HUNTING WHITE ELEPHANTS / CAÇANDO ELEFANTES BRANCOS

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28 April 2011

Interview with the Observatorio de Favelas (Português)

Entrevista - 27/04/2011 16:46 
‘Não-legado’ dos megaeventos
Por Marianna Araujo
“O torcedor não costuma pensar que ir ao estádio é um ato político, mas é”. A frase é do geógrafo e professor da Universidade Federal Fluminense (UFF), Christopher Gaffney, que também é membro da Associação Nacional dos Torcedores (ANT), entidade dedicada ao enfrentamento da exclusão do povo brasileiro dos estádios de futebol, do desrespeito à cultura torcedora e da retirada de comunidades de trabalhadores em nome da Copa do Mundo e das Olimpíadas.

Para Gaffney, todas as etapas da realização dos megaeventos esportivos de 2016 e 2014 envolvem o estabelecimento de novas regras e novas formas de governar com vistas a gerar um estado de exceção onde o autoritarismo vigora cada vez mais livre de constrangimentos. Segundo o geógrafo, estas são mudanças jurídicas seguidas por mudanças sócio-espaciais que contam com a anuência da grande mídia. Confira. 

Observatório de Favelas: Você fala em "democratizar a Copa do Mundo de 2014". O que essa expressão quer dizer?

Chris Gaffney: Ninguém vota por uma Copa acontecer. Não há referendo, não há plebiscito, não existe opinião pública a respeito. Se o governador do estado, o prefeito, o Ministério do Esporte, o Presidente da República, o Ricardo Teixeira, o seu Sepp Blatter tivessem perguntado para o cidadão, podemos fechar o Maracanã por quatro ou cinco anos, descaracterizá-lo, e gastar 1,5 bilhão para receber cinco jogos de futebol em 2014, e privatizar os lucros, o que teríamos dito? 

Depois de falar em 2007 que o governo federal não bancará a Copa, agora estamos dispostos gastar de sete bilhões de dinheiro público em doze estádios, em doze cidades, sem perguntar a ninguém, sem passar pelas instituições democráticas. Que órgão do governo decidiu colocar um estádio em Natal e não em Goiás, em Manaus e não em Belém? Ninguém toma responsabilidade. Quem da CBF, do Ministério do Esporte, da Prefeitura perguntou ao usuário, ao torcedor – que tipo de estádio vocês querem, demandam, precisam? Por que não podemos seguir um modelo que inclui mais a sociedade civil nesse processo? Há uma falta de informação, uma falta de transparência, uma falta de coordenação e planejamento, uma falta de inclusão social, grandes falhas de gestão e um desrespeito total pelo senso comum. 

O caminho que estamos seguindo é longe de ser o único. Dentro de todas as possibilidades, estamos no caminho menos democrático, o menos responsável, o mais autocrático com menos mecanismos de controle. O modelo atual é que menos atende as demandas da sociedade e mais atende as demandas de uma empresa Suíça. Pior, “eles” estão destruindo lugares comuns, palcos públicos e espaços sagrados de memória coletiva para reformulá-los em shoppings. 

Ao lado do Lixômetro e do Legadômetro precisamos um Democráticômetro.  Nota Negativa. 
 
OF: Qual o papel da imprensa nesse processo que você descreveu?

CG: A imprensa adora esporte porque ele é barato e rentável. Em comparação ao custo de produção de uma telenovela, o futebol é baratíssimo. O estado paga pela construção e manutenção do palco, os times geram o elenco, e todo mundo conhece a história e a segue semanalmente. Não servem aos interesses da imprensa, atrair atenção para os problemas no esporte. 

Porém, a narrativa global do esporte é impactante, informa nossas próprias identidades, nossas histórias pessoais. Quem viu uma final da Copa ao vivo? Quase ninguém, mas todo mundo assiste. É dizer, nossa experiência da Copa é (e será) formada pela mídia, então o papel dela é fundamental nesse processo. 

Esporte é rentável porque ele é despolitizado. O torcedor não costuma pensar que ir ao estádio é um ato político, mas é. Construir, reformar, demolir, manejar e transformar estádios também são atos políticos. Quando o projeto do Maracanã foi apresentado, não houve questionamento do projeto, só bênçãos. Mas é muito óbvio que, o Novo Maracanã descaracterizará o estádio que conhecíamos. Como ninguém reclamou? O Velho Maracanã foi construído para ser palco do que representaria, arquitetonicamente, o projeto de democracia brasileira de outra época. Esse Novo Maracanã está sendo construído para atender discursos e valores diferentes. Será que concordamos com esses valores?  Os valores de democracia e inclusão social, refletidos na arquitetura do estádio, não são mais os valores que norteiam a sociedade brasileira? Pelo o que eu saiba, só Juca Kfouri e José Cruz levantaram críticas desde o início. 

Lamentavelmente, a trajetória é sempre essa. A mídia, com os times, os ministérios, os entes privados como a CBF e os “boosters” (negócios, setor privado, coalizão de crescimento, os desenvolvimentistas) combinam com políticos para vender a idéia de que “precisamos” de um estádio novo, um megaevento, uma reforma urbana, um espetáculo global. Vamos custar a saber, mas, mais vai trazer benefícios no curto, meio e longo prazo. As vozes harmonizadas e ufanas transmitem que tudo vai dar certo e quem levanta a mão contra é tratado como antipatriótico, anti-esporte, anti-progresso, anti-tudo. As vozes dissonantes não recebem espaço na imprensa, a princípio. O megaevento representa uma “oportunidade imperdível” tanto pelos políticos e empreiteiros quanto pela mídia e, nos dizem, pela sociedade. A imprensa atua como o alto-falante, o carro de som desses discursos. Mas a imprensa não inventa tudo sozinha. Não pode pensar na imprensa como um ente independente do poder público ou os grandes interesses de capital que dirigem todo esse processo.

Então vemos desde o início, uma repetição continua dos discursos dominantes. Depois que as promessas se dissolvem e os projetos ficam superfaturados, quando as despesas e desapropriações feitas em nome do megaevento são cada vez mais chocantes, é quando a imprensa é obrigada a ligar o olhar crítico, publicar algumas denúncias. O que estamos vendo hoje é uma onda crescente de artigos que criticam as preparações para Copa e Olimpíadas. O problema é que agora é tarde demais. Precisamos de uma imprensa crítica do começo ao fim e não só quando as preparações começam a apodrecer.    
 
“O torcedor não costuma pensar que ir ao estádio é um ato político, mas é”
 
OF:  A preparação do Rio para a Copa de 2014 e as Olimpíadas de 2016 envolve a implantação de uma série de grandes projetos para a cidade. A construção da Transcarioca - via que ligará a Barra da Tijuca ao Aeroporto Internacional Tom Jobim - já desapropriou cerca de 700 residências de 3 mil previstas. Recentemente, houve denúncias dando conta de que as famílias desalojadas estão recebendo indenizações muito abaixo do valor de seus imóveis. Essas denúncias saíram nos grandes veículos de comunicação. O senhor afirma, de outro lado, que, durante a execução dos grandes projetos urbanísticos dos mega-eventos, se estabelece uma espécie de alinhamento entre o discurso da imprensa e a vontade estatal. O fato das denúncias dos moradores saírem nos grandes veículos seria uma espécie de contradição? Como avalia isso?

CG: A grande mídia não tem mais como ignorar essas desapropriações. Não pode aparecer tão comprometido com um projeto que não critica nada. Mas, não é simplesmente uma questão de publicar denuncias dos moradores. A maneira em que eles apresentam essas denúncias é importante. Por exemplo, outro dia houve uma notinha na segunda página do Globo, chamando o MST de terroristas por que não “respeitam a autoridade do estado”. Tudo bem que eles apresentam notícias sobre o MST, mas são tantos exemplos de um viés que favorece o estado e o status quo, que não dá para acreditar no que está escrito.

Tomo por exemplo o Maracanã. Saiu no Globo a semana passada um artigo intitulado - “O Maracanã não é mais nosso”. A meu ver, quando O Globo começa criticar o projeto da Copa a situação realmente é ruim. O Maracanã não existe mais. O Engenhão não é legal para ver futebol, tudo mal feito. A cidade perdeu seu grande palco por cinco anos e, somando as reformas dos últimos dez anos, vai custar quase dois bilhões. Eliminar o Maracanã sempre foi o Plano A. Por que reclamar agora? É chorar sobre leite derramado.  Eu levantei essas perguntas pela primeira vez em 2008, porque era bastante previsível o que ia acontecer com o Maracanã. De fato, tinha acontecido com as reformas do PAN, mas ninguém prestou atenção porque o estádio continuava funcionando direitinho. 

Então a contradição não é que nossa mídia hegemônica lance reportagens sobre desapropriações, ou que de vez em quando articula os interesses de sociedade civil. A contradição está no fato que O Globo está dando todo apoio ao projeto (de BRT, por exemplo), ao mesmo tempo em que está mostrando o lado feio aos poucos. A notícia de que um condomínio de classe média vai ser desapropriado pelas obras da Trans-Olímpica, recebeu uma página inteira de cobertura. A remoção forçada de 119 favelas quase nada. É uma questão de prioridades, influência, poder simbólico e repercussão político. 
 
OF: No caso específico dos mega-eventos, por que a imprensa costuma reforçar os discursos desenvolvimentistas que justificam ações ilegais do Estado contra milhares de famílias? 

CG: Não vejo muita diferença entre a imprensa, o governo e seus banqueiros nesse sentido. A imprensa publica o que diz os governadores e não se preocupa muito com as críticas. Acho que há uma falta de entendimento, entre os editores das grandes órgãos da imprensa, sobre como realmente funciona um megaevento. Ou existe uma ignorância intencional, ou uma miopia que acontece na frente das possibilidades “inéditas, imperdíveis” do megaevento. A gente só quer ouvir coisas boas, que tudo vai melhorar, a economia vai crescer para sempre. Ninguém quer admitir os custos reais, quanto o estádio vai custar, quantas pessoas serão aterrorizadas, ameaçadas, removidas, desalojadas. O ufanismo generalizado deixa todo mundo só querendo saber que o estádio vai estar pronto, o aeroporto melhorado, um novo sistema de transporte instalado.  Uma caixa preta também é uma caixa de Pandora. Uma vez que, o megaevento é questionado em si, tem que começar pensar, agir, cobrar. 

Também temos que pensar nesse projeto da Copa e Olimpíada como uma oportunidade de lucro espetacular. Esse também vai enriquecer a imprensa. Para mim, tudo que está acontecendo no Rio de Janeiro tem a ver com especulação imobiliária, com o destrancamento de valor, com a oportunidade de ganhar muito dinheiro no prazo mais curto possível. Para isso acontecer, precisamos reestruturar os espaços da cidade, reorganizar as relações sociais, aplicar uma série de “choques”, como diz Naomi Klein. Os megaeventos funcionam como uma invasão. Entre o delírio e o temor, é preciso estabelecer novas regras, inventar novas formas de governar, gerar um estado de exceção para instalar um regime autoritário. Já aconteceram essas mudanças jurídicas, agora vêm as mudanças sócio-espaciais. 
 
OF: Os Jogos Pan-americanos de 2007 não deixaram a infra-estrutura de transporte prometida, não melhoraram as habitações populares e não repararam os danos ambientais das grandes obras. O Rio dá sinais de reestruturação no transporte. Mas, será que em outras áreas é possível que a história do (não) legado social do PAN se repita?

CG: Essa reestruturação de transporte também tem que ser avaliada. Para mim, não há evidencia que os sistemas de BRT vão atender ás demandas atuais do transporte na região Metropolitana. Para mim, só vamos ter legado negativo no transporte urbano. Quem planejou essas linhas? Por que temos três, das quatro linhas, indo a Barra da Tijuca? Por que não vamos ter uma ligação entre Galeão e Santos Dumont? Como estamos organizando o serviço de barca entre Rio e Niterói? Não vamos ligar a Zona Oeste com o Centro, a Baixada com alguma zona? É claro que, o sistema de transporte planejado só vai atender as pessoas que vão para Barra de Tijuca. Por quê? Qual será o efeito disso daqui a 10, 20, 50 anos? Os custos de oportunidade desses sistemas não têm tamanho. Qualquer intervenção urbana vai ter um efeito (ou legado) social. Uma linha de BRT é uma faixa impermeável de concreto e alta velocidade que corta em dois por onde passe. Alguém reparou na fragmentação que vai acontecer em Jacarepaguá com essas linhas?  

É preciso entender o que queremos dizer com “legado social”. Para mim, significa melhoramentos em educação, saúde, meio-ambiente, moradia, trabalho, transporte e qualidade da vida para a maioria da população (dentro do parâmetro do capitalismo selvagem reinante). Talvez, o benefício de um incremento do orgulho de ser “global”, de ter experiências “legais” com os eventos são importantes, mas para mim não caem dentro dos parâmetros de legado social. 

Com esse critério, o legado do PAN não era só negativa, mas um fracasso total. Esse também tem que ser entendido com legado. Pode chamar de “illegado”. Até a Prefeitura aceita que não houve legado urbano ou social nenhum do PAN além de possibilitar a conquista da Copa e Olimpíada. Seguindo essa lógica, a má gestão do PAN abriu o caminho para sediar eventos maiores com mais dinheiro. Se fosse uma empresa ou empregada teriam sido demitido por incompetência, mas o que fizemos foi dar as mesmas pessoas mais umas chances com mais dinheiro e menos controle. 
 
OF: O esporte certamente é uma atividade que tem papel central no desenvolvimento de diferentes capacidades. No entanto, é possível que as características positivas do discurso do desporto sejam utilizadas, no caso dos mega-eventos, como cortina de fumaça para outros interesses?
 
CG: Um megaevento é um grande cavalo-de-tróia, escondendo os mais diversos instrumentos de neoliberalismo. Como os discursos esportivos são despolitizados e o esporte tem fortes ligações com nossas emoções, é difícil ter uma conversa sincera ao seu respeito. Os que acreditam no “projeto Olímpico” parecem autômatos, sempre repetindo as mesmas coisas como se fossem mantras Olímpicos. “Barcelona deu certo, se transformou, melhorou muita coisa, vamos seguir esse modelo, vai dar certo de novo.” Repete. Nada a ver.
Em 1992, Barcelona tinha um milhão de habitantes, o Rio tem 13 milhões. Espanha recebe 55 milhões de visitas turísticas por ano, o Brasil cinco, seis. Barcelona tinha um plano-diretor antes das Olimpíadas chegarem, o Rio não. O plano-diretor da cidade é a Olimpíada. Não pode dar certo.  (http://www.ub.edu/geocrit/b3w-895/b3w-895-17.htm)

Então a cortina de fumaça esconde esse cavalo-de-tróia que também é uma caixa preta. Pode ser que a imprensa tenha as chaves, mas está tão comprometida com o sonho olímpico que virou um cego papagaio. Os discursos “positivos” do esporte são barreiras difíceis de derrubar, desconstruir. Politizar esporte deve ser prioritário, mas estamos longe, longe disso. Pior, cada vez que falamos nas “demandas” dos megaeventos (sejam de tempo, infraestrutura, ou isenção fiscal) fortalecemos os discursos dominantes. Todas as perguntas continuam circulando em volta do megaevento, atraindo tudo para a caixa-preta como se fosse um buraco negro. Precisamos entender os eventos como projetos políticos, que funcionam para instalar novas formas de governar, uma nova biopolítica, onde quem tem dinheiro pode comprar seus direitos de cidadão. Eis o modelo atual de desenvolvimento. 


OF:  Como você avalia a cobertura esportiva dos veículos de imprensa brasileiros? Do que sente falta?

CG: O papel de ESPN me parece bastante interessante. Eles são diferentes ao ESPN nos EUA, mais críticos, mais sábios, mais mente aberta. Em geral, eu sinto falto de um nível de cinismo, que leva a gente a questionar o status quo. Acho que ficamos presos naquele debate inútil sobre futebol-arte ou futebol de resultados, que gera uma falsa nostalgia sobre como o futebol era. 

Talvez sempre fosse ruim, mais não tanto como agora e por isso ficamos num passado imaginário que nos distrai de nosso presente urgente. Não ouço a voz do torcedor em nenhum lugar na imprensa esportiva, além daqueles fragmentos na televisão, mandando questões simples para um comentarista qualquer. Sinto muita falta de uma imprensa esportiva independente, que nos desafia pensar em uma maneira mais crítica, redonda, e inteligente. 

OF:  Qual a sua formação? Em que universidade atua e que pesquisa vem desenvolvendo?

CG: Me formei em história e filosofia e sou doutor em geografia. Estou atuando na Escola de Arquitetura e Urbanismo, da Universidade Federal Fluminense com o grupo Grandes Projetos Urbanos. Tenho várias pesquisas em andamento. Estou pesquisando os processos de planejamento e instalação das linhas BRT. Essas linhas vão ter um efeito profundo no tecido urbano e social do Rio para sempre. 

Também estou investigando a história da transformação do Maracanã, começando com a primeira grande reforma em 1999. Também faço parte de uma pesquisa nacional da IPPUR/UFRJ sobre os 12 projetos da Copa, nas 12 cidades-sedes. Esses projetos representam uma continuação de minhas investigações sobre o papel social dos estádios de futebol na história do Rio de Janeiro e de Buenos Aires, que saiu no livro Temples of the Earthbound Gods (University of Texas Press, 2008). Estou no processo de traduzir esse livro para o Português com a Editora 7 Letras. 

Também sou bastante envolvido com a Associação Nacional dos Torcedores, ocupando a carga de vice-presidente nacional. Eu estou publicando denuncias e interpretando notícias no meu site www.geostadia.com em inglês, para atrair atenção aos processos, desafios, e realidades dos megaeventos no Rio de Janeiro e Brasil. 

27 April 2011

O Terceiro Clássico, uma saida preconceituosa

The Third Clássico, a biased departure

At home, watching my third of four Barça-Madrid clashes. At half time, it looks as if Mourinho has solved the Barça puzzle with his particularly dark set of keys. Fine. Barcelona’s dominance in ball posession alone must rank upon the top teams of all time. If Barcelona lose this tie, they will claim ( as the loser always does) that they lost beautifully. The depths of my pessimism are such that even after Pepe’s expulsion in the 62nd minute I am not convinced that the basic pattern of the game will change. The first 5 halves of football these teams have played in the last ten days produced one goal. Would the second half of the third game be any different? I  questioned my motivations. Mouriho’s pragmatism would have us believe that RMadrid have to score one goal over two legs and that could just as easily happen at the Camp Nou as in the Santiago Bernabéu. Mourinho wants us to believe that the forces are aligned against him, and he may be right. At least I hope so. Regarding Pepe’s summary dismissal, the Brazilian commentators tell us that o arbitro é muito pequeno por um jogo muito grande. Mourinho scribbles furiously, Guardiola gesticulates to his assistants. The signal on the web is choppy, giving me an even more fragmented experience of the game. I want to know what Mourinho is writing, what Guardiola is saying. If Mourinho is given credit for creating a system of play that is so disciplined, so perfectly coordinated to limit and condense space, how does he go about training his players to move in the sequence, rhythm and form that he demands? The impression is that the only unbalancing factors are Messi and RM freekicks. The depth of the event, the magnitude of connections, expressions, and experiences begins to overwhelm, again. Fouls are becoming rougher and more frequent as the game grinds on. RM will stop any and all attacks through violence. Then, as I just finished writing…Messi in the 77th minute. The man is a genius and brings joy to my heart. Now I'm stuck into the game, and when you think Barcelona should sit back and defend, Messi takes the ball of Busquet's foot, surges forward, dribbles two, three, skips past Marcelo, outwits Casillas and kills the game. Mourinho expulso, Madrid’s anti-football reaps its just rewards. 


26 April 2011

More of the same, as usual

As usual, it is difficult to know where to begin, so let’s take it from the top.

A Presidenta da República, Dilma is planning on calling a meeting with the twelve governors of the states that will host the World Cup. The federal government is beginning to realize that someone has to take the lead in organizing things, now, or there are going to be some major problems in 2014. INFRAERO, the Brazilian air transport authority, has already assured everyone that 9 or the 12 airport projects will not be ready in time. Dilma is trying to find ways to avoid an international embarrassment and so is taking steps to have “preventative auditing measures” put in place so that the major projects won’t be unnecessarily delayed by pesky accountants once they are actually under way. The generalized lack of planning is hopefully no longer going to be acceptable as both Plan A and Plan B. However, as we know, the stadium projects have doubled in price since 2009, with three of them already scheduled to cost well over R$1 billion. So much for preventative measures.

But really, the problem is not with spending public money on stadia. It’s in the almost complete lack of return on investment, not spending it on other projects and ruining lives to make the stadiums happen. The following are reports that will be seen again, and again, and again as Brazil “gets ready” to host the mega-events.

This one, in Portuguese, is about the people who are being forcibly removed from their homes around the Sambódromo:

This one, in English, is about the total lack of humanity shown by the Prefeitura in removing people from around the Maracanã to make way for a parking lot. The text that accompanies the video is here.

           

           

           

           

           


This week, Amnesty International and the United Nations are in town to 1) deliver condemnations of the Brazilian government for violating human rights agreements that Brazil has signed onto 2) interview activists and residents about the ongoing disappropriations 3) call international attention to the problems of mega-events and their urban and social impacts. The author of the United Nations report is Raquel Rolink, professor of Urbanism at the University of São Paulo. Her report can be found though this excellent website on the human right to dignified housing. Other information regarding the forced removals in Rio can be found here.  

It’s doubtful that anyone in the City Government will be listening or if they are, they will hear only what they want to hear. My evidence for this presumption comes from a talk entitled O Plano do Legado para Cidade do Rio de Janeiro that the Secretário Extraordinário de Desenvolvimento [sic] Felipe Goes gave last week at the Instituto de Arquitetos do Brasil (IAB, where despite their insistence on smart urban design, they don’t have a bicycle rack).

Goes opened his talk by reflecting upon the “Olympic Legacy” in Athens. He told the crowd that in his conversations with Greek government officials, the principal Olympic legacy was an improvement in the social comportment of the Athenians. In the lead up to the Olympics there was much less graffiti and tagging. Of course, once the economy collapsed and students and government workers took to the streets in violent protest, graffiti becomes a much less subtle weapon that a Molotov cocktail (as I described in this post from 2010). Come on Felipe! Comportamento Social? Fala Sério. But then, to give you an idea of how the government can turn a turd into a flower, this really very Extraordinary Secretary said that a BRT system slashing through neighborhoods is actually much better than a Metro because you get to see the landscape and not be trapped underground. In Rio de Janeiro, you either drink the Olympic Kool-aid ©® TM or get your house knocked over.

It’s not just that mega-event development projects are ill-considered, poorly planned, attend the demands of international capital at the expense of the population, install extra-legal authorities, privatize and militarize public space, throw public money at Pharanoic projects, and allow for the installation of neo-liberal tactics of governance. 

What really irks is that even with all this, nothing gets done properly. The announcement for the opening of bidding for the Olympic Park project had two different dates. In Portuguese it was 25.4.11, in English 25.5.11. Naturally, this generated some confusion and the pdf was re-released. This was the same bidding process that was cancelled earlier in the year because the IAB was screaming about Rio 2016’s lack of transparency. Today’s O Globo informed that the Velódromo built for the 2007 Pan American Games for R$14,1 million does not meet IOC or international cycling federation regulations and will have to be completely rebuilt. The same holds true for the Pan swimming center which will only be capable of hosting synchronized swimming and water polo for the Olympics. Is it incompetence? Ignorance? Corruption?  Can it all be going so wrong?

There are many discouraging signs as Rio de Janeiro and Brazil prepare to host a series of mega-events over the next five years. The city has a difficult time handling rain, much less interminable and poorly planned urban interventions. On the bright side, the soccer stadiums are not as violent as those in Buenos Aires. Of course, when at the Engenhão, one can’t even see the goal line. Nice legacy.



19 April 2011

The way things work

Way back in March, the former governor of Rio de Janeiro state who was convicted of a series of criminal charges yet was allowed to assume his position as a federal deputy after the October 2010 elections and whose  base is a massive and flexible horde of evangelicals began what is known as a CPI (comissão parlamentar de inquérito) to look into the dealings of the CBF (Brazilian Football Federation) and its notoriously slippery president Ricardo Teixeira.

For those who don't read EVERY post or follow the developments 2014 World Cup with the maniacal passion of a star-crossed lover, this CPI process smacked of the bizarre, but gave hope that there could be a peek inside the black box. A question for my Brazilian readers: how is it that the former governor, convicted on charges of forming a criminal gang as recently as August 2010 and sentenced to two and a half years in prison, begin to think about processing Teixiera? Neither here nor there I reckon, but it might take one to know one. As a reminder, Teixeira is the former son in law of the former FIFA president and is not only the president of the CBF but of the WC organizing committee.

Garotinho was able to get 183 of the required 171 deputies to sign onto his CPI but did not publish their names because he knew that Ricardo Teixeira was in Brasilia making the rounds in Brasilia. But, Garotinho had published partial lists along the way, so it wasn't very hard to find out the names of at least some of them. Only needing to eliminate 13 names from that list was what Teixeira was in Brasilia to do. The result:

On April 14, OGlobo reported a very, very small celebratory piece on the inside of the front page with a picture of a Brazilian National Team shirt and a copy of a letter from the CBF. The text: The creation of the CPI in the Deputies' chamber to investigate the CBF didn't take off. Dozens of deputies removed their signatures, making the iniciative more difficult. They received an official shirt of the national team accompanied by a letter from the CBF president that said: Receive, illustrious deputy, my thanks for the hospitality with which I was received during my visit to Brasilia on the 29th of March. 

Contrary to the celebratory announcement in OGlobo and The Folha de São Paulo, the CPI hasn't completely died. Many deputies did take their names off the CPI list, but some others have apparently signed on. On Garotinho's blog, he insists that the CPI is still going on and he has decided to publish a list of all the deputies who have signed. Let's hope that this thing has not lost its legs.

This is not the first CPI that Texiera and the CBF have confronted. Following the 1994 World Cup there was an investigation into the two plane loads of "stuff" that the World Cup winners brought back from the United States. When the customs agents had the nerve to suggest that Teixeira and the Brazilian Team pay import taxes, they refused, saying that they would not participate in a public parade if they were made to obey the law. A CPI was opened into that case, but nothing came of it.

Following the strange events of the 1998 World Cup when Ronaldo Fenomeno was mysteriously ill before the final and then Brazil had their arses handed to them by Zidane's head, a CPI was opened into the relationships and contracts between the CBF, Nike, and Traffic. Some day I'll hve time to read through all of this stuff, but then again, it doesn't seem to do much good as the more one knows the angrier one gets.

In sum, in the lead up to the 2014 World Cup convicted criminals are pursuing suspected criminals who spend their days hopping back and forth between cities and offices, distributing hundred dollar soccer jerseys as a way of escaping legal proceedings.

As if to add insult to injury, in the conclusion to a paper comparing the 2010 and 2014 World Cups, Luiz Martins de Melo from the Economics Institute at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, after pages of critical insight justifies the estimated R$30 billion public expenditure in the World Cup by suggesting: "Perhaps, given the cultural importance of football for Brazilians, the most outstanding result of hosting the World Cup will be to overcome the trauma of the 1950 World Cup defeat to Uruguay. This intangible outcome is priceless."  And if they don't win? The intangible outcome will be what?

This is the way things work. I'm getting used to it. You?

14 April 2011

"Neigh" to the Trojan Horse

There is nothing going right in the preparations for the 2014 World Cup. The stadia are 85% over budget from their initial projections (now more than R$7 bi) and some of the projects haven’t even started or been contracted. Five of the proposed stadia will have no effective post-cup use. The Maracanã, Fonte Nova, Verdão, and Mane Garrincha epitomize the capitalist cycle of creative destruction.  There aren’t enough places for the 32 teams to train. The transportation infrastructure within and between cities is appalling. Things are so bad that even the new CBF headquarters has come under scrutiny for financial irregularities in the transaction that gave them a sweet deal on a property in Barra de Tijuca (which I reported about last year). Dilma is getting anxious, her hair stiffening. OGlobo, (again in their impression of Fox News) is increasingly fretful, saying that “Brazil is worse than Africa.”

On top of this organizational fail, there is NO TRANSPARENCY and NO ACCOUNTABILITY. I have repeatedly sent emails to the organizing committee asking for a list of the people who comprise the organizing committee. Nothing.  Who are these people?

What is really going on here?

Historically, one of the biggest challenges to building the Brazilian state has been the country’s size. In the USA and W. Europe and Japan and Australia, there are massive, state funded infrastructure projects that link cities and their hinterlands to other cities. Infrastructure projects such as the interstate highway system in the USA (to take one case) were part of a continental-scale developmental project that accelerated flows of people, information, goods, and money. This allowed for the industrial development of the South and Southwest as well as for massive internal migration from the Northeast and Midwest in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s.

A similar project never happened in Brazil where the coastal cities have always been isolated from one another, tending to be more connected with the exterior than with other Brazilian cities. This is reflective of an colonial and neo-colonial economy based on natural resource extraction. Now, that Brazil is trying to develop its internal market and consume more of its own natural resources as it pursues a USAmerican-style consumer society. However, the lack of effective infrastructure links between the major cities and their hinterlands (which would open up the same kind of internal colonization / economic expansion that happened in the USA after the development of the interstate system) is limiting those possibilities.

So when we hear all of the complaints about the airports in Brazil, what is it that we are listening to? Given that World Cup travel will increase demand by 5% for one month (I have this data somewhere, excuse its temporary absence), what is all the shouting about?

The airports are saturated and disorganized because as the Brazilian economy has grown, demand for personal and business travel has also grown but have not been accompanied by commensurate infrastructure investment. Who is doing the traveling? The “new” middle class and the old upper classes who are trying to get here and there as comfortably and as quickly as possible. The papers are always full of pictures of long lines, cancelled flights, one or another INFRAERO manager making apologies for a half-ass airport. But really, these are complaints about the inability of the Brazilian state to invest significantly and effectively in the necessary infrastructure to accelerate flows between cities.

Cheap air travel in the USA and W. Europe is a relatively recent phenomenon and only came after significant developments in rail and road infrastructure. In Brazil, there is NO WAY to effectively travel by car or bus or rail between regions. Inter-regional transit is shaky outside of the Rio-BH-São Paulo axis, but linking these regions together has always been one of the biggest challenges for Brazil. The recent surge in demand for air travel has not been accompanied by any long-term strategic planning. Airports are clearly not the answer but they do attend to the leisure demands of the upper classes, the novelty trips of the nascent middle classes, people on business travel, and international sport federations and their blinkered, myopic, aloof, retrograde, feudal, extractive and oppressive demands.

The challenges for Brazil are huge and everything is behind schedule, increasing costs. The people in charge of producing the World Cup lack professionalism and a sense of civic responsibility. There is a growing sense in the media and in government that 2014 could be a massive embarrassment. The problems, as I have continued to identify here, are historical, geographical, political, and cultural. Using sports-mega events as a catalyst for continental-scale development projects is not a good idea. Focusing the discussion around airports is a smokescreen which will hide the real necessity: effective rail infrastructure that will begin to stitch together Brazil’s urban archipelago. This has never been mentioned as a possibility.

The World Cup is a Trojan Horse that is allowing for the implementation of a series of neo-liberal governance mechanisms to be implanted while diverting attention from the effective demands of Brazil’s seriously troubled infrastructure. The opening of the gates to a horde of international capitalist interests combined with the focus on tourist infrastructures will not leave any lasting benefit for Brazil. A country of 200 million that receives 6 million tourist visits a year should not predicate economic growth on that industry, nor should it concentrate on developing infrastructure to attend to those people. State-led investment in infrastructure is fundamental for economic growth and the larger developmental project [sic] of Brazil. It is by focusing the discussion in relation to the World Cup and Olympics that these larger necessities and failings are covered over with short term solutions by near-sighted politicians and their corporate overlords who use the event(s) as a smash and grab, shock and awe tactic to suck as much surplus value as possible out of Brazil before moving on.

09 April 2011

A Chacina do Realango (The massacre in Realengo)

One of the most frequent questions I receive from foreign journalists or from people following the ongoing comedy-drama of the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics is, “Will Brazil be prepared to host?
My stock answer is that this is the wrong question to be asking. In the light of the Columbine-esque shooting that took place in Realengo yesterday, the questions surrounding mega-event production seem even more insensate and mis-directed than normal.

One of the first things that people here comment on is that the school massacre is “another import from the United States”. OGlobo, in its best imitation of Fox News, announced that there was no evidence that the murderer was Islamic. Rather, this deeply disturbed 23 year old served the angry god of the Old Testament.

Brazil already has more than 7 million illegal arms with 60% of them coming from the USA. So not only was the act itself an imitation of Columbine, but the weapons likely carried the MADE IN USA stamp. I mentioned the other day that 40,000 PMs are now permitted to take their guns home for safe-keeping. Having more guns in private hands is not the answer here. This is a massive problem that might be able to be solved with money. How much money would it take to buy up all of the illegal arms? Let’s calculate.

A new .357 Magnum costs R$700. Let’s say that’s cheap and that the average cost of a gun is R$1600, or US$1000. 7 million x 1000 = 7 Billion. So for the price of the World Cup stadiums (give or take) the state could buy all of the illegal arms in Brazil (of course, it’s not this simple, nor possible, but I’m making a point here, I hope).

There are simply certain maladies that are going to become an increasing part of life in Brazil if it continues along the developmental path followed by the United States. When I explain to Brazilians that I came to Brazil for work, as a professor, they have a hard time believing that the higher education system in the United States is in such a sorry state. The idea that everything in the United States is better is still a very strong one in Brazil. Even when people acknowledge problems, it is a much longer conversation to get people (in a “developing” country[sic]) to recognize that constructing a consumer society in which one’s place within the social system, one’s ability to access basic human rights, is determined by one’s ability to pay for those rights is fundamentally flawed. This is increasingly the case in the United States and the idea that human freedom is now inexorably tied to the ability to fit within market systems is a palpable reality in Brazil. This is a tragic state of affairs and on occasions like yesterday it becomes poignantly so.  

The discussion about this event in Brazil will be about increasing security. However, the bandwidth of that debate will be limited to the provision of physical security. Until civil society, individuals, reporters, academics, sei lá Joe Carioca, understand security as a broader concept we will continue to limit ourselves to ramping up instead of toning down the number of weapons on the streets.

Security means having access to clean water, a functional health system, quality public education, affordable and efficient transportation, transparency in government, stable infrastructure, access to food, clean air, soil, etc. These “securities” are as important as one’s bodily integrity and we should be able to take it FOR GRANTED that our children are going to come home alive when we send them off to school. In the absence of these other securities for the general population, the necessity for armed protection (for some more than others) is apparently paramount. This is an old story in Brazil and one that is going to get a huge boost with the installation of mega-events.

For instance, the 36,000 private security guards that are going to be hired by the Brazilian state to “secure” FIFA-space during their 5 week orgy in 2014, are all going to have guns. Is there a plan for those guns after the World Cup? Multiply those 36,000 x whatever Obama came here to sell and you get the general idea of the militarization of urban space that is “necessary” to “secure” the World Cup.

The sickening events in Realengo make the World Cup and Olympics seem small and stupid and petty. We know that football brings joy to millions and that the Olympics bring forth and compresses nearly, nearly the entire range of human emotions. What we never think about when we watch the games are the dead bodies and broken lives that sustain them. These are the hidden people, disappeared from stadia, wiped from the streets, cleaned or isolated into oblivion. There are people losing their homes and livelihoods to make way for stadium parking lots. Neighborhoods are being slashed and torn asunder to make way for Olympic transportation. There are kids getting executed in the city’s schools. Mega-events can only be installed through fear and terror – ironically, emotions that sport doesn’t, or shouldn't, provide.

The question, therefore, is not, cannot, and will not be “Will Brazil be ready?” But rather, why, how, for whom, and at what cost? Today, that cost was the lives of twelve middle school students.


05 April 2011

The Revolution will be televised in HD and 3D

Where does one get news that doesn’t come from news outlets? One basically has to do independent research or be a journalist one’s self, or take what you get from the journalists out there and piece together the narrative, reading between the thousands of lines and connecting dots to weave together a narrative. That`s what I`ve been trying to do with this blog for the past years. However, there is always the risk of anticipating what the picture is going to look like and then finding articles and directing one’s interpretations along lines and dots that don`t necessarily exist. Clearly, my interpretation of the production of Rio as a mega-event city is much different than that of O Principe, or Seu Sergio (Cabral), or those Brazilians who take their vacations in Miami and Orlando in order to “escape” from places like Barra da Tijuca which look, feel, and function in the same way as Miami and Orlando (sans Disney).

I was part of a conversation this weekend in which a wealthy Brazilian lawyer postulated that all of the problems in Brazil would begin to be solved if people acted with “Mais Deus no coração” (More god in their hearts). Tudo bem, you can fill that empty signifier with whatever you want. Of course, whenever someone launches into a discourse like that I wait patiently for the other shoe to drop, and it wasn’t long in coming. My interlocutor then said that Brazil was never able to overcome the problems left by a legacy of colonialism because they had “never spilt blood’ as the United States had during the Civil War or the European nations during the World Wars. The problems of Brazil, he suggested, would only be solved by a bloody revolution. This was a person that had just told me about the ten days he had spent shopping in Miami, the house he was thinking of buying there, and was sitting in a lovely garden  drinking his fill in a gated, isolated condominium high above Belo Horizonte. If blood isn’t being spilt in Brazil, daily, in the defense of this man and his property then I am John Carioca. If there is going to be (more, fresher) blood in the streets, to solve Brazil’s problems, then who will be those who are “revolution-ized”? Surely this man wasn’t suggesting that I kill him on the spot?

The point here is that the revolution has already happened, and this man has won with the turning of the page. Contrary to the assertions and discourses of “developmentalism” this has been  a bloody revolution, and  is armed and ready to pull the trigger to consolidate its gains. From the installation of UPPs to the multi-billion dollar investments in security apparatuses for mega-events, this revolution is slowly turning Brazil in to a realm of unfettered capital accumulation. The freedom to participate in this revolution depends on one’s ability or capacity or desire to enter the market as an entrepreneur or provider of services.  Or you can work in the defense of the revolution, as will the 36,000 private security forces that will be contracted for the World Cup. That’s right, a private FIFA army of 36,000. This in addition to the expanding Military Police, which in a move of strategic irony, gave permission to all 40,000 of its members in Rio to take their weapons home to prevent them from being stolen from the armory!

This is the democracy of a consumer society, where the rights and privileges of movement, freedom of expression, access to information, and basic human rights are entirely predicated upon one’s position within a global hierarchy of consumption reflected in the old class and race divisions of Brazil. The Brazilian revolution has been installed piece by piece over many years, hollowing out the state while at the same time filling it with employees and draining the public coffers. Brazil’s external debt is exploding as fast as its consumer debt. The Rio state government has opted to trade the martial law of the drug traffickers for the martial law of the state, dislocating the problems of violence to other, less visible, parts of the Rio metropolitan region. The service economy is trying to boom but at the same time the provision of basic services is astoundingly poor. The airports are in a shocking state, the streets of Copacabana have man-hole covers that explode with astounding frequency and the Metrô works most of the time.

The newsy discourse is all about how things are happening in preparation for 2014 and 2016, but these dates only tend to re-enforce the idea that the mega-events are the most important things to ever happen to Rio de Janeiro and Brazil. They are merely symptoms of a larger socio-economic-political trajectory. They are important, yes. We should understand why the state government is going to spend a billion dollars to reform the Maracanã. We should hold these people accountable. They should have their feet collectively held to a very hot fire until the money falls from their pockets and the vergonha actually creeps into their powdered faces. To get a sense of how pathetically fragile this call for transparency is, try to get some information out of http://transparenciaolimpica.com.br/ Careful you don’t involuntarily spit all over your screen when you check out the Legadômetro.

But everything is good! Be happy, you consumers, you Floridians who over mortgaged yourselves, you lawyers who want to spill the blood of your compatriots! This week the Real is trading at US$1,60. It’s time to buy some greenbacks and plane tickets to Miami F.L.A.



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