HUNTING WHITE ELEPHANTS / CAÇANDO ELEFANTES BRANCOS

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28 January 2013

Victory for the Aldeia!


Victory for the Aldeia!

This weekend a state judge ruled that the building could not be demolished. The injunction against demolition came after IPHAN, the institution responsible for identifying and preserving historical and cultural patrimony, decided in favor of the museum`s preservation. If the government wants to go ahead with its plans for demolition in order to turn the Aldeia Maracanã into a parking lot they will have to pay a fine of R$60 million. Next up, the battle for the Celio de Barros athletics facility - one of the few Olympic training sites in Rio. A public act against demolition is planned for Thursday January 31st at 1830 hrs at the Associação Brasileiro de Imprensa, Rua Araujó Porto Alegre 71, auditório 9o andar.  

Metro broken, train off the rails, crack addicts on the highway

Eight stations of the one line Metro system ceased to function because of a lack of energy this morning. Early reports were of people trapped in cars between stations, a lack of emergency services and a generalized absence of information. The sudden increase in demand for bus transport caused huge lines and overcrowding in the direction of Ipanema. People in Copacaban, Ipanema and Botafogo that usually take the Metro used cars, choking the northbound access along the Aterro do Flamengo.  The energy failure has yet to be explained and there has yet to be more clear information coming from Metro Rio about their apparent unpreparedness for emergency situations.

The problems in public transport were aggravated with a derailment of a car near the Central do Brasil. This caused significant delays in the Santa Cruz and Japeri lines which are the primary arteries that connect the western suburbs. Road transport was also complicated by an accident involving a car and a crack addict on the Avenida Brasil highway. The main east-west artery in the city has become a living space for crack addicts that were recently pushed out of the Manguinhos and Jacarezinho favelas, occupied with UPPs. The city`s program of obligatory internment is selectively applied and does not appear to have enduring effects on the health or living conditions of crack users who live outside of the tourist areas. The internal medians of Avenida Brasil have become the living space for crack addicts, making fatal accidents routine.

With Carnaval around the corner, one hopes that the public transportation system in Rio will stop misbehaving. Expectations are tempered by statements such as the one from Sub-Secretary for Transportation Joaquim Monteiro who said that his primary goal is “to prevent a total collapse of the system”.

Heartfelt sympathies to all involved in the tragedy in Santa Maria, RS. 

12 January 2013

Battle for the Aldeia


The government moved to take the Aldeia Maracanã today. The Aldeia, a centuries old indigenous heritage site, is wedged between the Estádio Mario Filho and 14 lanes of traffic and train. The government claims that the Aldeia is going to congest the flow of fans from the stadium to public transport and so needs to be made into a parking lot. This parking lot was not in any of the plans for 2014 reform deform and FIFA has never called for the elimination of the Aldeia. Of course, being FIFA, they haven`t made a case for it either.

The state government insists, and people in the football industry agree, that the Maracanã complex needs to be privatized. The desire for privatization is shared by stadium management companies and “sports business experts” who see in the World Cup stadium deforms a chance to make a killing. The terms of the Maraca privatization will only require the “arena manager” to pay back a miniscule percentage of the R$1.2 billion project. The Maraca, is no longer a stadium but a multi-use arena that will perform to the degree that it is “rentable”. Once again, the Brazilian bullet train towards “modernity” and “global tendencies” lurches between stations of self-deception and insecurity before running indecently off the tracks into a cesspool of debt and moral lassitude.

The truth is that without public participation, no entity, private or public, would have the capacity to deal with the Maracanã, much less collaborate with the people at the Aldeia. The absence of transparency and dialogue is certainly true of SUDERJ (the state superintendence of sports) and the CBF is a paradigm of obscurantism and chicanery. The closed and secretive nature of the management and deformation of the Maraca, and along with it the Aldeia are, if nothing else, consistent and reflective of the interests and allies of the state and city.   

Workers at the Maracana applaud the Aldeia. 
Despite the failings of the government, there are a million arguments for preserving Aldeia Maracanã and for keeping the sporting complex in public hands. There are a thousand ways to use the deformed Mario Filho in socially useful and interesting ways. There are dozens of schemas for stadium management that could make productive use out of the billions in public investment.  The government does not want to have this debate, never did.  Out of ideas and patience, perhaps being pressured by FIFA, the state is opting for the least creative, most truculent and most violent mechanisms at its disposal. The ethnic groups and citizens camped at the Aldeia are agitating in defense of not just the rights of those who live and work at there, but in defense of the collective rights that are being stripped from all us for the “good of the game”.



11 January 2013

tá de brincadeira

Chicken Ass on a Stick. Ever had it? Well I hadn´t either until I moved to Taiwan in 1996. If you want to read more about this delicacy, check out the latest issue of XI Quarterly. If you follow this link you´ll get a snippet of the article. Follow this link for an interview I did with the XI Quarterly editors. Sadly, I didn't make their list of best-ever American midfielders abroad. 

In Rio, there's no chicken ass on a stick, but there are frangos a-plenty. It is nearly impossible to find a decent game of pick-up football, and extremely difficult to find public transporation that doesn´t kill you or test the limits of human endurance. To solve the former, I am starting a weekly pelada  on the Aterro do Flamengo, Campo 1, at 6pm on Wednesdays. To solve the latter, well...there appears to be no hope.

Check out this video (warning, facebook link) to see how the security agents of the Metrô push people into the cars at rush hour. Remember, these are the cars that took two years to get here from China, arrived rusted, and when put on the tracks, were several cm higher than the platforms, making impossible their access by wheelchair. 



I suggest that all Cariocas go to work in their swimwear, bring a can of olive oil and grease up before getting on public transport. 

The "super-modern BRT system" that the mayor calls a "transportation revolution", turns out to be merely revolting. Less than six months after its hurried inaguration, there are a half-dozen stations that have not been opened, yet have televisions turned on all the time and appear to be functional, the final stretch of the BRT has no exclusive lane putting more buses on the city streets, and along a major part of the line, the buses can no longer run because of the immense potholes. These buses are also already stuffed to capacity. In addition to the poor planning, poor execution and hurried implementation, pieces of the new tunnel have started to fall off.  The BRT also can´t operate when it rains too much.  

When I last visited the BRT Transoeste in December, I could not buy a ticket at the Salvador Allende station because the ticket booth did not open until 2pm. All of the morning functionaries had been fired - no replacements.  The machines for recharging tickets were not working. The security guard, who worked for an outsourced firm, was obliged to open the gates to let everyone on for free. As Woody Allen once said, "It´s a joke of a ruse of a farse of a travesty", but in Rio, it´s business as usual. 

Is there another major city in the world that does not have a map of the bus system or in which city buses regularly flip over, run red lights or crash into each other? The buses are expensive, disorganized, uncomfortable, have no schedule and treat their users like animals. The bus drivers, in general, have the ghost of Ayrton Senna in their right foot. The salary for a bus driver is around R$1700 a month. 10 hours a day in Rio's traffic is enough to make anyone furious, but with that salary, ten tons of metal becomes a tool for revenge. 

The title of this blog is a useful phrase for visitors and locals alike: tá de brincadeira = you´ve got to be kidding me. 


08 January 2013

Terms and Conditions, 2013


For new readers, welcome to another season of Hunting White Elephants. For those accustomed to the logics and conditions of the hunt, hang on! The heard has proliferated during the holiday season and there are fresh pelts to be had. Remember, don`t aim for the head, as it is mostly empty. A sharp stick in the glottal is the surest way to hobble Elefantus Biancis Horriblus.

The historical errors that are being committed in the planning and operation of the World Cup are of mind-boggling dimensions. Can you conceive of a Trojan Horse dressed as a White Elephant? If so, imagine that when the doors to the city open and the elephant lumbers in, shock troops and anti-terrorist units from around the world rappel out of its ears. The tail lifts and out fly drones and spyware, digital surveillance consumer tastes and lifestyle managers.

Imagine that instead of merely sacking and occupying your city, you were to discover that your elected officials opened the gates for the Trojan Elephant. Worse, they paid for its very construction with public money and have prepared ample living space for its permanence. Once the citizens have been removed, soldiers deployed and the city pacified, the elephant will lay down at great and enduring cost.

We cannot afford this! say the people.

We cannot afford this! says the government.

 I`ll save you!, says the market.

The market will save us! We must give them the elephant!, says the government.

When you look into its eyes and under its ears, you will find a large, humming black box that is kept behind seven locks.  Are there more boxes inside this box? If so, of what color?

These is nothing special about the elephant, it looks and behaves like all the other ones. Inevitably, some will find it beautiful and interesting, for a time. But Elefantus Horriblus ages quickly. The attentions of the people are fleeter than a graying, rapacious and voracious neighbor.  The off-shade is because the Horriblus suffers from Vitamin D deficiency, and loses its shine quickly even in the hottest of climes. The bones are not good and the flame of its spirit is not high or enduring. Though burdened with the most sophisticated jewelry, their luster quickly fades revealing a bare, obscure harlotry.

The coming agenda:  This week there have been alarm bells ringing loudly regarding the Aldeia Maracanã .  Accoring to one person that I recently had a radio debate with, “the place for Indians is in Amazonia”. There is wide suspicion that the state government is preparing the bulldozers for this weekend. This video is well worth a look and it is not too late to send your letters of disgust to FIFA, the City and State governments of Rio (addresses at end of video).  


At the Celio de Barros athletics facility, track athletes (including Brazilian Olympians) have had the track shut down. There is now some competition for Eike Batista in the privatization scheme, Luso Arenas. January and February are good times for the government to move on projects so look for some truculence. There are more tourists than ever before in Rio.  You can`t swim for 48 hours after it rains.  Careful on that bus! Deaths and injuries on public transit are increasing.  No public transporation reform in sight. Traffic is crippling, prices are insane. The BRT Transoeste ALREADY has to be repaved. 6 months. A new record. Parabéns.  Drones, drones, drones. Tanks, tanks, tanks. The tourist influx for the pope`s  nope`s July visit is between 1.5 and 3 million. Do they really not have a better estimate? How do you plan for that? The Brazilian national team is a shambles. I would bet on USAmericans playing in Manaus, Recife and Natal and the 2020 Olympics will be in Istanbul.  Why would you build a bullet train when there is no existing passenger rail service? Rio is not just in a bubble, it is a bubble.

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