HUNTING WHITE ELEPHANTS / CAÇANDO ELEFANTES BRANCOS

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28 October 2010

Interview on Edge of Sports about World Cup and Olympics

http://edgeofsports.com/audio/media/10-22-10_segment3.mp3

The above is a link to an interview on Edge of Sports radio (Dave Zirin) about the ANT, the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics. More coming soon!

Also, next week is the International Conference Mega-Events and the City to be held at the Universidade Federal Fluminense in Niteroi. Check the website for the schedule and details. I'll be publishing exerpts from my conference paper here over the next week.

For new readers, there's several years worth of posts to read up on while you're waiting for the next installment.

E para os/as Brasileir@s, vou começar postar mais em Português para que pudessem ter mais acesso aos acontecimentos em relação a Copa e Olim-piada.  Tenham paciência, estou demorando dominar a língua de vocês.

22 October 2010

The World Cup and the Elimination of Public Memory

The Maracanã is one of the most famous stadiums in all of human history. Constructed to host the 1950 World Cup final, its official capacity was 179,000. Brazilians happily referred to the colossal stadium as “O Maior do Mundo” – the biggest in the world. Over the years, hundreds of thousands gathered in the Maracanã to watch football. To create football. To live football. It was in the Maracanã that Santos F.C. and Pelé won the World Club Championship in 1961. Flamengo and Zico did the same in 1981. Pelé chose the Maracanã as the place to score his 1,000th goal. Since then, the goal itself has been known as the “Gol de Pelé”. The other goal is known as the “Gol de Garrincha” because that is where, in the 79th minute of the World Cup final in 1950, with the score tied 1-1, the Uruguayan winger killed the dreams of a nation.

This is not a tale of romanticized melodrama, it’s culture. It’s living, breathing, screaming, flag-waving, carnavelesque culture, and it’s being killed as you read this. . The reforms underway to “prepare” Brazilian stadiums to host the 2014 World Cup are literally eliminating the spaces where Brazilian football culture takes place. The Maracanã has undergone a series of hatchet jobs. In 1999, the capacity was reduced from 179,000 to 129,000. Before the FIFA World Club Championships in 2000, the Maracanã suffered the idiocy of “luxury boxes” that only served to cut off the air circulation and eliminate the use of the monumental ramps that define the stadium’s exterior.  In 2004-2005, a R$450 million reform reduced the capacity to 85,000, eliminated the standing only section, lowered the field by 3 meters, and installed big screen tvs that are about to be thrown out. Why? Because the “Maior do Mundo” is undergoing a projected R$720 million reform that will reduce the capacity to 75,000, install a roof so no one but the players get wet, and will actually reduce the length of the field by 7 meters and its width by 5 meters. Both the Gol de Pelé and the Gol de Garrincha will die. Those spaces, those places, the goal line where history and culture were made and remembered and recreated and forgotten and relived and renewed week after week, season after season, year after year, for six decades – gone. Poof. Já era. Public memory, public culture, one of the constituent elements of civil society – extinguished with a torrent of public money.

This is not only happening in Rio de Janeiro. The Minerão in Belo Horizonte is undergoing the same process. The Fonte Novo in Salvador, already reduced to rubble. The Vivaldão in Manaus is no more. The stadiums that are going up in their place are temples of consumption, sanitized environments that facilitate the circulation of capital, VIP salons where culture is consumed and not produced, air-conditioned fortresses, highly securitized off-worlds, crystalline shopping malls that require one parking spot for every six spectators. The 2014 World Cup stadiums in Fortaleza, Cuiabá, Manaus, Natal, and Brasilia will have no post-cup functionality. The World Cup stadiums will have such high maintenance costs that they can only be supported though public subsidy. We just saw this happen in South Africa, where residents of Cape Town are debating whether or not to implode the Green Point stadium. This is as revolting as it is sickening and immoral.

Why are public officials so willing to invest BILLIONS in public funds to erect stadia that :
1)      have no relationship to the urban environment?
2)      have no post-event uses?
3)      are undertaken with no input from those who use the stadiums?
4)      forcibly dislocate communities to make way for a “clean” television shot?
5)      will never have any economic viability, never make a return on the public investment?
6)      become privatized during the World Cup, where only FIFA security forces operate, where the only profits accrue to FIFA and their rapacious partners?
7)      destroy the very places where public culture and memory are created, preserved, lived, and transformed?

It doesn’t have to be this way. There is a different model. There is a way to make the democratically elected officials wake up from their soporific state of infatuation with corrupt FIFA overlords. The Minster of Sport and Culture, a member of the Communist Party of Brazil, is leading the way towards the destruction of sport and culture. O que isso?!?!! The project of ANT (torcedores.org) is to change the direction of these projects, to democratize the World Cup, to make it something Brazilian, not something from Switzerland. Within two weeks of ANT’s foundation the association has nearly 1,000 members throughout Brazil. One by one, the march of the formigas (ants) will grow, and by sheer force of numbers the white elephants will be consumed.

17 October 2010

The positive anthill (em portugues)

ANT: o formigueiro do bem
OUT OF TOUCH – NÃO ME TOQUES

A Associação Nacional dos Torcedores lançou uma campanha para lutar pelos direitos dos torcedores brasileiros. O grupo já foi criticado, sendo chamado de elitista, esquerdista, marxista, out of touch e por aí vai. Tudo bem, que venham as críticas. No entanto, com quase uma semana de vida, a ANT tem mais de 500 membros e cresce diariamente. A associação apresentou uma série de críticas e demandas, reações às mudanças visíveis e invisíveis que ocorrem na cultura dos estádios brasileiros. Muitas destas mudanças são estimuladas pelos preparativos feitos no Rio de Janeiro e em outras 11 cidades brasileiras que irão sediar a Copa do Mundo. Em especial no Rio, as transformações são multiplicadas, acentuadas e aceleradas com a proximidade dos Jogos Olímpicos e Paraolímpicos.

 A ANT foi taxada de elitista por ser liderada provisoriamente por professores universitários. No Brasil, a produção de mega-eventos é que conduzida por uma elite neoliberal privatizadora, de especuladores imobiliários, turistas de hotel cinco estrelas amantes de cruzeiros e luxos extravagantes, discípulos de Rudy Giuliani, cheios de não me toques, ilhados em seu mundinho de champagne e caviar (além de estarem protegidos tanto pelos aparatos de segurança público quanto privado). Há um tempo venho catalogando as transformações radicais que vêm ocorrendo no Rio de Janeiro no decorrer de seus preparativos para a Copa do Mundo e para as Olimpíadas, incluindo o falido Pan-Americano de 2007.

É muito fácil ser contra tudo que envolve a Copa do Mundo e as Olimpíadas no Brasil. Os eventos são forçadamente sediados nas cidades (com o consentimento de um governo representativo nominal); tais eventos tiram dinheiro dos cofres públicos e gastam tudo em infra-estrutura esportiva sem ou com quase nenhuma aplicabilidade local ou uso real após o evento; os benefícios do “legado” não são equivalentes ao dinheiro gasto; existem problemas muito mais sérios que precisam ser solucionados com essa mesma verba pública; a caixa preta vazou, todos os problemas estão transbordando; não há responsabilidade pública financeira; há de fato o uso da violência para modelar o espaço urbano tornando-o capaz de acomodar o evento esportivo; a noção de “segurança” está limitada à acumulação econômica; não se chega nem a consultar as pessoas que terão que viver com as conseqüências das reformas; os benefícios são exagerados e os custos omitidos. No caso da ANT, estamos falando de torcedores de futebol, mas devemos estender tal categoria a fim de abranger toda e qualquer pessoa que sofrerá os impactos das transformações feitas para a Copa do Mundo e para as Olimpíadas.

Logo, sabendo que a Copa e as Olimpíadas vão invadir o espaço da cidade (e mudá-lo para sempre), quais são as alternativas? Como seria um mega-evento com um algo mais, um diferencial? Quais são as contra-propostas existentes? Eis algumas ideias, todas relacionadas com as questões apontadas pela ANT:

1.      Ao término dos Jogos, a venda dos alojamentos projetados para as Olimpíadas devem ser reguladas, permitindo renda imobiliária mista. Estes projetos também tinham que ser disseminados por toda a cidade. Por que construir alojamentos olímpicos apenas em zonas olímpicas? É realmente necessário gastar DEZENAS DE BILHÕES de reais para reestruturar uma área tão limitada da cidade?

2.      Menos de 20% das escolas públicas do Rio de Janeiro têm áreas de recreação e mesmo assim só as reformas no Maracanã vão custar mais que R$1 bilhão (1.000.000.000), reduzindo a capacidade do que antes fora o maior estádio do mundo para a anoréxica quantidade de 75 mil torcedores. O mantra entoado pela Secretária Estadual de Esporte, Turismo e Lazer do Rio de Janeiro, Marcia Lins é que “nós devemos cumprir com as demandas da FIFA”. O uso de BILHÕES das verbas públicas para a criação de um estádio que receberá um evento privado, para o lucro privado, enquanto a VASTA MAIORIA das escolas cariocas está sem espaços básicos de recreação, é no mínimo uma violação criminosa dos direitos básicos de todos os cidadãos, não apenas dos torcedores de futebol. Que tal primeiro cumprir com o contrato social básico previsto numa democracia?

3.      Da mesma forma que a maioria da população vem sendo excluída dos estádios de futebol devido a um aumento nos preços dos ingressos, milhões de pessoas também serão deslocadas por causa do aumento dos alugueis. Desde que o Rio “ganhou” as Olimpíadas, o aumento de 81% dos alugueis perpassou toda a cidade. Nas comunidades “pacificadas”, houve um aumento de 400%. Em geral o estádio é um reflexo da sociedade. A cidade devia ser um lugar que existe além do domínio do consumo – todos deviam ter o direito de freqüentar espaços de lazer e recreação. A elitização dos estádios brasileiros não é um fim inevitável! A expulsão indireta do povo do centro do Rio por causa da especulação imobiliária pode ser evitada! Alguém aqui já parou para procurar apartamentos para alugar? Nem tente comprar qualquer coisa aqui até que a bolha estoure em 2017. O Rio já é uma das cidades mais caras das Américas e a tendência é piorar ao menos que existam medidas legislativas adequadas para o controle da especulação imobiliária.

4.      Os projetos de transporte de mega-eventos deviam considerar o todo da região metropolitana e não apenas reestruturar o espaço urbano para trazer pessoas dos centros turísticos (Zona Sul) ou de bolsões de mão-de-obra barata (Deodoro, Santa Cruz) para a Barra da Tijuca. Os atuais projetos de transporte vão fragmentar ainda mais a cidade, aumentando a dependência por meios de transporte obsoletos, além de não oferecer soluções em longo prazo para os já gravíssimos problemas no trânsito do Rio. Os transportes marinhos deviam exercer papel fundamental nos preparativos para os mega-eventos do Rio. Planos atuais de extensão do serviço de transporte marinho: ZERO. (Este item está relacionado aos pontos 5 e 7 levantados pela ANT, referentes ao horário dos jogos e ao transporte em dias de jogos. Por exemplo, ontem a noite em São Januário, no jogaço entre Vasco x Corinthians, o pontapé inicial foi dado às 22h. O metrô fecha à meia-noite. Por que 22h? Ora, porque assim o jogo começa depois das novelas. Por que meia-noite? Ninguém sabe o porquê, já que o Metrô Rio é dirigido por uma franquia privada).

5.      O jeito pelo qual as gerais foram removidas dos estádios brasileiros é o mesmo pelo usado pelo governo no trato das comunidades de baixa renda da cidade. Os projetos de redesenvolvimento urbano da Zona Portuária foram entregues para uma empresa privada (CDURP). Em média 30 mil pessoas moram nos arredores dessa região, mas seu futuro residencial, urbano e laborial será definido por uma forma privatizada do governo urbano. O mesmo processo está em andamento com as 119 favelas destinadas à remoção forçada pelo governo municipal. A total ausência de envolvimento público no processo de re-estruturação do Maracanã é EXATAMENTE a mesma falta que notamos em outros setores sociais. O Maracanã será igualmente privatizado após as Olimpíadas. A Zona Portuária está se transformando numa zona da empresa privada e da governança urbano privada. Grandes (e pequenas) comunidades estão sendo apagadas do mapa em prol da criação do “Espaço Olímpico”. O público precisa se envolver mais nestas decisões. A ANT se predispõe a participar das conversações acerca dos estádios. A sociedade civil vem se mostrando extremamente vagarosa ao reagir perante as grandes mudanças já em curso.

6.      O futebol não é democrático, nós sabemos disso. Mas falando sério, no Brasil nós ultrapassamos o limite da falta de democracia. Ricardo Teixeira é o presidente da CBF há 21 anos. Isso é mais do que o tempo de vida que Neymar tem na Terra. Pela primeira vez na sórdida história das Copas do Mundo, o presidente da federação nacional do futebol é também o presidente do Comitê de Organização da Copa do Mundo. Esse duplo papel já trás conseqüências calamitosas que comprometem a transparência da instituição. E claro, a filha dele (a neta do ex-presidente da FIFA, João Havelange) é a Secretária Geral da Copa de 2014. Existem 5, C-I-N-C-O, CINCO membros no Comitê de Organização da Copa do Mundo de 2014! Deve existir algum tipo de entidade independente que mantém essa máfia, representando os interesses dos torcedores brasileiros e garantindo que a Copa do Mundo deixará algo, qualquer tipo de legado que não seja 12 elefantes brancos que vão passar os próximos 50 anos sugando milhões de reais por mês em gastos com manutenção.

7.      Desde sempre os seres humanos se reúnem em espaços públicos para assistir outros seres humanos jogando. Desde essa época, ou seja, há muito tempo atrás estes mesmos seres humanos comem carne vermelha e consomem um tipo de bebida fermentada. Desde junho de 2009, o direito básico do ser humano de consumir álcool e assistir pessoas fazendo coisas em um espaço e local especificamente designado para isso, parou de existir no Brasil.  Pois é, no Brasil você não pode beber cerveja dentro de um estádio!!!!!! Pelo menos até 2014, quando os “menos violentos, com menor propensão ao crime” vierem visitar. Se existe qualquer argumento que prove que a proibição do álcool nos estádios reduz em larga ou até mesmo em média escala os níveis de violência durante partidas de futebol, por favor, me envie essa prova. Se não (você, pretenso dono supremo do futebol), trate as pessoas como adultos, não como jovens com tendências criminosas, assim você irá gerar mais lucros para a AmBev! Jesus, Maria, José, deixa a cerveja entornar! Respeitem o torcedor!

Neste domingo (17/10) a ANT fará sua primeira manifestação pública no clássico Fluminense x Botafogo.

14 October 2010

ANT: o formigueiro positivo (The positive anthill)

The National Fans’ Association (Associação Nacional dos Torcedores) has launched a campaign to fight for the rights of sport fans in Brazil. The group has already received criticisms for being elitist, leftist, Marxist, out of touch, etc. Tudo bem, bring the criticisms. However, within a week of its founding, ANT has more than 500 members and is growing daily. The organization has laid out a series of criticisms and demands that are a reaction to the visible and invisible changes occurring in Brazilian stadium culture. Many of these changes are stimulated by preparing Rio de Janerio and 11 other Brazilian cities to host the World Cup. In Rio, the changes are multiplied, intensified, and accelerated because of the looming Olympic and Paralympic Games.
 
ANT received criticisms of elitism because it is provisionally headed by university professors. The reality of mega-event production in Brazil, is that the events are being carried off by a handful of cloistered, neo-liberal, privatizing, real-estate speculating, five star hotel tourist, Rudy Giuliani adoring, cruise ship loving, luxury box cavorting, prawn sandwich eating, out-of-touch elites (protected by private and state security apparatuses). I have been cataloging for some time now the radical transformations happening in Rio de Janeiro to prepare the city for the World Cup and Olympics, including the bulloxed 2007 Pan American Games.

It is quite easy to be against everything that is going on with the World Cup and Olympics in Brazil. The events are forced upon cities (with the consent of a nominally representative government); they take money from public coffers and spend it on sporting infrastructure that has little or no local context or post-event usage; the “legacy” benefits are not equivalent to the money spent; there are much more serious problems that need to be addressed that public money should be going to; everything is run out of a black box; there’s no public accountability; there is real violence taking place in order to shape urban space to accommodate the event; notions of “security” are limited to economic accumulation; no attempt is made to consult the very people who will have to live with the consequences of the reforms; the benefits are exaggerated and the costs hidden. In the case of ANT, we’re talking about football fans, but we should extend that categorization to include anyone, everyone who will be impacted by the preparations for the World Cup and Olympics.
 
So, given that the World Cup and Olympics are going to take place (and change space), what are the alternatives? What would a more just mega-event look like? What are some counter-proposals? Here are some ideas, each of which link up with items put forward by ANT:

  1. The post-Games sale of housing projects developed for the Olympics should be regulated, allowing for mixed income residences. These projects should also be spread throughout the city. Why just build Olympic housing in Olympic zones? Is it really necessary to spend TENS OF BILLIONS of Reales to restructure such a limited area of the city? 
  1. Less than 20% of Rio de Janeiro’s public schools have recreation areas, yet the Maracanã reforms alone will cost more than R$ 1 billion (1.000.000.000) and will reduce the capacity of what was once the world’s largest stadium to an anorexic 75,000. The mantra of Marcia Lins, State Secretary of Sport and Leisure, is that “we have to comply with FIFA’s demands.” The use of BILLIONS of public funds to create a stadium for a private event, for private profit, when that VAST MAJORITY of Rio’s schools are without basic spaces for play is a criminal violation of the basic rights of all citizens, not just football fans. What about attending to the basic social contract of a democracy first?
  1. In the same way that large sections of the population have been excluded from football stadiums because of an increase in ticket prices, millions will also be displaced because of an increase in rents. Since Rio “won” the Olympics, rents across the city have increased by 81%. In “pacified” communities, they have increased 400%. The stadium is a reflection of society at large. The city should be a place that exists beyond the realm of consumer consumption – everyone should have the right to frequent spaces of leisure. The “elite-ization” of Brazilian stadiums and is not an inevitable outcome! The indirect expulsion of people from the center of Rio because of real-estate speculation can be avoided! Has anyone looked into renting an apartment here? Don’t even think about coming here to buy anything until the bubble bursts in 2017. Rio is already one of the most expensive cities in the Americas and it’s only going to get worse unless there are legislative measures put into place to control real-estate speculation. 
  1. Mega-event transportation projects should treat the whole of the metropolitan region, not simply restructure urban space to bring people from tourist centers (Zona Sul), or pockets of cheap labor (Deodoro, Santa Cruz) to Barra de Tijuca. The current transportation projects will further fragment the city, increase dependence on outmoded forms of transportation, and will not provide long term solutions to Rio’s already grave traffic problems. Water-based transport should play an integral role in Rio’s preparations for mega-events. Current plans to extend service: 0. (This item attends to ANT items 5 and 7, game times and game transport. Last night , for example. São Januário, Vasco x Corinthians, jogasso. Kickoff 10pm. The metro closes at midnight. Why 10pm? It’s after the novellas. Why midnight? No one has any idea as Metrô Rio is run by a private concession.)
  1. The jeito (style, manner) in which the cheap, standing-only sections of Brazilian stadiums (geral) were removed is the same jeito that the government uses in relation to lower income communities throughout the city. The urban redevelopment projects slated for the Zona Portuaria have been handed over to a private company (CDURP). Around 30,000 people live in this part of town but their urban, work, and residential futures are going to be shaped by a privatized form of urban governance. The same kind of process is at work with the 119 favelas slated for forcible removal by the municipal government. The complete absence of public involvement in the process of re-structuring the Maracanã is EXACTLY the same lack that we can see in other social sectors. The Maracanã will likely be privatized after the Olympics. The Zona Portuaria is turning into a zone of private enterprise and private urban governance. Long (and short) -standing communities are being cleared form the map in order to produce “Olympic Space”. The public needs to become more involved in these decisions. ANT is demanding to participate in the conversation regarding stadiums. Civil society has been slow to react to the larger changes under way.
  1. Football is not democratic, we get it. But seriously, in Brazil we’ve taken things to the next level. Ricardo Teixeira has been the president of the CBF for 21 years. That’s longer than Neymar has been alive. For the first time in the sordid history of the World Cup, the president of the national football federation is also president of the World Cup organizing committee. This double papel is already having some dire consequences for transparency. Oh yeah, his daughter (former FIFA president João Haveleange’s grand-daughter) is the Secretary General of Brasil 2014. There are 5, F-I-V-E, CINCO, people on the Brasil 2014 Organizing Committee! There must be some kind of independent entity that holds this cabal accountable, represents the interests of Brazilian fans, and ensures that the World Cup will leave something, anything behind other than 12 white elephants that spend the next 50 years eating up a million R$ a month in maintenance costs.
  1. Since forever, human beings have gathered in public places to watch other human beings play games. Since then, which is a very long time indeed, they have eaten red meat and consumed some kind of fermented beverage. Since June of 2009, the basic human right to consume alcohol and watch people do things in a space and place specifically designed for that activity, has ceased to exist in Brazil. That’s right, you cannot drink beer in a Brazilian stadium!!!!!! Until 2014, that is, when the “less violent, less criminally inclined” come to visit. If there is any proof whatsoever that banning alcohol reduces large or even medium scale violence at football matches, someone please send it along. Otherwise (you football overlords) treat people as adults, not criminally inclined juveniles, and you’ll be able to make some more R$ for AmBev! Jaysus Mary and Joseph – let the beer flow! Respetiam o torcedor!
ANT will have its first public manifestation at the Fluminense x Botafogo match this Sunday, October 17. 

12 October 2010

ASSOCIAÇÃO NACIONAL DOS TORCEDORES (ANT)

Associação Nacional dos Torcedores

OUR MISSION in seven points, to honor Garrincha, the joy of the people.

Create a non-profit organization to fight against:

  1. The exclusion of the Brazilian population from football stadiums, which has resulted form a deliberate policy of diminishing stadium capacity, eliminating popular sections, and an abusive increase in ticket prices.
  2. The disrespect shown for Brazilian football culture with the extinction of popular areas like the geral where there was a tradition of watching games while standing, as happens in Germany, Argentina, and other major football nations. For example, the Maracanã has suffered massive and expensive reforms undertaken without consulting fans.
  3. The lack of transparency in Brazilian football which has been controlled for decades by corrupt and incompetent directors; for example, the Brazilian Football Confederation has been controlled by the same person for nearly two decades. We demand that Brazilian football be democratized.
  4. The political exploitation of football for political ends, abusing the sport’s popularity to use in creating public policies that work against public interests.
  5. The control of the football schedule and times by a television network that for decades has retained a lucrative monopoly over the broadcast of football matches. Matches should begin no later than 8pm during the week and 5pm on Sundays, the traditional hours for Brazilian football.
  6. The end of forced removals for lower-income communities in the name of the World Cup and Olympics.
  7. The lack of decent public transportation on match day, we demand special transportation to bring fans to and from the stadium.
First rally: Sunday October 16, Fluminense x Botafogo, Fechadão, 5pm. 

07 October 2010

Raining Toads




Tropa do Elite 2, Expo Estadio, Expo Urbano

Films are so powerful because the are able to bring us to times and places that we have never been (or never existed). I always suggest that visitors to Rio de Janeiro watch a series of films before they come so that they can educate themselves about the social, urban, and geographic contexts that they are about to plunge into: Bus 174 , Orfeu Negro, Central do Brasil, Cidade do Deus, O Que Isso companheiro? (Four days in September), Favela Rising, Blame it on Rio, Moonraker (rs), and Tropa do Elite I and II.

Tropa do Elite II debuted in Rio today, just after the elections. Poor timing but given the content of the film one can understand why it wasn’t released sooner. For those not familiar with the first, the Tropa movies take as their focus a Colonel in the Rio state government’s elite police force, BOPE. The first images that pop up on a search give a pretty clear picture of the tactics and mentality of the Batalhão de Operações Policiais Especiais.  The Rio State police forces do not have a good human rights record, a point that the film hammers on, but manages to complicate the discussion to the point where one gets an acute sense of the hopelessness of a “just” solution to the more generalized problem of corruption and violence that encompasses the whole of Brazilian society.

The basic story line is one that follows reality in nearly every detail. The absence of the state in Rio’s favelas created a power vacuum filled by drug traffickers. Not good. BOPE and the State invaded favelas both continually and from time to time, locking some people up, killing others, shooting down from helicopters into houses – a seemingly endless and deadly game of cat and mouse that was perpetuated by corruption all around. War is probably the most profitable human endeavor, after all. In the film, a decline in drug sales reduced the “rents” that the traffickers were paying to the cops. So the cops stepped in to run the other profitable elements of informal settlements: cable, gas, water, electricity. This was extremely lucrative and since the communities were “freed” of the drug traffickers, the cops could basically do as they pleased and got very rich doing so. Corrupt? Yes. Illegal? Yes. Control through violence and all its derivative forms? Yes. Better than the rule of the drug traffickers? Not really. The groups of cops and firemen who ran the favelas are known as milícias. Because the milicias are comprised of active duty cops involved in illegal activity, the conflicts become clear. However...

The favelas are and were places where the old clientelist political games of Latin America still hold steady. The milícias were able to deliver votes to politicians and received protection in return. Our good, yet deeply disturbed, BOPE Coronel begins to realize just how twisted the system is and he begins to fight it, trying to tear the entire apparatus down. Most of the political figures in the film are intended to represent their fleshy counterparts, in particular Anthony Garotinho, who was incredibly elected as a federal deputy this week despite being convicted and condemned to two and a half years in prison for the formation of an organized crime ring  As one person expressed to me this week, “the people get what they deserve.” Anyone voting for Garotinho deserves uma tapa na cara.

Tropa II hits all the right notes. It’s got good pace, good dialogue, good directing, good acting. When I left the theatre I was literally scratching and shaking my head at the intractable complexity of it all. And just yesterday I was nearly raving about Brazilian democracy. Oh well.

I went from the film directly to the Expo Estádio / Expo Urbano. I covered this same event when it was in São Paulo last year. In case you don’t want to go back and read that post, the Expo Estádio is a showroom for all of the shiny metal and plastic and membraney bits that one needs to put together a World Cup stadium. There was hardly anyone there. The Expo Urbano part was non-existent, I have no idea why that is there. Presumably, the polished interiors of a VIP box at the stadium are going to be the same kind of polished interiors in which “global clients” will be sucking down their imported vodka in their apart-hotels, nightclubs, condos, roof top flats, or restaurants (where they will only encounter people just like them or people who are serving them). Basically, the Expo is an opportunity to see, spread across a showroom floor, all of the component elements that go into constructing a very limited, air-conditioned, sanitized class world.

Of special interest to me was a booth specializing in work visas for foreigners. How long, typically? I was desperate to know.  30 days or less. [Inserir sequencia de palavrões aqui]. In order to capture my information, the guy at the booth leaned across with a scanner and zapped my name tag. I felt violated, somehow, and as I had nothing to zap him with I pulled out my can of mace and did by best Hunter S. Thompson impersonation.

Leaping three stairs at a time, I found the “information session” I had trekked to the Expo Estádio to see: Projects, Technologies, and Equipments for Mega-Events. I was ASTOUNDED to see that a Major from BOPE was presenting. I arrived a few minutes into the presentation and was one of 7 people in the room. Not long after I sat down the decidedly amateurish powerpoint started showing video clips of BOPE testing all of the different machine guns that they were buying in order to beef up security for mega-events. As the guns blew things apart, the major commented, “from England. This one’s German. This one is American.” Nice to see that the international arms trade is alive and well.

There wasn’t much information in the BOPE presentation that was new, but it’s always interesting to hear these things come out of the horse’s mouth. BOPE is installing a massive operations  center ("the largest and best in Latin America") near the international airport in order to “protect” the Linha Vermelha, Linha Amarelha, Avenida Brasil, and to be close to the center of “80% of Rio de Janeiro’s criminal activity.” Illegal criminal activity, that is. The public security budget is staggering. The PMERJ (RJ State Military Police): R$ 1 billion over the next 4 years. BOPE: R$500 million. SESEG (State Secretary of Security): unlimited? No one knows. People just want the problem of violence solved. Understandable, but is the total militarization of public space the best and only way to go about it? Apparently. That’s why Rio 2016 contracted Rudy Giuliani and Tony Blair, isn’t it? How else can you convince the public that buying surveillance helicopters and airplanes, plus “microphones that will be able to pick out a single person’s words in a stadium crowd from 100 meters”, and stockpiling advanced weaponry to ward of a non-existent terrorist threat is better than putting that same kind of money into education or health care or housing. Ah yes, the public does not need convincing. They’ve elected Garotinho and Chiquinho to do the thinking for them.

It’s obvious what I think, but this is what I think: There is a MASSIVE investment in weaponry and police training in order to securitize the public and private spaces of Rio de Janeiro and Brazil so that capital (symbolic, political, economic, and cultural) can flow more fluidly along fixed paths to strategic points of accumulation (Barra, Zona Sul). The investments in stadium infrastructure and security apparatuses on display at the Expo Estádio are intended to demonstrate to highly mobile and selective global clients that there are investments and profits to be made here. We are spending billions and billions on the construction of a kind of Bladerunner-esque class world that will be hyper-secure and very deadly for those who do not comport themselves properly within it or who threaten to interrupt the flow of capital from Brazil to gringolandia (esteja onde for), or from the povo to the elite.

The World Cup is a private event. FIFA takes control of stadiums, highways, airports, public spaces that are constructed and securitized with public money. South Africa lost US$4 billion during the World Cup. FIFA made US$4 billion. In a month! In reality, these are not events but decades’ long processes of constructing, sanitizing, and securitizing urban space for the maximum accumulation of capital in the shortest possible time frame.

No one disputes the fact that public security is an element of Rio de Janeiro that needs to be addressed urgently.  Tropa do Elite II shows just how complex that reality is. Expo Estádio, and the overblown events that it attends to, is stimulating the development of security apparatuses that will not serve the general needs of cariocas for safe transport, clean air, clean water, good schools, living wages, rights to housing and all of the other elements that comprise a more general conception of “security”. Just the opposite. Expo Estádio is furthering the production of militarized urban spaces that attend to the fetishized demands of a global consumerist/tourist class that will start raining on Rio de Janeiro like toads  at the onset of the apocalypse.


06 October 2010

Brazilian Democracy in Action

Sunday was election day. There were no football matches, no selling of alcohol for most of the day, and absolutely no controversy about counting the electronically submitted votes. More than 135 million Brazilians voted. The lower house of the federal government will have representatives from 22 different parties, the senate 15 parties. In Brazil, you have the option to vote for no one. Brilliant. Incredibly, there were many dozens of candidates for federal deputy in the state of Rio that didn't even vote for themselves. Their spouses didn't vote for them, their children didn't vote for them. 0 votes! That's as many as I had! From São Paulo, the USAmerican equivalent of Howdy Doody is going to Brasilia where he will be part of a governing body that includes Brazil's 1994 World Cup wining forwards, Bebeto and Romario. The green party presidential candidate, Marina Silva, managed 20% of the vote, forcing a run off between Coke and Pepsi, or if you prefer, Brahma and Skol. There will be no surprises from here on as Lula has fluffed the pillow of his cult of personality enough to ensre that Dilma will have a comfy place to lay her Gorgon-like head.

In so far as any of this has to do with the general trajectory of my reporting, nothing much changed on Sunday, but there were some small victories. Eurico Miranda, the man who stole millions from Vasco da Gama and put the team into financial ruin and the second division, did not get elected. His successor, Roberto Dinamite (a former national team player and Vasco idol), did - though I'm not sure if that is good news or just of passing interest. Rio's former mayor, Cesar Maia, only won 11% in his bid for the Senate. Now that we're all on the way to a system of urban, environmental, and social governance that thinks of return on investment first and fufilling social contracts tenth, Maia's neo-liberal interventions are no longer needed anyway. Maybe Rio 2016 will hire him to do something.

One of the people I discuss in Temples of the Earthbound Gods,  Chiquinho da Mangueira, the former head of SUDERJ, got himself elected as a state deputy just ahead of Dinamite.  Chiquino abused the image of the Maracanã in his electoral campaign more than any candidate EVER. You'd think he'd built the place himself not presided over the distrouous 2005-2007 reforms.

Did any candidate for any office at any level of government at any time during the campaign season make any comments criticizing the current craze of coughing up currency for constructing colossal and short lived mega-events? Possibly. Unlikely.

Does the voting system work in Brazil? Yes.

Is voting part of participatory democracy? Yes.

Is is sufficient? No.

I had an accidental lunch with a taxi driver today. As he sat down, he commented that the restaurant was without water. He was irate because the owner of the restaurant was so blithe about the situation. The whole neighborhood was without water, e dai? Did anyone complain? Mabye. Was there anyone listening if they did? Probably not. The taxi driver then explained how much he had to pay in taxes to drive his taxi. It was such an absurd number that I shot a black bean from my mouth into my nasal passage. Then he told me how much the flanelinhas were charging to park in Niteroi: R$20. (Fanelinhas are guys who stand on the street and "help" you park.) If you don't pay what they want, you come back and your windows are broken or your tires slashed. Lovely. R$20 is no joke to park on a street that should be free, or have a meter or have some kind of regulated system. Does anyone complain? Yes. Does the problem get addressed? Yes. In the Zona Sul of Rio. Sometimes. He told me he was with a judge one day who never paid the flanelinha, he simply parked and walked away. If something happened, he called some cops on the phone and had them arrest all of the flanelinhas in sight. It's good to be the king.

The point of all this? Democracy is not and should not be limited to the act of voting. Brazilians pay insanely high taxes for the insanely shoddy delivery of public services. The World Cup and Olympics are inherently anti-democratic events, run by anti-democratic institutions, supported by democratically elected individuals, and financed with public money, lots of it. These events and people and institutions are combining to worsen the conditions of Brazilian democracy. There is already a general sense of helplessness in the face of an impossibly complex bureaucracy that simply does not deliver what it should given the amount of money shoveled into it. When FIFA and the IOC come to town, abre a boca Galvão.

At the same time, the voting machines work. There are dozens of political parties. Political discourse is not driven by hatred of immigrants or religious groups or about which party is going to fortify the border with 15,000 or 45,000 more troops. 135 million votes in a country of 190 million is impressive, even though it's a legal requirement. People discuss their political ideas openly in the streets and aren't afraid to have friends with different political views. As with democracy, as with flamenguistas, ninguém perfeito.

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