, as we prepare to receive his millions of minions in July.

The news from Brazil is big everywhere in the world with the exception of the United States. Uncle Sam is again too busy staring at his bellybutton. The Obama Administration appears to be snowed-in (ahem) by a mound of neo-liberal snarky powder. Hope went to Nope and then Dope too quickly.

The protests in Brazil are not static, nor are they diminishing. Today saw more violent clashes outside of stadiums and in city centers. The number one goal of this movement, rebellion, collective shout, occupation, bananada – should be to rip out the putrid insides of the Brazilian political and economic systems and replace them with something new. This, of course, is the work of decades. Unfortunately, in Dilma’s wobbling, cold and hollow speech on Friday night, she gave no indication that she has any intention of moving in this direction. The lack of viable alternatives and the increasing presence of neo-Nazis and other loonies may convince people to stop their nascent militancy.

In the blah, blah, blah response of Brazil’s politicians there has been almost no mention of police violence. During his press conference, Rio’s mayor began listing what had been vandalized in the center of the city yet never mentioned the 80+ that had to be taken to the hospital as city hall was “defended”. These barbarities and barbarians stand in stark contrast to the dignified, necessary, peaceful, tasteful, and orderly expression of civil and human rights exercised by the overwhelming majority of protesters.

The World Cup will happen in Brazil. It is surprising that there have not been many calls for FIFA and their partners to pay taxes on profits made in Brazil. In London, so many people boycotted the Olympic sponsors once they discovered that they were tax exempt, that McDonald’s and Cocaine-Cola agreed to pay up. This hit the sponsors in the only place it hurts.

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