HUNTING WHITE ELEPHANTS / CAÇANDO ELEFANTES BRANCOS

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24 August 2010

Photos Vasco x Fluminense

Estou colocando algumas fotos para que a gente que não estava lá poderiam ter uma lembrança de como era o Maracanã antes da memória do nível inferior ser apagada. Enquanto não valorizo muito que está no Globo, eu fiquei na capa de secção de Esportes hoje, e achava legal ser identificado como uns dos últimos sair do estádio.








estou aqui no fundo de camisa azul com faixa branca (da seleção minha). OGlobo 24.8.10 Esportes, p.1

another day at the office


23 August 2010

C.R. Vasco da Gama x Fluminense Football Club

The Vasco x Fluminense clássico came at exactly the right moment. Fluminense, bankrolled by the mega-health provider Unimed, are on top of the Brazilian league. Vasco, recently promoted and sitting mid-table, have been building momentum, slowly regaining their standing as a proper football club. The Maracanã, home to the biggest matches in Rio, was stuffed to capacity for the last time before the long, expensive, and painful process of reform for the 2014 World Cup. Sunday afternoon kickoff, cool temperatures, a nearly full moon, and 80.000+ people going to the same place, at the same time, for the same thing. No matter how many times I go to the Maracanã, there’s always something new to report.

On the metrô it’s relatively easy to get to the Maracanã, though there is no explanation at all as to why the old system of changing lines at Estácio sill functions on weekends and holidays. The only information available is shown in this photo. This creates confusion and leaves tourists wondering where to go. I saw several foreigners jump off at Central when they thought they were following people going to the game.  Over the loudspeaker at Cinelândia there was an announcement that Fluminense fans should use the São Cristóvão station, and Vasco fans the Maracanã stop.

The spectacle of state power is increasingly evident at public events in Rio de Janeiro.  The Military Police were keen to show off their ability to fly circles around the stadium in a helicopter with snipers hanging out the doors. Personally, that doesn’t make me feel any safer, just worried that the helicopter will crash into the stadium.

The state is also there to take away beer, but only if you are selling it. Drinking beer around the stadium is fine, but selling it is not. This creates a petty game of cat and mouse between people with sacks full of ice cold beer and the guarda municipal charged with clamping down on something that is so much a part of human culture that it simply cannot be repressed. It’s a joke. Beer sales have been banned at the Maracanã and the Engenhão for more than a year now, eliminating a secure source of money for some and taking away from the basic stadium ritual of red meat and alcohol that has fueled such events since Roman times. Fans should have the right to drink beer.
 

Emoção total. Woah. The torcidas organizadas of Vasco and Flu put on an incredible show. This is the brilliant part of Brazilian football and when a place like the Maracanã is your local ground, it’s really worth the R$30 (US$18) to go to a game. Even without the beer, it’s an astounding display.

Football and the stadium experience as vehicles for socialization and community identification. Besides Flamengüistas, there was not a single segment of Brazilian society that was not represented in the Maracanã yesterday afternoon. Young, rich, poor, old, middle-class, middle-aged, gay, straight, trans, tucanos, petistas, verdes, Zona Norte, Zona Sul, Zona Oeste, suburbio, baixada, morro, asfalto. Despite immense problems, Brazilian football stadiums continue to be key sites of social reproduction.  


The Law of the Fan and a full stadium. These two things are basically incompatible and yesterday’s game exposed the total failure of the 2005-2007 architectural reforms as well as a lack of organizational capacity and a lack of common sense amongst the common folk. Before I went to the game, I knew that the lower section of stands was going to revert to the condition of the geral, the old standing room only section of stands eliminated in 2005. I had seen this happen on other occasions when the crowd was over 80,000 but had been in the arquibancada. Being in the cadeira comum section wasn’t so nice.

I like to stand during games as it keeps me more involved in the action. I appreciate that not everyone likes to, or has the physical capacity to stand for two or more hours. When SUDERJ decided to do away with the geral they were ostensibly doing so with the idea that they would create a more comfortable environment for fans. Yesterday’s game proved the opposite. Everyone who had purchased a ticket for the lower section of seats was obliged to stand if they wanted to see the game.

By allowing people to stand in the aisle in front of the first row of seats, the police created a situation that was irresolvable. Either they could try to force everyone into a seat, or they could just let things go. The latter decision was much easier and so the people in the front row of seats had to stand on their chairs to see over those in front of them, the people behind them did the same thing and so on until everyone had to stand. Once the game began, hundreds of fans started screaming “Senta! Porra! Senta!” and throwing wads of toilet paper at those in front of them (the irony here being that the paper had been recently thrown in celebration). Of course, no one responded by sitting because they wouldn’t be able to see the game. After being hit in the head, and face, and back with various things I decided to move into the aisle where no one could reasonably yell at me for not sitting, as there were no seats. This repeated itself endlessly around the lower ring of stands and when I moved position for the second half, the old fellas sitting near me had to sit every ten minutes or so to rest. Fans should have the right to the seat they have paid for. 

The hundreds of millions of dollars of reforms undertaken by the state government completely failed to deliver comfort and the guarantee that if you buy a ticket for a seat that you will have the right to sit in that seat and watch a game. Instead of a space that allowed those who wanted to watch the game standing to do so, we have (or had) a space that obliged everyone to stand. The victims of this situation are those who want to sit and watch a game and those who prefer to or who are obliged to stand, but end up getting hit with insults and objects from their fellow fans. Fans should have the right to a well-organized stadium. 

The culture of the geral didn’t die because the space of the stadium was reformed. Those standing in the front were males between 15 and 35. It’s difficult to get them to move to a seat without swinging a stick. Will this kind of problem be resolved by throwing more money at the stadium? Probably not, but as it is, it's totally disfunctional (despite Oglobo's myopic lamentations). 

Regardless of the problems with seating, the Maracanã is not a great place to watch football. Every spectator is far from the action on the field. The sightlines are not great and the condition of the pitch is always in question. The Maracanã is a great place to immerse one’s self in the spectacle, to get caught up in the emotion and transformative power of sport, to participate in rituals that bind distinct communities within the larger matrix of Brazilian society. 

Oh yeah, the game. Absolutely brilliant. 

17 August 2010

Unidades de Polícia Pacificadora / Police Pacification Units

UPPs

The continued installation of UPPs (Unidades de Polícia Pacificadora / Police Pacification Units) in select favelas has had interesting and profound consequences in Rio de Janeiro. In recent weeks, I have visited three “pacified” communities and have come away with mixed feelings and impressions regarding the project.
UPPs are part of the state government’s response to the chronic problems of violence associated with drug traffic in Rio de Janiero’s favelas. Since the late 19th century, favelas grew in number and extent as a response to increasingly scarce and expensive housing in Rio de Janeiro. Throughout the twentieth century, and especially in the 1980s and 1990s, the ever widening gap between socio-economic classes in Brazil made it increasingly difficult for individuals and families to enter the formal housing market close to centers of employment. The topography of Rio places limits on available space which, combined with highly concentrated wealth and service sector employment, made residing in the steeply sloped favelas (especially in the Zona Sul, though not all favelas are on hillsides) choices of necessity. In the City of Rio de Janeiro there are more than 1,000 favelas with more than a million residents – one out of every six people in the City of Rio lives in a favela. 

Drug trafficking and violence are essentially products of the same economic and spatial processes: a favelalógica.  This favelalógica is predicated on supply and demand, competition for geographic space, and market presence. These logics were (and are) complicated the lack of a consistent or coherent public policy to deal with the intersecting vectors of poverty, inadequate public housing, drug trafficking, police corruption, international arms trading, and violence. The concentration of wealth and disposable income in Rio’s Zona Sul localized the greatest demand for drugs there. The hillsides, already occupied by working class people, were taken over by drug trafficking factions (that grew into powerful criminal organizations, ie. Comando Vermelho, Terceiro Comando) that installed martial law in the favelas in order to defend their territory from which they met the drug demands of the wealthy (or wealthier). The absence of the state facilitated the rule of the traficantes, who financed basic services for the community, cementing their role as a parallel government. The evolution and escalation of the violence has been told in so many formats and with such detail and complexity that it can’t possibly be repeated here. Suffice it to say that the problems of violence were (and are) of stunning and chronic proportions. There is an endless list of resources to further understand the evolution of and proposed “solutions” to the “problem” (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6).

UPP in theory and practice
The theory is that the installation of a UPP will remove the guns from the bad guys and allow communities to live in peace. The UPP maintains a very heavy military presence in the favela for an undetermined period, allowing for a freedom of movement and access that was not possible under the rule of drug traffickers. The concentration of lethal force in the hands of the state is not meant to eliminate drug trafficking, just to take illegitimate violence out of the picture. That is, “pacification” is initially secured through legitimate and state-sanctioned violence which is then maintained through long-term, military occupation. The stated goal is not to end drug trafficking but to install the state in a place where it had little or no presence.

A UPP typically consists of 200 members of the State Military Police (PM), lead by a contingent of BOPE (Batalhão de Operações Policiais Especias). BOPE may be the best trained urban fighting force in the world, and is the subject of the film Tropa de Elite. Following a general announcement that a favela is going to receive a UPP, BOPE arrives in the early morning and replaces the martial law of the drug faction with the martial law of the state.  From there, the police circulate through the favela in search of arms and drugs, frequently finding fistfuls of both. On several occasions there have been gun battles on the way in, though the advance notice of occupation is generally enough to convince the armed drug traffickers that the battle is already lost.

Once a UPP is installed, the favela is considered “pacified”. From there, the hard work of winning the hearts and minds of the “natives” begins. Much of this work has been made more difficult by the very police installed as pacifiers as for decades, those living in the favelas have had to deal with heavy handed incursions into their communities, which not infrequently took the form of military helicopters raining down indiscriminant bullets. The stories of police atrocities are as numerous as the alarming body count. The police who are circulating through the favelas are not necessarily well-trained for their jobs and many residents complain that anything but total subservience to the new overlords results in a beating. The UPP is an occupying force and it will take time for both sides to find ways to negotiate the complexities of a new system of governance.


There are numerous sides to the numerous stories that the UPPs involve. The government of Sergio Cabral installed the first UPP in Dona Marta in Botafogo in December of 2008. Since then, UPPs have been installed in the following communities (see map, all communities below are hotlinked to the official state UPP website):
·  BATAM
·  BOREL

In my conversations with residents, explorations of the Morros de Providência, Cantagalo, and Chapeu Mangueira, and in a collective interview with the State Secretary of Security José Beltrame, these are the major debates that I see driving the discussion of UPPs in Rio.

Location of UPPs
Secretary Beltrame and Governor Cabral have been strongly criticized for the installation of UPPs in wealthy areas of the city. When asked about this, Beltrame did not hesitate in responding that part of the project was to secure the wealthiest area of the city first, as the Zona Sul accounts for a staggeringly large percentage of the region’s total economic output. Protect the wealth first, secure the space for further accumulation, and then worry about the other parts of the city. It’s a cruel but coherent logic.

The geography of UPPs has generally followed along the Olympic ring linking the International Airport with the Center, the Center with Copacabana and Ipanema, and those regions with Barra de Tijuca. Also included are the Maracanã / Tijuca region and the stretch along the Linha Amarela running north from Barra de Tijuca to the Airport. The occupation of Morro da Providência can be seen as an attempt to secure the Zona Portuária for the massive urban interventions being cogitated with the Porto Maravilha.  While the counter argument is that the UPPs are benefitting huge numbers of people throughout the city, it is impossible to accurately measure such things. For instance, the installation of an UPP in the Cidade de Deus does not necessarily benefit all of the neighborhood’s 38,000+ residents.

The reality is that the UPPs are part of a larger security imperative for the City and State of Rio de Janeiro ahead of the scheduled mega-events. No one wants to or can afford a repeat of the disastrous gun battle that occurred just before the 2007 Pan American Games where 44 people were killed in the Complexo do Alemão. Following this massacre, 17,000 extra police occupied the streets of Rio for three weeks. Not that erecting an even stronger police state to assure the free flow of people and capital doesn’t happen everywhere a mega-event occurs but in the case of the Brazilian World Cup and Rio Olympics, it is imperative that there be longer term solutions. Securing the Zona Sul and the mega-event transportation lines is the first priority for the State. The larger favelas of Maré and the Complexo de Alemão will receive UPPs in the coming months. These projects are more complicated but are also intended to secure the Linha Amarelha which connects the International Airport to the Centro and Zona Sul (also to prevent the threat of RPGs downing airplanes on their final approach).

Secondary effects: In addition to changing the control, flows, laws, and daily life in a favela,   the installation of an UPP has had numerous secondary effects. The most alarming effect has been that real-estate values have increased 400% in the favelas where UPPs have been installed (according to OGlobo, which proclaimed this fact in celebratory terms). This may eventually have the effect of pricing the poorest people out of the favelas in the Zona Sul to even more marginalized parts of the city. With an increase in rents, there will likely be indirect dislocation as well as direct dislocation as tenants are forced out of their businesses and homes to make way for a wealthier clientele. For the moment, this has not happened in significant numbers, but it is a distinct possibility.

If the goal of the UPP is to take the arms out of the hands of drug traffickers, there should be many more arms apprehended than has been the case. The drug traffickers have simply moved on to other parts of the city, taking their guns with them. There is a general consensus, supported by media reports, that other parts of the city are becoming more violent as traficantes are expelled from their Zona Sul redoubts towards the Zona Norte and the far western suburbs. There is no apparent effort to reduce demand, only to reduce supply, concentrating exchange value in the hands of increasingly fewer drug traffickers. This will likely increase the armed capacity of the traficantes in the Zona Norte who will be able to extend their rule of law in a part of the metropolis that is largely ignored by the government. The impression left by the state’s strategy of selective implementation is that relative location and relative wealth are more important than a general concern for the population at large. This is consistent with the development of an urban planning regime that is driven by mega-event production and consumption.

Pacification has brought about opportunities for those who are of an entrepreneurial mind. On the Morro da Babilônia, it is now possible for the middle-class to shoot at each other with paint-ball guns, where just months before the police were battling traficantes with live ammo. The fetishization of violence in a place that was so recently the site of real violence is an indication of the direction that the “market opportunity” of pacification will begin to provide.

There has been a rapid increase in tourism in these communities, which until very recently had almost no tourism of any kind (save for the jeep tours in Rocinha). The difference between tourism in a neighborhood like Ipanema or Botafogo, with wide streets, sidewalks, and apartment buildings that provide a degree of privacy is completely different from tourism in a favela where the streets and alleys are used as extensions of lived space. Notions of privacy and public life are completely different and negotiating the sudden arrival of picture-taking strangers into one’s midst is complicated. There is no indication that the various educational programs associated with the UPPs (limited as they are) will address these concerns.

If the opening of favelas to “outsiders” is an inevitable result of “pacification” then the state should be obliged to prepare residents for the change as well as prepare them to take advantage of emerging economic opportunities. However, it should not be incumbent upon residents to re-imagine themselves as entrepreneurs, tour guides, hoteliers, or restaurateurs. Entering into the service economy is not something that every citizen should aspire to. If the only presence of the state is behind the barrel of a gun then the UPP project will fail, just as the rule of the drug traffickers failed.

In two instances (Cantagalo and Dona Marta) investments in transportation infrastructure have aided access to communities. In the case of Dona Marta, a funicular carries tourists and locals to the top of the community. In the case of Cantagalo, a massive elevator opened in July 2010, eliminating the need to climb hundreds of stairs. Both of these interventions have accelerated the flows of tourists into the communities, something that has been welcomed by many residents, but not all. A similar project is underway for multiple favelas in the Zona Norte (telefêrico). However, without educational and training programs to accompany these sudden changes, residents will not be able to determine the conditions by which their communities are integrated into the city.

Negative elements of UPP installation
A UPP is a top-down response to a bottom-up problem. Brazil has one of the worst GINI coefficients in the world, indicating abnormally high levels of socio-economic disparity. There is a chronic lack of investment in education and public health in Rio de Janeiro. There is real poverty in the favelas, and while many have magnificent views of the city, the lack of infrastructure and access is a serious problem.  These are tightly knit communities, however, and there are myriad creative solutions to the systemic failures of Brazilian capitalism. The state needs to spend as much money on obligatory education as it does on forceful occupation.

The Military Police are aggressive and/or uncommunicative. In both Cantagalo and Providência I heard stories of police beating up people without due cause. When I was in Chapéu Mangueira, the police were all smiles, but carried big, big guns. There is no question that these are military occupations but as part of the process of gaining trust, the Military Police needs to train better their forces so that residents can live with the same rights and privileges as those who live in the “regularized” parts of the city (asfalto).

The symbolic economy of the UPP is stronger than the real economy of the favelas. The UPP in the Morro da Providência was installed on the first day of the UN’s World Urban Forum, held in the Zona Portuaria. This kind of strategic media show does little to increase the credibility of the government, which has come under repeated criticism for creating urban and social interventions that are “for the English to see”. That is, the government is keen to show an international audience that something, anything is happening in preparation for mega-events. These interventions range from the installation of walls along the highway to the megalomaniacal idea of a R$50 billion bullet-train linking Rio, São Paulo, and Campinas.

Positive elements of UPP installation
Peace and personal security have arrived for tens of thousands of residents. This cannot be underestimated. In Cantagalo, residents were marveling at the ability of their children to play in the streets without having to avoid heavily armed drug traffickers zipping by on their motorcycles. The military presence was light there and residents hoped that a multitude of positive changes and opportunities were opening. Residents are happy with the expulsion of armed drug traffickers, but have a long way to go before they begin to trust the police more fully.

There are educational programs and installations associated with the UPPs. In Cantagalo, Criança Esperança is a massive complex that is used by hundreds of children per week (though it could use a bit of maintenance). Senac Rio has begun educational programs in the Morro da Providência, though the UPP has centralized all of the activities forcing resident to go to the police to sign up for courses. Extending the course offerings to the community’s cultural center would facilitate access.

The pacification of favelas has begun a long desired process of integration between two very different worlds. The opening of dialogue and exchange provided by the UPPs, as well as increased opportunities for social, economic, and political interaction is something that will have positive effects for the city as a whole.

Uncertainties
How long will the UPPs stay in place? The UPPs are very much linked to the tenure of Sergio Cabral as Governor of Rio de Janeiro State. If Cabral were to lose the October elections, would his successor maintain the UPPs? If he wins the election, will his commitment to the UPPs remain the same? There is wide-spread sentiment that after the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics that all of the investments in security and infrastructure will fade, that maintenance costs will not be paid, and that the drug traffickers will be able to retake their territories. One of the fears expressed by several residents was that those who make an attempt to use the UPPs to their advantage, or who form partnerships or undertake projects with the Military Police, will be targeted for reprisal by the drug traffickers in the future. There is a long history of broken promises in regards to state-sponsored initiatives in favelas. While the UPPs have met with some early successes, their permanence is far from guaranteed.

Will other state-led projects arrive with the same kind of force? If not, why not? The drug traffickers filled a void left by the state. The sudden arrival of the state in the form of an occupying military force raises the same kinds of questions that the USAmerican invasion of Iraq did. If we assume that the destruction of infrastructure can be compared to its absence through neglect, the Brazilian state faces the same situation in rebuilding the favelas as the USAmericans did in rebuilding Iraq. Sending in troops is relatively easy, rebuilding infrastructure and community self-governance, while providing education and training in order to (re) produce a self-sustaining community (very different from “sustainable” which has lost all signification), is a much more complicated and expensive task. Once the UPPs have settled in, will there be a shock and awe campaign focused on education? Will the government install, quickly and expertly, health clinics throughout these communities in the same way they have placed the Military Police?

At this early stage there are more questions than answers. Nearly all of the candidates for public office think that the UPPs are a good idea, and it is true that something drastic had to be done to break the cycles of violence, to interrupt the terrifying game of cat and mouse played out among innocents, and to assert the presence of the state where it had no authority. One can only hope that those responsible for the installation of the UPPs have thought through their project more clearly than the organizers of the mega-events that precipitated their invention.


16 August 2010

The Olympic Shell Game (O jogo do bicho olímpico)

As I have mentioned in numerous posts and interviews, part of the process of hosting a mega-event is the restructuring of space and re-presenting culture in order to accelerate flows of capital, goods, information, and people. “Inefficiencies” are structured out of the city, “strategic areas” are “regenerated”, and “urban legacies” left behind. City, state, and national governments promise massive urban and social interventions, signing contracts with international sporting federations that take precedence over social contracts with the local population, even though it is the latter group that is footing the bill. The current model of mega-event production is broken. The World Cup and Olympics are guaranteed to leave behind sporting, tourist, and urban infrastructures that have little or no post-event utility, do not attend to the basic needs and priorities of locals, and waste a singular opportunity to shape urban space and culture in a way that will create a more just and livable society. We are in need of Olympic-lessness, not events that are ever bigger and more transformative.

Brazil 2014 and Brazil 2016 will be corrupt, non-transparent mega-events that will cost hundreds of billions of dollars, exacerbate existing socio-economic divides, and leave behind acontextual, redundant, and under-used sporting, tourist, and urban infrastructures. Among the many reasons for this chronicle of a failure foretold is the fact that Brazil receives only 5 million tourist visits a year. Poland receives 15 million. Bulgaria receives 5.2 million. Bulgaria! The obvious solution is to move Brazil closer to North America and Europe, eliminate the tourist visa, or not spend one billion reales in stimulus to construct hotels for which there will be no post-event demand. With that kind of money you could fly in another million tourists. The results from Athens 2004 and South Africa 2010 should be warning enough. Alas, in Brazil the federal government has made it ever easier to build on a massive scale while creating complex legal structures to ensure the total opacity of the process.

In May, President Lula signed into law Provisional Measure 488/2010, giving birth to Empresa Brasileira de Legado Esportivo S.A. - BRASIL 2016 (The Brazilian Sport Legacy Company Ltd. – BRASIL 2016). On the same day, he signed Provisional Measure 489/2010, creating the Autoridade Pública Olímpica – APO (Public Olympic Authority). These two institutions will be directed by the Conselho Público Olímpico (Public Olympic Council -CPO). These new institutions will use the legal measures outlined in the Olympic Act (Lei nº 12.035/2009) along with their exceptional powers to “transform” Rio de Janeiro into an Olympic City. How will this work?

The federal government will pass R$29 billion to the CPO, comprised of the president of the republic, the governor and mayor of Rio de Janeiro “or their representatives”. The CPO can decide whether or not to extend the life spans of the APO and BRASIL 2016 past their 12/31/18 death date (kind of like the mutants in Bladerunner). The CPO will pass the money along to BRASIL 2016, which will then pass it along to the APO, which will then pass it along to contractors that do not have to go through a public bidding process in order to receive contracts with public money. Neither BRASIL 2016 or the APO will be required to hire their employees through the normal legal channels. All goods imported for the Olympic and World Cup projects are exempt from tariff duties (especially aggravating when it will cost me R$275 to liberate my birthday package from the mail room). By the time a contractor starts to work on a project, the money will have passed through three inter-connected yet independent organizations, none of which will have non-governmental auditors. Just to get the APO up and running will cost R$94,8 million. In Brazil, money does actually grow on trees but you have to cut them down to get it.

The APO is responsible for the creation and delivery of the Caderno de Encargos Olímpicos (CAPO – Olympic Projects) which the agency alone defines. These projects are highly varied, and in many cases assume the responsibilities normally undertaken by state agencies. The APO is not required to have liaisons with any state agencies, becoming a form of urban governance unto itself. This ensures that the APO will become the agency that is planning the city for the next generations. Will they hire urban planners? Will the total autonomy from democratic process facilitate the development of strong community relations? Will the lack of accountability in awarding contracts ensure a more transparent expenditure of public funds? Once BRASIL 2016 and the APO expire, to what government agency will citizens be able to turn to register complaints or search for answers? How many of the people who were in charge of the massively over budget, non-transparent 2007 Pan American Games will be directing these agencies? How will these extraordinary powers be used as we get ever closer to opening ceremonies? Will Ricardo Teixeira, president of both the CBF (Brazilian Football Federation) and the LOC (Local Organizing Committee) ensure that public money does not go into his private organization? Will Carlos Nuzman, president of the COB (Brasilian Olympic Committee) and Rio 2016 (which has an uncertain yet continuing role in all this) ensure that his business relationships are not going to benefit from the opacity of the Olympic Structure? Will the government site dedicated to monitoring Olympic Projects (http://www.transparenciaolimpica.com.br/ ) ever have information that is worth looking at?

Perhaps in anticipation of the answers to these questions, the Ministry of Sport is planning on spending between R$15-R$22 million per year to improve its image.

The deployment of provisional measures in addition to the alteration (or suspension) of national, state, and city laws in order to “prepare” Brazil to host sports mega-events highlights the radical nature of these events.
The IOC and FIFA make demands, Brazil bends over backwards to meet them. The clock is running and badly needed investments in health, education, and public transportation get bypassed for new priorities.  The government, in fealty to slick criminals, makes new laws, grants exemptions, and creates a parallel government that will take public money, have little or no accountability (either financial or democratic), and then once the games have passed, will simply disappear. As I mention in my article in the Journal of Latin American Geography, this is similar to what happened during the USAmerican invasion of Iraq with the establishment of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA). The CPA went in after a total “restructuring” (Shock and Awe), changed all of the laws and then evaporated. Here, the Shock and Awe comes in a different, somewhat less violent form, but the idea is the same: restructure space and culture for the maximization of profit.





12 August 2010

And the winner of the Maraca project is...

The biggest civil engineering firms in Brazil!

The Rio State Government awarded the Maracanã construction contract to Consórico Brasil 2014, a consortium composed of the massive civil construction firms Andrade Gutierrez, Delta and Odebrecht. The stated reason for the victory - they came in with the lowest bid, R$712,000,000 a whopping 2.4% below the allocated budget.

This rationale for selecting a construction company is nullified by a tidy exception in the law when dealing with architectural reform projects. Because the Maracanã is undergoing “renovation” the law permits contractual readjustments up to 50% of the contracted value. Therefore, the legal limit for the Novo Maracanã project will be R$1,068,000,000 (R$1.068 billion). Why not spend it? When added to the R$ 430 million spent between 2005-2007 on reforms for the Pan American Games…R$ 1,498,000,000. This number reflects the best case scenario. 

To reiterate: the federal and state governments are spending at least one point five billion Reales (US$ 881 million) on a stadium in a city where less than 20% of public schools have recreational areas for students. This is yet another example of the prioritization of contracts with international sporting agencies taking precedence over the social contract of a democracy.

There is a meeting being held today between the State Secretary of Sport and Leisure, the Company for Public Works (EMOP) and a representative of Consórico Brasil 2014 to determine when the project will actually begin. The longer they wait, the more money there is to be sucked out of the public coffers.

Does anyone remember, way back when Brazil was first going about organizing the World Cup, that the Minister of Sport said, “The government is not planning to use public money for the construction or remodeling of stadiums.”  (Folha do SP 31.11.07). The private sectors is not jumping in BECAUSE IT IS A BAD INVESTMENT.

FIFA’s deadline of December 31, 2012 is driving the entire process. FIFA’s absurd demands informed the architectural project, the cost, the way that urban space around the stadium will reshaped and exploited for private profit. The public interest is the last item on the agenda. All that matters now is that the state and federal governments get the check book ready so the city, state and federal governments can pay Brazil 2014 to deliver on a promise made to organized criminals.

But don't despair, Brazilian taxpayers, there is still hope that the process can be delayed even further because the losing bidders have the chance to suspend the contract process through legal means. The underhanded dealings of the licitação are reflective of the total lack of transparency in general. All of the candidates were informed (via fax) after business hours on Monday night that the winning bid would be announced on Tuesday morning. In reading between the lines of OGlobo’s characteristically Prozac-influenced reporting, the faxed messages included information telling companies that they were disqualified because their bids were outside of the required parameters. The eleventh-hour notification was not accidental. This is a game played with marked cards. 

I will get used to this opacity, eventually, but it really does seem to be much more work to hide everything than to negotiate in the light of day. One of the terrible beauties of Brazilian bureaucracy is that there are so many forms and agencies and permissions and confusions, that there is inevitably something wrong with everything, which always provides an excuse to eliminate a company from the competition. Will there be collusion between Brasil 2014 and the losing bids in order to delay the process for another six months so that the budget for the project will increase as FIFA’s version of the Mayan Calendar comes to a close? 

The news from Manaus is no better. The Tribunal de Contas da União (TCU, the federal auditor) and the Ministério Público Federal (MPF, the federal judiciary) are investigating a supposed budgetary overrun of R$749 million. This money is related to the construction of the Arena Manaus and a monorail, two things that Manaus could desperately live without. Of the R$1.3 billion destined for the monorail, R$686 million are in question. Brincadeira. Of the R$ 591 million intended for the stadium (in a city that does not have a team in any of the top three Brazilian divisions), R$63 million are in question.  Various federal investigative agencies are wading through the mess, which so far only involves the contracting stage. Imagine once the project actually gets moving! Multiple the situation in Manaus x 12 and you get the general picture for the 2014 World Cup. 

10 August 2010

2014, General Silence.

There's not much to report on Brazil's preparations for the 2014 World Cup.

Marcia Lins, the Rio State Secretary of Sport, Tourism and Leisure has delayed the closing of the Maracanã until December, the third such delay this year. She continues to guarantee that the R$720 million reform will be completed by December 31, 2012. There has been no public debate regarding the project, no explanation of what the money will go to, no reason given for the poorly executed reforms of 2005-2007.

The best case scenario (if best case involves hundreds of millions of public R$ combined with private investment towards a stadium that will be too expensive to maintain and too big for the crowds it attracts) appears to be Belo Horizonte, which has closed the Minerão and actually begun work on the stadium reforms. The cost estimates vary, but appear to be in the range of R$650-R$800 million. In the meantime, no one is going to the games of Atletico or Cruzeiro (BH's big local sides) because the games are happening in stadiums at least 70km away.

The situation in São Paulo has not changed. Brazil's largest city is without a stadium for the World Cup. I don't think this is so bad,  as the WC would have a minimal impact on SP's economy, the city is a terrible place to move around, there isn't much in the way of tourist infrasturcture, the airports are in total chaos, and there is no functional public transportation to the Morumbi (not there shouldn't be, but it's not even in the plans). The hidden story here is the political clash between the president of São Paulo F.C. Juvenal Juvêncio and Ricardo Teixeira of the CBF. Juvêncio is the president of the Group of 13 which represents the financial interests of the 13 largest Brazilian clubs. There are in a constant battle with the CBF over the (dis)organization of Brazilian footy, television contracts, etc. The party line, and the one most often repeated in the media, is that São Paulo has not put together a package that meets FIFA's requirements. The reality is much more complicated. My guess is that the Morumbi project will start late, cost 5x the initial budget, and will host the opening game.

In a sign of radical awakening ahead of the announcement for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, two prominent Belgium politicians had the audacity to question whether or not FIFA should be granted tax-exempt status and be allowed to completely privatize the public space around public stadiums that have been privatized for FIFA's event. There was no such outrage here in Brazil when Lula signed into law a tax-free exemption for EVERYTHING that has to do with hosting the 2014 WC and 2016 Olympics. Open the doors boys, we're hosting a party for the super rich (but don't do anything until after the elections and then let the gringos through will all of their tax exempt goods). Meanwhile the USA jacket my mom sent me for my birthday, in June, is being held for a R$275 ransom by the Brazilian post office. I tried to go challenge the estimate...

The tabulations, results, balance, and rap sheets from South Africa are beginning to trickle in. There won't be much need for journalists four years from now as we will be able to copy and paste what our South African colleagues are finding. We will also be able to save our collective words by repeating what a few intrepid souls have been saying about the 2007 Pan American Games. Que vergonha! Fala seh:rio! Não dah para acreditar! Pô! Você está brincando!  Tá bobo? Vai tomar banho meu filho tu fede demais!

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