01 July 2013

2013 Copa das Manifestaçãoes

 Here is a short version of why we were tear-gassed yesterday outside of the Maraca.

The Maracanã, a public space of tremendous historical, cultural and architectural value, has been successively deformed since 2000. The first deform cost around R$100 million. This was ostensibly for the FIFA World Club Championship. They put in sky boxes which closed off the access to the stadium from the big ramps and eliminated much of the air circulation. Plastic seats also went in.  A stupid move that reduced the capacity to 129,000, but much of the stadium’s character remained.

In preparation for the 2007 Pan American Games the state laid out another R$330 million on the Maraca, this time grossly disfiguring it. The geral disappeared, the field was lowered, huge televisions put in and the VIP section expanded, the capacity reduced to 89,000. At this time Brazil knew it would be hosting the World Cup and these reforms were intended to serve as a “legacy”. Beneficially, there was investment in the Julio Delamare aquatic center and in the Celio de Barros athletics facility. The stadium was closed for 20 months.

Despite being disfigured, the Maraca still held some of its old charm. That was until 2010 when the Gigante do Derby was closed again for unspecified reforms. The initial budget was between R$400 and R$500 million. That has since ballooned to R$1.2 billion. The aquatics center has been shuttered, the athletic track replaced by a parking lot, the public school on the grounds is in threat of imminent removal and the former national Indigenous Museum has been violently emptied of its people and history. Brazil’s formerly richest man has won the rights to a 30 year concession – a competition he won after being contracted to do the economic viability study. During the destruction process, Delta, one of Brazil’s biggest construction firms was caught in bed with the governor and was kicked off the project. There has never been any dialogue with anyone who wasn’t already at the table (which is in a smoky back room inside a huge black box).

Now, instead of a place of popular manifestation and convivial emotion, the area around the stadium is a sterile environment, a brutally empty zone of transition between the organic and inorganic. Inside the Zone of Exclusion, there can be no informal commerce, no music, nothing except overwhelming police force that are there to guarantee the safe passage of the wealthiest segments of Brazilian society into the shopping mall environment of the stadium. Protected on the outside by the national army, shock troops, and military police, the well-manicured are guarded on the inside by a sense of entitlement and aloof condescension. No drinks are available on the outside, but once in the stadium they can drink campaign and eat caviar. Inside the stadium, there are no smells. Outside the air is like Venus: hot, acrid and impossible to breathe. The off-world of FIFAlandia is mirrored by a nether-world of repression.

On the outside, everyone is a potential criminal, vandal or threat to public order. On the inside, everyone is a walking cash machine. Outside, the right to manifest in public is repressed and rejected. Inside, the right to public culture is manifest through one’s capacity to pay for it. The performative spectacle of police violence on the outside has been countered with pacific displays of social solidarity (with some radical, fringe opportunists that trigger the police and vice versa). On the inside, the performative spectacle of capital reproduction is manufactured, understood and internalized by prodigious flag-wrapping, fetishization and baleful ignorance. Both are publically financed spectacles and speak to the rifts and ruptures that define Brazilian society.

There is no one narrative that can explain what is going on here, but the 2013 Copa das Manifestaçãoes has definitely changed the profile and structure of social movements in Brazil. As these movements take stock of the problems and possibilities we will likely see both an expansion and consolidation of the political project that takes as its target the barbarities being committed for the Good of the Game.

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