Archive | June 17th, 2014

Peru’s “Bagua Massacre” Haunts the TPP

NOVANEWS
The Amazon’s Tiananmen


by JOSE DE ECHAVE and LORI WALLACH

Five years ago last week, Peruvian police opened fire on indigenous people protesting the implementation of U.S.-Peru Free Trade Agreement (FTA) terms providing new access to exploit their Amazonian lands for oil, gas and logging.

On June 5, 2009, Peruvian security forces attacked several thousand Awajun and Wambis protestors, including many women and children, who were blocking the “Devil’s Curve,” a jungle highway near Bagua, 600 miles north of Lima. The protestors were demanding revocation of decrees enacted to conform Peruvian law to FTA requirements.

Thirty-two Peruvians died in the infamous Bagua massacre and hundreds were wounded.

The FTA’s foreign investor privileges also allowed a U.S. firm to pressure Peru’s government to reopen a smelter that had severely lead-poisoned hundreds of children in La Oroya, Peru — a story revealed in a Bloomberg exposé. Outrageously, now the Obama administration is pushing for inclusion of the same extreme foreign investor privileges in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) it is negotiating with Peru and 10 other Pacific Rim countries.

Opposition to these terms, which empower foreign investors to circumvent domestic courts and laws, and sue governments for cash compensation in foreign tribunals, is just one issue that is bedeviling TPP negotiations, which have missed repeated deadlines.

The Baguazo, as Peruvians call the 2009 massacre, was caused in part by Peruvian President Alan Garcia. His decrees implementing the FTA violated the rights of indigenous people established both under the Peruvian Constitution and treaties Peru had signed guaranteeing prior informed consent by indigenous communities on projects involving their land. And, Garcia demonized the protestors as perro del hortelano –  “manger dogs.” He likened the indigenous protestors to dogs growling over food that they neither eat nor let others eat.

Thanks to WikiLeaks, we can now see that the U.S. government was urging Garcia on.

Public Citizen received only heavily redacted diplomatic cables in response to a Freedom of Information Act request regarding the U.S. role in the 2009 Peruvian crisis over FTA implementation. But WikiLeaks has published the full text of messages between the State Department and the embassy in Lima.

Four days before the killings, a State Department cable addressed the growing indigenous protests, stating, “Should Congress and President Garcia give in to the pressure, there would be implications for the recently implemented Peru-US Free Trade Agreement.”

Days before the massacre, the State Department argued that the Peruvian government was being too lenient by allowing the indigenous roadblocks to continue. “The government’s reluctance to use force to clear roads and blockades is contributing to the impression that the communities have broader support than they actually do…”

On the day of the Baguazo, another State Department cable did not condemn the government’s role in the violence, but blamed the violence on Peru’s indigenous movement — and again defended Garcia’s decrees. “At the root of this crisis are social movement leaders seeking to make political hay by manipulating underlying grievances — mostly entrenched poverty and encroachment on traditional lifestyles by the modern world…”

Indeed, the cable even sought to justify the government’s actions in Bagua: “The GOP [Government of Peru] has sought for several weeks to negotiate indigenous concerns over the decrees…  Now, it has reluctantly chosen to enforce the rule of law by removing roadblocks…”

What has become known as the “Amazon’s Tiananmen” brought the realities of the U.S.-Peru FTA into sharp relief. Rather than being a new trade agreement model, as it was sold, at the FTA’s heart were the same extreme investor rights that animated the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Indeed, when Congress passed the U.S.-Peru FTA in late 2007 a majority House Democrats opposed the deal. And no labor, environmental, consumer, family farm, or faith group supported it. While Democratic House trade committee leaders had forced some improvements with respect to access to medicine and the FTA’s labor and environmental chapters, the pact included an expansion of NAFTA-style investor privileges.

Peruvian groups also expressed strong opposition, including labor, Afro-Peruvian, and indigenous groups. They not only opposed the foreign investor privileges but also other FTA terms in areas of “intellectual property”, “services”, and more that threatened  their biodiversity, cultural heritage, access to medicines, and traditional livelihoods. Peru FTA wounds continue to fester. A recent report of the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur James Anaya, filed after a December 2013 Peru visit stresses that on the issue of extractive activities, “Many indigenous peoples in the country have suffered devastating social and environmental impacts, and without receiving many benefits…”

The fifth anniversary of the Baguazo is a most appropriate time to reconsider the U.S. approach to the Trans-Pacific Partnership.  The experience of the U.S.-Peru FTA makes clear even improved labor and environmental chapters cannot overcome the NAFTA-style investor protections at the core of the Peru FTA and now TPP.

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I$raHell’$ Apologists: Jon Faine is at it Again ” VIDEO ”

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How Obama Lost Iraq

NOVANEWS
The War on Terror Has Failed

by SHAMUS COOKE

The fall of Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul, to an al-Qaeda linked militia elicited a curiously muted response from the Obama administration. Yes, Obama “denounced” the terrorist invasion, but when the Iraqi government asked for U.S. airstrikes to repel perhaps the most powerful terrorist group in the world, Obama thus far refused, only hinting at some form of aid in the yet-to-be-determined future.

This is perhaps the first time Obama has initially refused such an offer from an allied government. Indeed, he’s suspected to have approved airstrikes in 8 other countries under the guise of fighting terrorism. So why the hesitation?

One might also ask why the Obama administration didn’t act earlier to prevent this invasion, since the Iraqi government has been asking for U.S. aid for over a year to combat the terrorist group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which has been building its strength on the borderlands between Iraq and Syria.

One likely reason that Obama refused aid to his Iraqi ally is that he has other, much closer allies, who are funding the terrorist group invading Iraq. For example, since the war in Syria started, it’s been an open secret that QatarKuwait, and Saudi Arabia have been giving at least hundreds of millions of dollars to the Islamic extremist groups attacking the Syrian government.

This fact is occasionally mentioned in the mainstream media, but the full implications are never fleshed out, and now that the Syrian war is gushing over its borders the media would rather pretend that ISIS sprang from a desert oasis, rather than the pocket books of the U.S. allied Gulf States.

The Obama administration has consistently looked the other way during this buildup of Islamic extremism, since its foreign policy priority —toppling the secular Syrian government — perfectly aligned with the goals of the terrorists. Thus the terror groups were allowed to grow exponentially, as their ranks were filled with Gulf State cash, foreign fighters from Saudi Arabia and illegal guns trafficked with the help of the CIA.

The Obama administration hid the reality of this dynamic from view, calling the Syrian rebels “moderates” — yet what moderates existed were always a tiny, ineffectual minority. The big dogs in this fight are the Sunni Islamic jihadi groups who view Shia Muslims as heretics worthy of death and other religious and ethnic minorities as second-class citizens polluting their Islamic caliphate.

Middle East journalist Patrick Cockburn recently noted:   “ISIS now controls or can operate with impunity in a great stretch of territory in western Iraq and eastern Syria, making it militarily the most successful jihadi movement ever.”

Now that ISIS has invaded Iraq, a U.S. ally, you’d think a different approach would be used. But Obama’s hesitation to support the Iraqi government against ISIS may be a reflection of the U.S. having yet more shared goals with the terrorist organization.

For example, the U.S. has never trusted the Iraqi government. Ever since the Iraqi elections brought a Shia-dominated government to power, the Bush and Obama administrations have looked at Iraq as an untrustworthy pawn of Iran. And there is some truth to this: the Shia dominated Iraqi government has many close religious and political ties with Iran.

Further upsetting Obama is that Iraq hasn’t prevented Shia fighters from traveling to Syria to fight on the side of Assad.  Many in Shia-majority Iraq were stunned by the Sunni extremist massacres against the Syrian Shia population, which consequently drew Iraqi and Hezbollah Shia fighters into the Syrian war.  Thus, Iraq was on the “wrong side” of the U.S. sponsored proxy war in Syria.  In fact, Iraq went so far as to refuse Obama’s ”request” that Iraq deny Iran use of Iraqi airspace to fly military weapons to Assad.  Iraq’s consistent refusal to bend to key U.S. demands has strained relations with the U.S., which demands obedience from its “allies”.

Most importantly, a strong independent Iraq is seen as a threat to U.S. “regional interests,” since Iraq is a potential ally to Iran, Syria and Hezbollah, the regional powers that the U.S. does not have influence over and consequently desires either their “regime change” or annihilation.

Thus, when the Iraqi president came to the U.S. to plead for aid in October to fight ISIS, he was largely given the runaround, as U.S. politicians shifted the focus away from ISIS toward the Iraqi president’s “authoritarian” government.  Of course, this criticism was pure hypocrisy; the U.S. never questions its Gulf State allies about their “authoritarianism,” even as these countries continue to be ruled by the most brutal dictatorships on earth.

Some analysts have speculated that Obama will allow the Sunni terror groups to carve out a section of Iraq to help partition the country into smaller nations based on ethnic-religious regions, each represented by a Shia, Sunni, or Kurdish government. This would be the easiest way to ensure that Iraq remains weak and is not a threat to “U.S. interests.”  Mike Whitney describes the Iraqi partition idea:

“The plan was first proposed by Leslie Gelb, the former president of the Council on Foreign Relations, and then-senator Joe Biden. According to The New York Times the ‘so-called soft-partition plan ….calls for dividing Iraq into three semi-autonomous regions…There would be a loose Kurdistan, a loose Shiastan and a loose Sunnistan, all under a big, if weak, Iraq umbrella.’”

The events in Iraq and Syria further prove that the Bush-Obama “war on terror” is not only a complete failure, but a fraud. Bush and Obama have not waged a war against terrorists, but wars against independent nation-states.

The secular nations of Iraq, Libya, and Syria were virtually free of terrorism before U.S. military intervention, and now they’re infested. The war on terror has done nothing but destabilize the Middle East, create more terrorists, and drain the U.S. economy of billions of dollars it could have otherwise used towards jobs and social programs.

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The World Cup Soccer in Qatar (2022), Controversy over Appalling Migrant Worker Conditions

NOVANEWS
Global Research
L’homme de l’année 2011 : L’Emir du Qatar, Hamad Ben Khalifa al Thani, le nouvel Air and Field Marshall du Monde arabe

Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani is Qatar’s Emir [image left]. He heads a despotic monarchical rogue state.

He maintains supreme power. What he says goes. Ordinary Qataris have no say.

State terror defines official policy. Qatar has one of the world’s worst human and civil rights record.

Torture and other forms of repression are commonplace. So is brutal worker exploitation. Foreign nationals suffer most.

 According to the State Department’s 2012 human rights report:

“The principal human rights problems were the inability of citizens to change their government peacefully, restriction of fundamental civil liberties, and pervasive denial of expatriate workers’ rights.”

“The monarch-appointed government prohibited organized political parties and restricted civil liberties, including freedoms of speech, press, and assembly and access to a fair trial for persons held under the Protection of Society Law and Combating Terrorism Law.”

“Other continuing human rights concerns included restrictions on the freedoms of religion and movement, as foreign laborers could not freely travel abroad.”

“Trafficking in persons, primarily in the labor and domestic worker sectors, was a problem.”

“Legal, institutional, and cultural discrimination against women limited their participation in society.”

“The noncitizen “Bidoon” (stateless persons) who resided in the country with an unresolved legal status experienced social discrimination.”

Migrants comprise the vast majority of Qatar’s two million population. London’s Guardian ran a series of articles explaining more.

The International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) chose Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup games.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter did so disgracefully. He ignored outrageous exploitation foreign construction workers face. More on that below.

Qatar is a key US regional ally. Doha hosts America’s forward CENTCOM (US Central Command) headquarters. It’s based at Al Udeid Air Base. It’s home for 5,000 US forces.

It’s a hub for US Afghanistan and Iraq operations. Qatar was instrumental in Obama’s Libya war. Its special forces armed and trained extremist Islamist militants.

 They included the CIA affiliated Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG). They’re ideologically allied with Al Qaeda.

In December 2004, the State Department designated it a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO). If doesn’t matter. America uses Al Qaeda and likeminded organizations as enemies and allies.

Qatar supports Obama’s war on Syria. It helps recruit extremist fighters. It provides funding, weapons and training. It’s part of Washington’s plan to oust Assad.

London’s Guardian headlined “Qatar: one migrant worker’s story.”

 Nepalese worker Bhupendra Malla Thakuri “borrowed money to afford a recruitment agent’s fees (for) a job as a truck driver in Qatar”

 It pays 1,200 riyals monthly (about $330). In June 2011, Bhupendra was severely injured. His leg was crushed on the job. He was hospitalized for months.

“When I was discharged,” he said, “the company only paid me for the 20-odd days I had worked that month, but nothing more.”

 ”They didn’t give me my salary. They didn’t give me anything. It was a very critical situation. I was injured and my leg had become septic.”

 His company gave him a document in English to sign. It asked him to agree to return to Nepal. It declared all his benefits paid.

He refused to sign, saying:

 ”I had to return to the hospital frequently for checkups, but I didn’t have money for that. I needed money for transportation and medicine. There was no money for food.”

 His indebtedness rose to about $4,400. He had no way repay. He sued. He was lucky. He got significant compensation. On July 29, he went home.

 According to Amnesty International Gulf migrant researcher James Lynch:

“Bhupendra’s case illustrates both the callousness with which so many companies treat migrant workers in Qatar, but also the laborious and confusing processes which migrant workers are expected to navigate in order to get their rights.”

“It took him more than two years, and enormous stamina and courage, to get the compensation he deserved, during which time he was penniless.”

On September 25, the Guardian headlined “Revealed: Qatar’s World Cup ‘slaves.’ Exclusive: Abuse and exploitation of migrant workers preparing emirate for 2022.”

They endure outrageous human rights abuses. In recent weeks, dozens of Nepalese migrant workers died.

“(T)housands more (endure) appalling labour abuses, a Guardian investigation has found, raising serious questions about Qatar’s preparations to host the 2022 World Cup.”

During summer 2013, “Nepalese workers died at a rate of almost one a day.”

 Many were young men. Sudden heart attacks killed them. Others died from accidents. Human life in Qatar is cheap.

 Guardian investigators “found evidence to suggest that thousands of Nepalese, who make up the single largest group of labourers in Qatar, face exploitation and abuses that amount to modern-day slavery.”

From June 4 – August 8, at least 44 workers died. Heart attacks or workplace accidents took most of them.

Other damning evidence uncovered included:

  • forced labor on World Cup infrastructure;
  • withholding pay for some Nepalese workers for months; allegedly it’s to prevent them from running away;
  • confiscating worker passports; doing so reduces their status to illegal aliens; and
  • denying workers access to free drinking water in summer heat.

“About 30 Nepalese sought refuge at their embassy in Doha to escape the brutal conditions of their employment,” said the Guardian.

Rogue Qatari officials are very much involved in ruthless migrant worker exploitation.

“The overall picture is of one of the richest nations exploiting one of the poorest to get ready for the world’s most popular sporting tournament,” the Guardian added.

It shows FIFA’s complicity with brutal police state repression. It doesn’t surprise. Formula One’s governing body includes Bahrain on its calendar.

It does so despite the Gulf monarchy’s appalling human rights record.

Murder, torture, other forms of abuse, lawless arrests, kangaroo court trials, and longterm imprisonments don’t matter.

Bahrain Grand Prix races are held as scheduled. Formula One’s Bernie Ecclestone operates like FIFA’s Sepp Blatter. Money, lots of it, prestige, and self-interest alone matter.

State terror is a small price to pay. Welcome to Qatar and Bahrain. They’re two of the world’s most repressive dictatorships. They’re valued US allies. They’re complicit in America’s imperial wars.

One migrant Qatari worker told Guardian investigators:

“We’d like to leave, but the company won’t let us. I’m angry about how this company is treating us, but we’re helpless.”

“I regret coming here, but what to do? We were compelled to come just to make a living, but we’ve had no luck.”

Guardian investigators found migrant workers sleeping 12 to a room. Filthy conditions made many sick.

Some were forced to work without pay. They were left begging for food and clean water. Ran Kuman Mahara said:

“We were working on an empty stomach for 24 hours; 12 hours’ work and then no food all night.”

“When I complained, my manager assaulted me, kicked me out of the labour camp I lived in and refused to pay me anything. I had to beg for food from other workers.”

Nearly all Nepalese migrant workers have huge debts. They accrued them to pay recruitment agents for their jobs.

They’re obligated to repay. They have no way to do so. They had no idea how brutally they’d be exploited.

They held against their will in forced bondage. They’re treated callously. Dozens are worked to death.

Nepalese ambassador to Qatar, Maya Kumari Sharma, called the emirate an “open jail” for foreign workers. It’s that and much more.

According to Anti-Slavery International director Aidan McQuade:

 ”The evidence uncovered by the Guardian is clear proof of the use of systematic forced labour in Qatar.”

 ”In fact, these working conditions and the astonishing number of deaths of vulnerable workers go beyond forced labour to the slavery of old where human beings were treated as objects.”

“There is no longer a risk that the World Cup might be built on forced labour. It is already happening.”

Qatar has the world’s highest ratio of migrant workers to domestic population. Over 90% of its workforce are aliens. From now until 2022, another 1.5 million will be recruited.

Based on current conditions, they’ll be held in forced bondage. They’ll be brutalized against their will.

They’ll be lawlessly held to build stadiums, roads, ports, and hotels, as well as other infrastructure and facilities in time for FIFA’s 2022 World Cup games.

Nepal supplies about 40% of Qatar’s migrant workers. In 2012, over 100,000 were recruited. They had no idea how brutally they’d be treated.

 On the one hand, FIFA officials insist on acceptable labor standards conditions and practices. On the other, they turn a blind eye to appalling abuses.

It bears repeating. Money, lots of it, prestige, and self-interest alone matter. It doesn’t surprise. Olympism operates the same way.

 It’s more about profiteering, exploitation, and cynicism than sport. In modern times, it’s always been that way.

 It’s dark side excludes good will and fair play. Scandalous wheeling, dealing, collusion, and bribery turns sport into a commercial grab bag free-for-all.

Marginalized populations are exploited. Thousands are evicted and displaced. Disadvantaged residents are left high and dry.

Cozy relationships among government officials, corporate sponsors, universities, and IOC bosses facilitate exploiting communities, people, and athletes unfairly. It’s standard practice.

FIFA operates the same way. Denial of fundamental rights and freedoms is ignored. Readying venues for scheduled events come first.

Repression and worker abuses don’t matter. High-minded hyperbole conceals what demands condemnation.

CH2M Hill is a leading consulting, engineering, construction, program management firm. It “was recently appointed the official programme management consultant to the supreme committee,” said the Guardian.

It claims a “zero tolerance policy for the use of forced labour and other human trafficking practices.”

According to its engineering subsidiary Halcrow:

“Our supervision role of specific construction packages ensures adherence to site contract regulation for health, safety and environment.”

 ”The terms of employment of a contractor’s labour force is not under our direct purview.”

Nepalese worker explain otherwise. They’re virtual slaves. They want to leave but can’t. According to one unnamed migrant:

“We’d like to leave, but the company won’t let us. If we run away, we become illegal and that makes it hard to find another job.”

Qatar’s labor ministry lied claiming it enforces strict standards and practices. According to the Guardian:

“The workers’ plight makes a mockery of concerns for the 2022 footballers.”

General Federation of Nepalese Trade Unions head Umesh Upadhyaya said:

“Everyone is talking about the effect of Qatar’s extreme heat on a few hundred footballers.”

“But they are ignoring the hardships, blood and sweat of thousands of migrant workers, who will be building the World Cup stadiums in shifts that can last eight times the length of a football match.”

They turn a blind eye to the appalling human rights abuses they endure. They’re held in forced bondage for Qatari/FIFA profits, self-interest and prestige.

Doing so makes a mockery of sport. Illusion substitutes for reality. Dark side truth explains best.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.

His new book is titled “Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity.”

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs Fridays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour

http://www.dailycensored.com/appalling-migrant-worker-conditions-qatar/

 

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Race, Class and the World Cup in Brazil

NOVANEWS
Global Research
fifa_brasil2014_1

The Brazilian government and big business wanted the World Cup very badly. But the people wanted better public services – especially the majority that identify as non-white.“Government studies have shown that people who identify as black or brown make incomes that are less than half those of their white counterparts and they are much more likely to lack access to basic services like security, education, healthcare and sanitation.”

“The police have chased the poor away from the beaches and hotels and shopping districts back to the slums.”

At 5pm local time on June 12, the national soccer teams of Brazil and Croatia will kick off the 2014 World Cup at the São Paulo Arena in Brazil’s largest city. The players will compete before a live crowd of tens of thousands and a televised audience of millions more.

At a total cost of roughly $11 billion – and at least eight workers’ lives – Brazil will host the most expensive World Cup in history. Though this is not to understate the scandalous unfolding atrocity in Qatar). Brazilians overwhelmingly supported bringing the event to their country when FIFA awarded them the honor in 2007 (no other nation in the Americas volunteered), but a recent poll from DataFolha indicates that a majority of citizens now oppose it.

Widespread anti-Cup protests have been roiling Brazil’s cities and social media networks for months. The demonstrators’ grievances range from public transportation fare hikes to inadequate wages, housing, education, security and healthcare, among other things. But as evidenced by their use of the slogan “Não vai ter Copa!” (“There will be no Cup!”), it is clear that they intend to use the lavish international spectacle both as a symbol of their concerns and a spotlight to shine on them.

On June 3, a group of anti-Cup activists inflated giant soccer balls in the capital city Brasilia. Protest organizer Antonio Carlos Costa told Agence France Presse, ”We want the Brazilian government to ask the nation’s forgiveness because it promised something it never delivered. It invested a fortune of public money in things that weren’t necessary.” A recent Pew poll found that 61% of respondents believed hosting the World Cup is a ”bad thing” “because it takes money away from public services.”

Not all of the protests have been peaceful. AFP interviewed one of a growing number of so-called “Black Bloc” activists, who went by the pseudonym Elizabeth:

Black Bloc is not a formal group, she says, but “a tactic for action that anyone can join.”

During the past year’s protests its adherents have destroyed banks, trashed public property, thrown petrol bombs and attacked police with stones and clubs.

But Elizabeth says that is merely “a reaction to violence by the police, who always hit first.”

The government response to the outpouring of protests, strikes, and strike threats over recent months and weeks by various segments of society – from airline employeesteachers and homeless workers to police and even the main federal employee’s union –  has consisted largely of either ignorant denialism or  harsh intimidation and repression. Amidst this unrest, the administration of President Dilma Rousseff has made repeated assurances to the international community that – despite still-unfinished stadia, like the one that will host the opening match in São Paulo, and numerous incomplete infrastructure projects –  the Cup will go off as planned.

“A recent Pew poll found that 61% of respondents believed hosting the World Cup is a ‘bad thing’ ‘because it takes money away from public services.’”

A particularly representative series of events unfolded on June 5, one week before kickoff. While Dilma and FIFA president Joseph Blatter expressed their confidence in Brazil’s ability to put on the “Cup of all Cups,” thousands of homeless workers marched peacefully on the São Paulo Arena as police clashed with striking subway workers nearby. One of the strikers reportedly told a police officer, “Put the gun down. There are only workers here. We’re workers just like you.”

That same day at a concert in the city, the audience cursed out Dilma over her handling of the World Cup preparations and popular rapper Marcelo Falcão told the crowd the following:

“The legacy that comes with this Cup is a very vile one…[W]e love soccer, but for the first time we have to be honest…In all reality [society] doesn’t have the necessary health, education and all it needs in terms of security and transportation, amongst other things…I am standing by the entire country who wanted something good…If it’s not good, I’m not going to [applaud].”

This level of discontentment is remarkable given the complex and deeply-rooted cultural and political history of soccer in Brazil, especially with regard to race and class. As former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva said without hyperbole when his country was chosen as the future host of the world’s most-watched sporting event in 2007, ”Soccer is more than a sport for us, it’s a national passion.”

O Jogo Bonito

In 1888, around the same time that soccer was introduced to Brazil by upper-class British expatriates, it became the last country in the Americas to abolish slavery. After importing approximately 40% of the African people who were kidnapped and shipped to the Americas during that era, the post-abolition government subsidized a racial miscegenation program known as “branqueamento” (“whitening”) that brought an influx of working-class immigrants from various European countries to Brazil during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. These white European laborers introduced to Brazil’s black and brown working class what soccer demi-god Pelé would later call “o jogo bonito“ (“the beautiful game”).

It should be mentioned that unlike the post-abolition United States, Brazil did not enforce a system of legal segregation or discrimination after it did away with slavery. Race in Brazil has been defined socially, by appearance, not legally or officially, by heritage. As Thomas Skidmore wrote in his 1992 essay ”Fact and Myth: Discovering a Racial Problem in Brazil;”

The result was a system of social stratification that differed sharply from the rigid color bifurcation in the U.S. (both before and after slavery) and in Europe’s African colonies. There was and is a color…spectrum on which clear lines were often not drawn. Between a “pure” black and a very light mulatto there are numerous gradations, as reflected in the scores of racial labels (many pejorative) in common Brazilian usage.

Echoing Roberto Damatta‘s 1991 discourse on Brazilian society’s classist and racist “authoritarian rituals,” Joaquim Barbosa, the first black judge to sit on the country’s Supreme Federal Court, put it more simply, but still poignantly, for The Guardian in 2012; “Racism in Brazil is well hidden, subtle and unspoken…It is nevertheless extremely violent.”

For years, soccer in Brazil had been enjoyed almost exclusively by wealthy, mostly British elites, but the sport’s simplicity made it an accessible activity for poor laborers with very little disposable income. The formation of recreational clubs and leagues in the first decades of the 20th century was actually encouraged and sometimes financially supported by employers who were happy to have their workers playing and watching soccer rather than organizing with the radical socialist and anarchist groups that were emerging around that time.

With the active encouragement of the capital-owning class and without any other sports to compete with it, soccer rapidly became the country’s national pastime. In 1923, more than two decades before Jackie Robinson broke the color line in American baseball, the Vasco de Gama soccer club in Rio de Janeiro fielded a team consisting primarily of black and mixed-race athletes. The squad went on to win the city championship that year, breaking the color line in Brazilian soccer with emphasis.

As Joseph A. Page writes in his 1996 ethnography The Brazilians, the sport was inherently “suited to the Brazilian temperament…[of] individual and collective self-expression…Soccer seemed to merge sport and samba,” a traditional style of Afro-Brazilian music and dance. For Page, “the improvisational style of Brazilian soccer” derived from “the Brazilian way of overcoming poverty” – a communal effort rooted in mutual reciprocity – a sort of metaphor for the model “Brazilian” political society.

Futebol & Democracia Racial

In 1930, Uruguay hosted and won the inaugural World Cup, in which Brazil fielded a mixed-race team. They failed to progress past the first round. One of the black players, Fausto dos Santos, “A Maravilha Negra“ (“The Black Wonder”), was widely considered the best Brazilian mid-fielder of his time, but he nonetheless faced racism at home as well as during his brief stint in European leagues in following years.

Just months after Brazil was eliminated from the 1930 Cup, a bloodless military coup brought the authoritarian corporatist Getúlio Vargas to power as president of Brazil. The Vargas regime dissolved congress became a dictatorship in 1937, forcibly crushing out the leftist opposition, including various Afro-Brazilian movements. Still, the 1934 and 1938 World Cup teams (both of which failed to make the finals) fielded black and mulatto players, including Brazil’s biggest star until Pelé, the legendary striker Leônidas da Silva, known as “O Diamante Negro” (“The Black Diamond”), as well as the man who would later “discover” Pelé, Waldemar de Brito.

World War II put international soccer competitions on hold, but brought economic development to Brazil, in large part due to its deepening ties with the United States. As the war wound down, Vargas seemed unable to reconcile being the only South American country to send troops to fight against the Axis dictatorships with the authoritarian nature of his own regime. Beginning around 1943, he attempted to tack to the democratic populist left, but was overthrown by coup in 1945.

Nevertheless, Vargas won election to the Senate in 1946 and the candidate he endorsed, Marshal Eurico Gaspar Dutra, won the presidency. Vargas was elected Dutra’s successor in 1950, espousing an economic policy that consisted essentially of “capitalism with a human face” while un-ironically attacking Dutra’s economic policies for having favored the rich.

1950 was also the year that Brazil hosted the World Cup – the first since the tournament was suspended due to the war and the last to take place in Brazil until this year. Political, economic and athletic hopes were high. In front of some 200,000 fans at the Estádio de Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro – then the largest soccer arena on Earth – the Brazilian national team faced off against Uruguay in the championship match.

Brazil lost, 2 to 1.

“Many Brazilians were willing to believe that their country would never win the World Cup with a racially-mixed society.”

As Page describes it, the 1950 World Cup loss was “a catastrophe the extent of which is difficult for outsiders to grasp.” Citizens dubbed it the Maracanazo, using the same disaster-signifying suffix as the Bogotazo – the 1948 assassination of the Colombian populist Liberal politician Jorge Eliécer Gaitán and the ensuing riots which decimated the capital city and killed thousands, ultimately leading to decades of bloody internal conflict. As Page writes:

This tragic loss brought to the surface not only the self-doubt Brazilians have always harbored, but also the racism that lurked beneath their inferiority complex. Both Barbarosa [the goalkeeper] and Bigode [a defender], the principal scapegoats, were dark-skinned, and many Brazilians were willing to believe that their country would never win the World Cup with a racially-mixed society.

At the same time, many Brazilians thought of their country as a “democracia racial” (“racial democracy”) – a society that does not discriminate based on skin color or ethnicity. This ideology essentially dismissed the very notion of racism in Brazil, arguing instead that European miscegenation had ”whitened” Brazilian society to its benefit and that societal inequalities were the result of circumstance, not race.

Dilma showed how entrenched this ideology remains in Brazil in December 2012. Moments before protests broke out against excessive police violence and the upcoming Confederations Cup – the “dry run” for the World Cup – Dilma told a global television audience that Brazil was a country “with no prejudice or exclusion and where there is a respect for human rights.” As discussed further below, the president’s statement was demonstrably untrue, but it reveals Brazil’s ongoing struggle to come to terms with the historical influence of race and class on its modern society.

Ordem e Progresso 

A period of economic and political instability followed the demoralizing 1950 loss, culminating in the suicide of President Vargas in August 1954, just a few weeks after Brazil had been eliminated from that year’s World Cup quarter-finals. Brazil was left to be ruled by tenuous caretaker governments until the administration of President Juscelino Kubitschek, who took office in 1956.

With the motto, “50 years of progress in five,” Kubitschek further opened his country to foreign capital and promoted ambitious development projects. One of his most grandiose plans was the construction of the a brand new capital city, Brasilia, completely from scratch in just four years.

Kubitschek’s policies helped grow and industrialize the economy, although issues like homelessness, poverty and inequality persisted. As Page put it, Brazilians felt at the time that their economy’s nascent modernization “had not required slavish imitation of foreign models. [They] could win in their own way.” Brazil won the 1958 World Cup in Sweden – the country’s first international title. Two years after the official inauguration of their new capital city, Brazil picked up their second at the very next tournament in Chile in 1962.

However, the “miracle” began to dawn in 1964 when a United States-backed military coup deposed leftist president and former Vargas Labor Minister, João Goulart. Goulart was succeeded by one of the military officers who had led his ouster, Marshal Humberto de Alencar Castelo Branco. The Branco government proceeded to institute drastic neoliberal economic reforms that resulted in massive unemployment and civil unrest, while carrying out an often violent purging of leftists reminiscent of the Vargas government.

At the 1966 World Cup in England, the Brazilian national team was humiliatingly eliminated in the initial stage, suffering 3-1 losses first to Hungary and then to its former colonial master, Portugal. In 1968, Brazil’s military government dissolved congress and began resorting to assassinations, forced disappearances and torture (with help from the US and the UK) to suppress dissent.

Brazil won the World Cup for a third time in 1970, but as Page put it, “the glory soon faded.” Despite relatively strong economic growth under military rule, human rights abuses, inequality, unemployment, poverty and illiteracy continued throughout the dictatorship’s political “abertura” (“opening”) of 1974 and beyond.

O Rei de Futebol

Brazilian soccer legend Edson Arantes do Nascimento, known worldwide as Pelé, plays a particularly allegorical role in the political history of soccer in Brazil. “O Rei do Futebol” (“The King of Soccer”) was born in 1940 in Três Corações, Minas Gerais. He began his professional career at the age of 16 and at 17 he made his debut with Brazil’s first championship-winning squad at the 1958 World Cup.

The youngest athlete to ever play in a Cup match, Pelé scored three of the goals that led Brazil to a crushing 5-2 victory in the final game against host country Sweden. Pelé also played on the 1962 championship team and in 1970 he set a record he still holds by becoming the only person to have played on three Cup-winning squads.

Pelé, “A Pérola Negra” (“The Black Pearl”), is an officially-designated national treasure. He the first black man on the cover of Life magazine and Brazil’s first black minister. In 1967, the combatants in Nigerian civil war called a ceasefire so they could watch Pelé play.

But the dark-skinned Brazilian from a working-class family has been remarkably apolitical as an international soccer superstar, rarely voicing a strong opinion on social or political issues and never openly condemning the atrocities of the Brazilian military dictatorship.

In this regard, Pelé stands in sharp contrast to former national team striker Romário de Souza Faria, who played on the World Cup-winning 1994 and 2002 teams. The dark-skinned soccer star-turned-congressman has been a fierce critic of social inequalities and a strong supporter of the the ongoing protests.

”Pelé has no fu..ng awareness of what’s going on in this country.”

In June 2013, the infamously apolitical Pelé called on Brazilians to “forget” the anti-Cup protests occurring at that time and to support the national soccer team. Many Brazilians were outraged. Romário said at the time, ”Pelé has no fucking awareness of what’s going on in this country.” Even Pelé’s more recent condemnations of the government’s World Cup preparations failed to recognize both the sources and the scope of the country’s many problems.

In 2011, it was revealed that Pelé had been investigated by Brazilian authorities in 1970 for suspected leftist ties. Despite no evidence of Pelé being involved in any political movements or actions himself, he had allegedly received a manifesto from a government employee seeking amnesty for political prisoners. Whether because of lack of conviction or government intimidation, Pelé kept quiet.

On July 18, 1971 Pelé played his last international match for Brazil against Yugoslavia, a game that ended in a 2-2 draw. Many Brazilians began to view Pelé as a sell-out when he left Brazil (with some help from Henry Kissinger) for the US in 1974, where he earned millions of dollars lending his talent and international prestige, not to a local team his own country, but to the North American Soccer League as a player for the New York Cosmos.

Retorno à Democracia

Mirroring the quarter-century of political and economic asphyxiation Brazil underwent during the years of the dictatorship, the country would not win another World Cup until 1994 – a full five years after Fernando Alfonso Collor de Mello became the first directly-elected president since the 1960s.

Janet Lever described the 1994 World Cup victory in her book “Soccer Madness:”

“The country literally stopped for the final matches – Congress adjourned, schools closed, and businesses shut down…After the victory people poured into the streets creating a noisy carnival of dancing and fireworks. There were no riots. Casualties included those in car accidents caused by inebriated drivers and people with high blood pressure who got sick from excitement.”

The symbolism of winning Brazil’s first post-Pelé Cup – its fourth altogether, another record – on American soil by beating a European country was powerful. Still, the Washington Consensus-style neoliberalization forced upon Brazil by the IMF had already exposed many elements of its economy to the pressures of globalized capitalism, including its beloved national pastime. Only half of the players on the 1994 roster (and only 3 of the starting 11) played professionally for Brazilian club teams. The rest played in European leagues, which paid much higher wages.

At the time, professional soccer was also becoming less accessible to average Brazilians. Workers’ wages were stagnating as the price of admission to local matches rose, and many players were forced to work second jobs to supplement their insufficient salaries. As Lever wrote, “This is a vicious cycle: the more players leave, the worse the quality of regular league competition becomes, and consequently, fewer fans are willing to pay to see their teams.” On the 2014 squad, only four of the 23 athletes play for Brazilian club teams. The rest all play in the European, Russian or Canadian leagues.

Cardoso e Lula

In 1994, the year they once again made soccer history, Brazilians elected the neoliberal former Finance Minister Fernando Henrique Cardoso as president. Cardoso, the son of wealthy Portuguese immigrants, continued privatizing state enterprises and dismantling social programs like education and healthcare. Growth slowed, corruption abounded, crime was on the rise and many of the socially-oriented reforms promised by his administration had been only partially fulfilled or slow to materialize.

After yet another decade of unfulfilled ”free market” promises, the Brazilian people were ready to forge a different path. In June 2002, Brazil broke their own record by winning a fifth World Cup. In October, they chose their fourth directly-elected president since the end of the dictatorship; Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, better known simply as “Lula.”

However, the scope of the change promised by Lula and his “socialist” Worker’s Party (PT) was mitigated by the influence of Brazil’s integration into the global capitalist system – including the $41 billion IMF “aid” package the country had accepted under Cardoso in 1998. By early 2002, capital markets were threatening to pull the plug on the country’s economy if it did not redouble its commitment to neoliberal reform.

Worried that his election as a self-proclaimed socialist could spark a financial attack on the country, Lula and the PT’s campaign rhetoric started to become much more market-friendly. Lula wrote and published an open letter to the Brazilian people during the final days of the 2002 World Cup, expressing his desire to avert a fate similar to that of their soccer arch-rival Argentina (which had been eliminated in the tournament’s first round):

“What is important is that this crisis must be avoided, because it would cause irreparable suffering for the majority of the population. To avoid this crisis it is necessary to understand the margin for maneuver in the short run is small.”

Lula was elected later that year and whatever “crisis” was averted was replaced by an IMF-dictated economic policy that helped spawn a regressive social spending system. Nevertheless, when Lula handed off the presidency in 2011 to his former chief of staff Dilma Rousseff, he had an 83 percent approval rating – the highest of any president since the dictatorship.

As Favelas

Nearly four years into the Rousseff administration, more than half of Brazilians view her has a bad influence on the country. Economic growth has slowed. The poverty rate has barely budged after falling from 35% during Lula’s first term to around 20% by the time he left office. Similarly, unemployment has hovered around 5% after being halved from 12% to 6% during the Lula years. Brazil, along with many of its Latin American neighbors, still ranks among the worst countries in the world for income inequality.

According to recent studies the vast majority of Brazilians believe racism exists in their society, but only a tiny percentage consider themselves to be racist. While few people still refer to Brazil as a “racial democracy”, the essence of the ideology still survives despite a decade-long crawl toward racial affirmative action policies in public education and employment.

In 2011, the year Dilma took office, government census data showed that people who identify as “white” are a minority in Brazil for the first time since the 19th century. Government studies have shown that people who identify as black or brown make incomes that are less than half those of their white counterparts and they are much more likely to lack access to basic services like security, education, healthcare and sanitation.

One particularly illustrative example of this race-class conflation can be found in the illegal settlements, known as “favelas,” that exist in most major Brazilian cities. Migrants from rural Brazil, many of them of black or indigenous ancestry, flooded into rapidly-industrializing urban areas during the early 20th century. Combined with the government-sponsored importation of European labor under the “whitening” program, this created an urban housing crisis that Brazil has never truly solved. According to government statistics, 1.8 million of Brazil’s roughly 200 million people are homeless. More than 1 million are estimated to live in favelas.

“These protests are an exhortation to the government to finally prioritize ‘equality.’”

Many favela residents have no legal title to the land or structures they occupy, which has enabled the government to carry out forcible evictions of entire neighborhoods to make way for “development” projects in recent decades. In 2011, the Special Rapporteur of the UN Human Rights Council on the right to adequate housing, Raquel Rolnik (a native Brazilian), expressed concern with “a pattern of lack of transparency, consultation, dialogue, fair negotiation, and participation of the affected communities in processes concerning evictions undertaken or planned in connection with the World Cup and Olympics.”

Reports of police torturing, assassinating and “disappearing” the poor, mostly black and brown residents of Brazil’s criminalized urban communities are neither new nor uncommon. The killing of a young favela resident in April 2014 sparked protests in Rio as well as the Twitter cheered for the championship 1970 team from the jail where she was imprisoned and tortured by the contemporary military government.

Antagonizing the World Cup has a deep cultural significance, but also a more obvious motivation. The state has razed people’s houses to build soccer stadium parking lots. The police have chased the poor away from the beaches and hotels and shopping districts back to the slums, only to invade and occupy their neighborhoods in order to “pacify” them. The government has spent nearly $1 billion on World Cup security alone while many favelas still lack basic utilities.

Brazil is not, as Dilma put it, a country “with no prejudice or exclusion and where there is a respect for human rights,” but it is striving to become one, as it has been for a long time. In his famous essay “Do You Know Who You’re Talking To?!” Brazilian sociologist Roberto DaMatta attempts to define what he calls the “Distinction between Individual and Person in Brazil:”

“In my opinion, the same basic process of constructing the individual or the person [in Brazil] takes place during great public festivals like Carnival, when persons become individuals and submit to the general rules of the revelry – of the reign of the clown king Momus – and accept their status as anonymous human beings. By the same token of inversion, anonymous individuals cease to be merely members of the labor force and marginal workers and become persons: noblemen, singers, dancers, and characters of a national drama. The same thing happens in futebol (soccer), where by identifying with their teams (and clubs), fans transform themselves into persons entitled to certain rights in victory and defeat. The prize here, as in Carnival, is highly significant: it is the right to hierarchize the position of equals or to change the position of superiors, the drama always having as motif the relationships between equality and hierarchy.”

DaMatta goes on to describe Brazilian society as “midway between equality and hierarchy”, “satisfied with its modern set of universal laws but framed in a markedly hierarchical skeleton…[wherein] the codes of personal relationships are the structural components of the social structure, not mere ‘survivals’ from the past that will soon be swept away by the introduction of modern political and economic institutions.”

Many favela residents volunteer their limited spare time to help their neighbors build, repair, and upgrade their homes in a practice known as a “mutirão“. Participatory budgeting projects begun under the Lula administration showed the benefits of democratic community participation in spending decisions. Giant state projects rife with injustice, corruption and mismanagement like the World Cup debacle only serve to remind Brazilians that in many key moments of the country’s history, the government has been an impediment to true progress.

At the individual level, the protests may be about evictions, security, wages or any number of other things. In totality they express a deep desire for the government to rectify the injustices of the past, rather than forever pursuing future greatness while blinding itself to a centuries-long legacy of political and economic exclusion based on race and class. An anonymous Black Bloc protester described his interpretation of the zeitgeist to presidential race is the centrist social democrat Aecio Neves, who garners about half as much support as the incumbent. Despite significant gains in recent years against poverty and unemployment, a vast majority of Brazilians disapprove of the current economic situation.

On June 7, Dilma claimed that the protests were part of a “systemic campaign” not necessarily against the World Cup but against some nebulous “us.” Pace Dilma, Brazilians’ discontent stems largely not from what the government has done, but from what it has not. Brazil is ready to move forward with socialism, not to retreat from it. These protests are an exhortation to the government to finally prioritize “equality,” one of the bedrock principles of socialism, over the capitalistic values of “growth” and “power” for the first time in Brazil’s history.

As the multibillion-dollar capitalist bonanza of the World Cup plays out – Laurel Wentz at AdAge described it “like having the Super Bowl every day for an entire month” – leftists and radicals should lend their solidarity to the movements opposed to what the World Cup symbolizes for so many Brazilians; capitalistic exploitation, enduring racism and ongoing criminalization of the poor, as well as the symbiotic nature of those systems of oppression.

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Brazil’s Evolving Police State: Political Coercion and Repression

NOVANEWS

One Step Further Into the Criminalization of the Radical Left

Global Research
brazil

 by Sabrina Fernandes

If 2013 put popular protests back into the historical map of Brazil, 2014 is certainly prone to be even more essential for asserting the lasting power of contestation by the radical Left. It was already a special year because of major elections for legislative and executive positions, including the presidential office, and due to the international attention expected during the FIFA World Cup. While the government would have liked to handle these in a business as usual manner, the disruptive power of protests and the revived opposition by the radical Left to the Right, as well as the Workers’ Party (PT) less than radical stance, have changed the State’s management of society. In anticipation of the games and elections, social dissidence, particularly in urban spaces, has turned into a matter of national security.

The anti-terrorism bill of 2013 (PL 499/2013)[1] was being rushed through the Senate under the sponsorship of Senator  Romero Jucá (from PMDB, PT’s government ally), only to be delayed at the last minute when the government was pressured by the radical Left and civil society concerned that the bill would criminalize the wave of protests occurring since June.[2] The rush, according to Senator Jorge Viana (PT), one of the bill’s supporters, was due to the essential need of having an anti-terrorism law in Brazil in light of the sports mega-events of 2014 and 2016. The death of videographer Santiago Andrade, killed by a rocket allegedly set off by two protesters on February 6th has also fuelled the debate on how the government and the police are to deal with the protests and demonstrations that have become part of the Brazilian routine since last year. Although Andrade is the first to die in a direct connection to protesters, his is not the only death associated with episodes of violence during the protests. Eleven other people died from causes ranging from tear gas to an alleged murder.[3] The use of the one death that could conveniently justify the excessive and indiscriminate use of police force in the past to further empower it in the future with the pretext of fighting terrorism is, at minimum, suspicious.

Criminalizing the Radical Left

The attempts to criminalize social movements are nothing new. The Landless Workers’ Movement (MST) and the Homeless Workers’ Movement (MTST), among other movements historically condemned by the Right, are familiar with media attacks and the continuous efforts to criminalize their activities, especially the practice of occupations, and to vilify main spokespersons or individual members of the movements. This has translated in major “news” stories accusing the movements of all sorts of crimes and of extremist associations (i.e. claims of association if Colombia’s FARC seem to do the trick), as well as haphazard and violent action by the military police and the state in their handling of occupations. João Pedro Stédile, from MST’s national coordination, has been personally attacked by mainstream media on several occasions. Arbitrary arrests and police violence against members of MTST are also a common occurrence whenever the judiciary allows police intervention against occupations. With the growth and diversification of the groups involved in protests and occupations since 2013, we can see an attempt toward the general criminalization of demonstrations of dissidence and discontent that expands the usual tactics already used against social movements. The combination of media attacks, police brutality, and the rearrangement of the legal system to deal with criminal activity related to protests and social movements (organized or autonomous) suggests an incremental coordinated effort between the government and mainstream corporate media in Brazil to extend the criminalization of social movements to all groups and individuals who visibly demonstrate their opposition to the status quo.

The anti-terrorism bill currently defines terrorism broadly, one of the main concerns put forward by its critics. Further, occupations of public buildings, such as State Legislatures, that result in damage could also be framed as terrorism. A few other provisions under the anti-terrorism bill also require special attention in the current context. One consists of harsher penalties for “terrorist” crimes committed in large crowds and with the use of explosives. According to Senator Viana, if the law had already been sanctioned, the protesters responsible for the rocket explosion that hit and killed Andrade could be framed as terrorists.[4] While Andrade’s death is unfortunate, it is being used by the current government to boost support for a bill that would give foundation to increased surveillance of protesters and restrictions to the right to protest, assemble, and access certain public city areas and events. These are not only steps to criminalize social movement and Left activity, but also consist of an overall assault on the democratic right to public spaces as a long-term strategy to silence opposing voices in the city.

The provision pertaining to the financing of terrorist acts, whether these acts are realized or not, is of special concern given the heightened negative attention given to Black Bloc activities by the media and the State. Black Bloc tactics, until recently largely unfamiliar to the Brazilian context, became very present after the June protests and continue to be. While in June the mainstream media saw its credibility plunge by calling protesters fighting against the public fare increases (led by Movimento Passe Livre – Free Pass Movement) vandals and criminals, it soon found in the individuals dressed in black, wearing masks, and engaging in civil disobedience their desired scapegoats. The tactics became characterized as organized and planned, and ever since there have been attempts to identify the leaders of the “Black Bloc group.”

One example is activist Elisa Quadros (known as Sininho), who has been attacked and investigated by the media while it attempts to uncover illicit links between Sininho, the “Black Blocs,” and politicians and party militants from the Left at all costs. The media suggests that Sininho can be the key to understanding how the “Black blocs” are financed and trained and by whom. Parties from the radical Left, such as PSOL and PSTU are the targets of such media spreads, as shown in a bizarre series of articles filled with hearsay reports about how the protesters responsible for Andrade’s death were allegedly paid by Left parties to protest and even somehow connected to State Congressman Marcelo Freixo from PSOL in Rio de Janeiro.

If the anti-terrorism bill passes, attempts to link “Black Bloc terrorism” during protests with the radical Left will effectively result in delegitimizing and undercutting the Left’s ability and right to protest and organize against capitalism and the neoliberal hold of the state by reframing the opposition as terrorists. Normally, attempts by the Right to attack political parties from the radical Left directly scream of partisanship and hegemonic renewal. By formalizing the criminalization of social movements through targeting Black Bloc activities, the possibility of devising connections between the Left and the financing and organizing of illegal acts represents an opportunity to support groundless attacks with legal legitimacy to affect public opinion and political consciousness. As of now, no new text or amendments to the anti-terrorism bill have been presented.

Meanwhile, Senator Armando Monteiro (PTB) urged the Senate to quickly move to another bill designed to establish harsher penalties to crimes of vandalism, targeting the tactic of causing damage to private and public property employed by protesters and Black Bloc alike. This bill, written in response to the recent protests, potentially criminalizes those involved in the direct or indirect organization of events where acts of vandalism happen, including through online communications.[5]This qualification has the potential of affecting and deterring the practice of announcing and promoting protest events through social media, a major vehicle for autonomous and grassroots groups, by expanding liability beyond the agent of the criminal act. Penalties are expected to be one third harsher if the acts of vandalism occur during a “popular demonstration of peaceful and democratic nature,”[6] which illustrates the moralist schism between so-called peaceful protesters and radical ones that was prominent during the major protests.

In Rio de Janeiro, the Secretary of Public Security José Beltrame has pushed the introduction of a bill in the Senate typifying certain protest acts as public disorder as a way to “organize” and manage the protests.[7] It imposes rules for public demonstrations and limits individual behaviour during protest, such as wearing masks or any artifacts that could be deemed harmful. The rules do not apply to police personnel, who have shown up to protest duty with covered faces and uniforms lacking nametags or other personal identification.

Calls for Demilitarizing the Police More Urgent Than Ever

It is no surprise why a military document from late 2013 by Minister of Defense Celso Amorim classifies popular demonstrations and their use of public space for protests, including occupations, as “opponent forces” that represent major threats to public order.[8] The document suggests the possible employment of the military forces to control and contain protests during the FIFA World Cup this summer, which would formalize suppositions over a possible state of emergency during the mega-event to address public demonstrations of social discontent, considered “urban disturbances” by the military police.

Although the multiplicity of demands and the de-radicalization that took place during the June protests by emphasizing unity over antagonism and national pride over party militancy led to a quick descent into cacophony, cries for the demilitarization of the Brazilian police were loud and clear. Now they seem more prescient than ever as the anti-terrorism bill (as it currently stands), the vandalism bill, and the public disorder bill could give formalized support to the employment of military tactics by the police and the army against protesters, supporters, and militants and politicians from radical Left parties. National and urban security is being invoked to justify the overt use of coercion by the State and the effective repression of radical voices and acts.

In addition to criminalizing the opposition, these bills and the State support for military repression on the streets contribute to a setting of fear over speaking up against neoliberal policies, FIFA’s influence and the pacification of the country in preparation for mega-events, police sanctioned violence in poor communities, and the general disregard for marginalized populations, among other issues. The result is further depoliticization of social groups who would rather abide by the status quo than risk threat of personal harm in the hands of the police and the judiciary. Even in cases where terrorism convictions may not be possible, the process of criminalization of acts deemed similar to terrorist acts can lead to intrusive investigations and serious moral damages to individuals who voice and act in opposition to the interests of the capitalist State in Brazil. The spread of fear associated with the new bills can discourage participation at a crucial time for the Brazilian radical Left, as it attempts to reorganize itself, establish dialogue, and turn away from the fragmented vision noted during last year’s protests to gain strength for the elections and in the long-run.

The still strong control of the news by corporate media in Brazil, despite the rise of alternative media collectives that are more popular with already radicalized groups, guarantees this depoliticization by backing up the State and capital in spreading discord and suspicion about the Left and in the Left. This not only benefits the status quo but is also convenient for maintaining certain parties and individuals in power after the elections in October. Therefore, it is easy to see why the groups calling for the demilitarization of the police are also calling for the democratization of the Brazilian media.

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Brazil’s Olympics and World Cup: Mega-Events and the Threat to Public Welfare

NOVANEWS

Olympic Capitalism: Bread and Circuses Without the Bread

Global Research
FIFA_go_home
 
The author of Brazil’s Dance With the Devil, Dave Zirin, must love sports, as I do, as billions of us do, or he wouldn’t keep writing about where sports have gone wrong.  But, wow, have they gone wrong!

Brazil is set to host the World Cup this year and the Olympics in 2016.  In preparation Brazil is evicting 200,000 people from their homes, eliminating poor neighborhoods, defunding public services, investing in a militarized police and surveillance state, using slave and prison labor to build outrageous stadiums unlikely to be filled more than once, and “improving” a famous old stadium (the world’s largest for 50 years) by removing over half the capacity in favor of luxury seats.  Meanwhile, popular protests and graffiti carry the message: “We want ‘FIFA standard’ hospitals and schools!”

Brazil is just the latest in a string of nations that have chosen the glory of hosting mega sports events like the Olympics and World Cup despite the drawbacks.  And Zirin makes a case that nations’ governments don’t see the drawbacks as drawbacks at all, that in fact they are the actual motivation.  “Countries don’t want these mega-events in spite of the threats to public welfare, addled construction projects, and repression they bring, but because of them.”  Just as a storm or a war can be used as an excuse to strip away rights and concentrate wealth, so can the storm of sporting events that, coincidentally or not, have their origins in the preparation of nations for warmaking.

Zirin notes that the modern Olympics were launched by a group of European aristocrats and generals who favored nationalism and war — led by Pierre de Coubertin who believed sport was “an indirect preparation for war.” “In sports,” he said, “all the same qualities flourish which serve for warfare: indifference toward one’s well being, courage, readiness for the unforeseen.”  The trappings of the Olympic celebration as we know it, however — the opening ceremonies, marching athletes, Olympic torch run, etc., — were created by the Nazis’ propaganda office for the 1936 games.  The World Cup, on the other hand, began in 1934 in Mussolini’s Italy with a tournament rigged to guarantee an Italian win.

More worrisome than what sports prepare athletes for is what they may prepare fans for.  There are great similarities between rooting for a sports team, especially a national sports team, and rooting for a national military.  “As soon as the question of prestige arises,” wrote George Orwell, whom Zirin quotes, “as soon as you feel that you and some larger unit will be disgraced if you lose, the most savage combative instincts are aroused.”  And there is prestige not just in “your” team winning, but in “your” nation hosting the grand event.  Zirin spoke with people in Brazil who were of mixed minds, opposing the injustices the Olympics bring but still glad the Olympics was coming to Brazil.  Zirin also quotes Brazilian politicians who seem to share the goal of national prestige.

At some point the prestige and the profits and the corruption and the commercialism seem to take over the athletics.  “[T]he Olympics aren’t about  sport any more than the Iraq war was about democracy,” Zirin writes. “The Olympics are not about athletes.  And they’re definitely not about bringing together the ‘community of nations.’ They are a neoliberal Trojan horse aimed at bringing in business and rolling back the most basic civil liberties.”

And yet … And yet … the damn thing still is about sports, no matter what else it’s about, no matter what alternative venues for sports are possible or imaginable.  The fact remains that there are great athletes engaged in great sporting activities in the Olympics and the World Cup.  The attraction of the circus is still real, even when we know it’s at the expense of bread, rather than accompanying bread.  And dangerous as the circus may be for the patriotic and militarist minded — just as a sip of beer might be dangerous to an alcoholic — one has the darndest time trying to find anything wrong with one’s own appreciation for sports; at least I do.

The Olympics are also decidedly less militaristic — or at least overtly militaristic — than U.S. sports like football, baseball, and basketball, with their endless glorification of the U.S. military.  “Thank you to our service men and women watching in 175 countries and keeping us safe.” The Olympics is also one of the few times that people in the U.S. see people from other countries on their televisions without wars being involved.

Zirin’s portrait of Brazil leaves me with similarly mixed sentiments. His research is impressive. He describes a rich and complex history.  Despite all the corruption and cruelty, I can’t help being attracted to a nation that won its independence without a war, abolished slavery without a war, reduces poverty by giving poor people money, denounces U.S. drone murders at the U.N., joins with Turkey to propose an agreement between the United States and Iran, joins with Russia, India, and China to resist U.S. imperialism; and on the same day this year that the U.S. Federal Communications Commission proposed ending the open internet, Brazil created the world’s first internet bill of rights. For a deeply flawed place, there’s a lot to like.

It’s also hard to resist a group of people that pushes back against the outrages being imposed on it.  When a bunch of houses in a poor Brazilian neighborhood were slated for demolition, an artist took photos of the residents, blew them up, and pasted them on the walls of the houses, finally shaming the government into letting the houses stand.  That approach to injustice, much like the Pakistani artists’ recent placement of an enormous photo of a drone victim in a field for U.S. drone pilots to see, has huge potential.

Now, the question is how to display the Olympics’ victims to enough Olympics fans around the world so that no new nation will be able to accept this monster on the terms it has been imposing.

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Brazil: Workers Struggle Trumps Sports Spectacle

NOVANEWS
Global Research
Elections in Brazil: US Covert Intelligence Operations in Support of "Democracy"

For decades social critics have bemoaned the influence of sports and entertainment spectacles in ‘distracting’ workers from struggling for their class interests. According to these analysts, ‘class consciousness’ was replaced by ‘mass’consciousness. They argued that atomized individuals, manipulated by the mass media, were converted into passive consumers who identified with millionaire sports heroes, soap opera protagonists and film celebrities.

The culmination of this ‘mystification’ – mass distraction –were the‘world championships’ watched by billions around the world and sponsored and financed by billionaire corporations:  the World Series (baseball), the World Cup (soccer/futbol), and the Super Bowl (American football).

Today, Brazil is the living refutation of this line of cultural-political analysis. Brazilians have been described as ‘football crazy’. Its teams have won the most number of World Cups. Its players are coveted by the owners of the most important teams in Europe. Its fans are said to “live and die with football” . . . Or so we are told.

Yet it is in Brazil where the biggest protests in the history of the World Cup have taken place. As early as a year before the Games, scheduled for June 2014, there have been mass demonstrations of up to a million Brazilians. In just the last few weeks, strikes by teachers, police, construction workers and municipal employees have proliferated. The myth of the mass media spectacles mesmerizing the masses has been refuted – at least in present-day Brazil.

To understand why the mass spectacle has been a propaganda bust it is essential to understand the political and economic context in which it was launched, as well as the costs and benefits and the tactical planning of popular movements.

The Political and Economic Context:  The World Cup and the Olympics

In 2002, the Brazilian Workers Party candidate Lula DaSilva won the presidential elections. His two terms in office (2003 – 2010) were characterized by a warm embrace of free market capitalism together with populist poverty programs. Aided by large scale in-flows of speculative capital, attracted by high interest rates, and high commodity prices for its agro-mineral exports, Lula launched a massive poverty program providing about $60 a month to 40 million poor Brazilians, who formed part of Lula’s mass electoral base. The Workers Party reduced unemployment, increased wages and supported low-interest consumer loans, stimulating a ‘consumer boom’ that drove the economy forward.

To Lula and his advisers, Brazil was becoming a global power, attracting world-class investors and incorporating the poor into the domestic market.

Lula was hailed as a ‘pragmatic leftist’ by Wall Street and a ‘brilliant statesman’ by the Left!

In line with this grandiose vision (and in response to hoards of presidential flatterers North and South), Lula believed that Brazil’s rise to world prominence required it to ‘host’ the World Cup and the Olympics and he embarked on an aggressive campaign. . . Brazil was chosen.

Lula preened and pontificated: Brazil, as host, would achieve the symbolic recognition and material rewards a global power deserved.

The Rise and Fall of Grand Illusions

The ascent of Brazil was based on foreign flows of capital conditioned by differential (favorable) interest rates. And when rates shifted, the capital flowed out. Brazil’s dependence on high demand for its agro-mineral exports was based on sustained double-digit economic growth in Asia. When China’s economy slowed down, demand and prices fell, and so did Brazil’s export earnings.

The Workers Party’s ‘pragmatism’ meant accepting the existing political, administrative and regulatory structures inherited from the previous neo-liberal regimes. These institutions were permeated by corrupt officials linked to building contractors notorious for cost over-runs and long delays on state contracts.

Moreover, the Workers Party’s ‘pragmatic’ electoral machine was built on kick-backs and bribes. Vast sums were siphoned from public services into private pockets.

Puffed up on his own rhetoric, Lula believed Brazil’s economic emergence on the world stage was a ‘done deal’. He proclaimed that his pharaonic sports complexes – the billions of public money spent on dozens of stadiums and costly infrastructure – would “pay for themselves”.

The Deadly ‘Demonstration Effect’:  Social Reality Defeats Global Grandeur

Brazil’s new president, Dilma Rousseff, Lula’ protégé, has allocated billions of reales to finance her predecessor’s massive building projects: stadiums, hotels, highways and airports to accommodate an anticipated flood of overseas soccer fans.

The contrast between the immediate availability of massive amounts of public funds for the World Cup and the perennial lack of money for deteriorating essential public services (transport, schools, hospitals and clinics) has been a huge shock to Brazilians and a provocation to mass action in the streets.

For decades, the majority of Brazilians, who depended on public services for transport, education and medical care, (the upper middle classes can afford private services), were told that “there were no funds”, that “budgets had to be balanced”, that a “budget surplus was needed to meet IMF agreements and to service the debt”.

For years public funds had been siphoned away by corrupt political appointees to pay for electoral campaigns, leading to filthy, overcrowded transport, frequently breaking down, and commuter delays in sweltering buses and long lines at the stations. For decades, schools were in shambles, teacher rushed from school to school to make-up for their miserable minimum-wage salaries leading to low quality education and neglect. Public hospitals were dirty, dangerous and crowded; under-paid doctors frequently took on private patients on the side, and essential medications were scarce in the public hospitals and overpriced in the pharmacies.

The public was outraged by the obscene contrast between the reality of dilapidated clinics with broken windows, overcrowded schools with leaking roofs and unreliable mass transport for the average Brazilian and the huge new stadiums, luxury hotels and airports for wealthy foreign sports fans and visitors.

The public was outraged by the obvious official lies: the claim that there were ‘no funds’ for teachers when billions of Reales were instantly available to construct luxury hotels and fancy stadium box seats for wealthy soccer fans.

The final detonator for mass street protest was the increase in bus and train fares to ‘cover losses’ – after public airports and highways had been sold cheaply to private investors who raised tolls and fees.

The protestors marching against the increased bus and train fares were joined by tens of thousands Brazilians broadly denouncing the Government’s priorities: Billions for the World Cup and crumbs for public health, education, housing and transport!

Oblivious to the popular demands, the government pushed ahead intent on finishing its ‘prestige projects’. Nevertheless, construction of stadiums fell behind schedule because of corruption, incompetence and mismanagement. Building contractors, who were pressured, lowered safety standards and pushed  workers harder, leading to an increase in workplace deaths and injury. Construction workers walked out protesting the speed-ups and deterioration of work safety.

The Rousseff regime’s grandiose schemes have provoked a new chain of protests. The Homeless Peoples Movement occupied urban lots near a new World Cup stadium demanding ‘social housing’ for the people instead of new five-star hotels for affluent foreign sports aficionados.

Escalating costs for the sports complexes and increased government expenditures have ignited a wave of trade union strikes to demand higher wages beyond the regime’s targets. Teachers and health workers were joined by factory workers and salaried employees  striking in strategic sectors, such as the transport and security services, capable of seriously disrupting the World Cup.

The PTs embrace of the grandiose sports spectacle, instead of highlighting Brazil’s ‘debut as a global power’, has spotlighted the vast contrast between the affluent and secure ten percent in their luxury condos in Brazil, Miami and Manhattan, with access to high quality private clinics and exclusive private and overseas schools for their offspring, with the mass of average Brazilians, stuck for hours sweating in overcrowded buses, in dingy emergency rooms waiting for mere aspirins from non-existent doctors and in wasting their children’s futures in dilapidated classrooms without adequate, full-time teachers.

The political elite, especially the entourage around the Lula-Rousseff Presidency have fallen victim to their own delusions of popular support. They believed that subsistence pay-offs (food baskets) to the very poor would allow them to spend billions of public money on sports spectacles to entertain and impress the global elite. They believed that the mass of workers would be so enthralled by the prestige of holding the World Cup in Brazil, that they would overlook the great disparity between government expenditures for elite grand spectacles and the absence of support to meet the everyday needs of Brazilian workers.

Even trade unions, seemingly tied to Lula, who bragged of his past leadership of the metal workers, broke ranks when they realized that the ‘money was out there’ – and that the regime, pressured by construction deadlines, could be pressured to raise wages to get the job done.

Make no mistake, Brazilians are sports minded. They avidly follow and cheer their national team. But they are also  conscious of their needs.  They are not content to passively accept the great social disparities exposed by the current mad scramble to stage the World Cup and Olympics in Brazil. The government’s vast expenditure on the Games has made it clear that Brazil is a rich country with a multitude of social inequalities. They have learned that vast sums are available to improve the basic services of everyday life.  They realized that, despite its rhetoric, the ‘Workers Party’ was playing a wasteful prestige game to impress an international capitalist audience. They realized that they have strategic leverage to pressure the government and address some of the inequalities in housing and salaries through mass action. And they have struck. They realize they deserve to enjoy the World Cup in affordable, adequate public housing and travel to work (or to an occasional game) in decent buses and trains. Class consciousness, in the case of Brazil, has trumped the mass spectacle. ‘Bread and circuses’ have given way to mass protests.

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Brazil on Strike: Class Struggle and the World Cup

NOVANEWS
Global Research
Many labour unions are either in the process of negotiating with their respective employers (mostly municipal, state, or federal governments) in Brazil, while others are actively on strike. These include federal workers from the government bureaucracy, school teachers, city staff, and university staff and faculty. In this piece, I would like to highlight how unions in the transportation sector are highly represented in these labour struggles.

The Metro Workers Union of São Paulo is one of them and as of Monday, the 9th of June, it faces its fifth day of strike amidst layoff threats and a repressive state military police. Shortly before, the bus drivers of the city of São Paulo, represented by two unions, were also on strike. In both cases, the judiciary found the strikes to be ‘abusive’ and fined the unions hundreds of thousands of reais after ordering the workers back to their posts. The Metro Workers decided to continue the strike, with the support of a variety of social movements (including the Free Fare Movement – MPL, and the Homeless Workers’ Movement – MTST), political parties from the radical Left, and other labour unions. The judicial decision is being challenged for many reasons, but primarily for the fact that it is fuelled by illegalities committed on behalf of the employer that lead to the disavowal of the right to strike.[1]

A unified act in support of the metro workers was announced after the assembly for early Monday in the metro station Ana Rosa. The act was immediately interrupted by the arrival of the riot police squad. They advanced on the picketing metro workers, arresting some of them, and attempted to disperse the protesters who stood in solidarity with pepper spray, tear gas bombs, and raised weapons. Although some protesters attempted to kick the bombs back at the squad, the damage was done and even bystanders on their way to work were affected. A militant from the student movement and the PSTU was arrested, beaten, and humiliated by the police during an act of solidarity.[2] After recovering from the tear gas, the protesters assembled again at the metro station and, from there, they walked toward Praça da Sé in São Paulo, where they were joined by more social movements and political party representatives before marching again.

Major Victory for the Homeless

The MTST was heavily present, joining the others from its occupation in the east side of the city named “Cup of the Peoples” in response the crisis of living standards and access to housing exacerbated by the 2014 FIFA World Cup in host cities. The MTST struggle with the city and the federal government for the occupied lot resulted in a major victory on Monday night: the government committed to developing popular housing on the land and expanding the participation of organized social movements/institutions in the allocation of future housing by the government programme. Guilherme Boulos, from the MTST national coordination, happily announced that their current demands had been met and reiterated that the victory was a result of the strong mobilizations on the streets.[3] The metro workers could not announce a similar victory late Monday night and decided to temporarily suspend the strike until a new assembly on Wednesday, June 11th, where they will vote on whether to resume the strike on the first day of the World Cup. At the time of writing, the strike will likely be resumed as the union fights to have the workers who were fired on Monday immediately reinstated.

The role of labour is paramount to the solidarity on the streets at this moment, which differentiates it from the large street protests of June 2013. Political parties from the radical left have also been directly involved in this struggle, and militants from the parties PSOL, PSTU, and PCB are working with leftist collectives on the possibility of a general strike. Further, matters related to the right to the city are evident in the joint struggle by the MTST, labour unions, and other social movements fighting for social justice in the urban environment. The urban social and geographical transformations caused by the World Cup have highlighted linkages between these struggles, as the process related to the mega event contributed to the history of dispossession and inequality in the big urban environments of Brazil.

The crisis of the urban transportation sector is to be noted here, since the sector is known for its overcrowding and inefficiency. Public transportation is often privately run and it is a space shared by the working class (the poor and the lower middle-class) as well as students. The tax cuts for automobile purchases promoted by the Lula government a few years ago, and still maintained by the current Workers’ Party administration, have led to more cars on the streets and added to already bad gridlocks in cities whose urban road networks lack the capacity to handle so many vehicles. At the same time, it further discouraged those who can afford to pay for transit to use transit, as the system is devalued and considered the realm of the working class, especially those workers who commute for hours everyday in crowded buses and trains. A year ago, protesters mobilized by the Free Fare Movement were being violently attacked by the military police in the struggle for affordable (and hopefully free) public transportation in Brazilian cities. This and other groups and movements that mobilized the population last year have joined the Metro Workers of São Paulo in a way that the labour struggle is understood together with access to public transportation in the city and the quality of this access for the users. In fact, the Metro Workers Union challenged the governor of São Paulo directly in these terms: “instead of striking, we will work for free for a day if access is free.” Suffice to say that the proposal, understood as “catraca livre” (literally, a free turnstile), was not even entertained by the governor and the metro company.

Metro workers: the people are with you.

Instead, the partnership between state and the mainstream media, especially the Globo network, has focused on vilifying the metro workers for inconveniencing the people of São Paulo as if the only alternative is the end of the strike. Also worrisome is the fact that the metro company has enlisted untrained administrative personnel to run some of the trains in the meantime, putting the users at a great risk.

City transportation workers in Rio de Janeiro and Natal, two other World Cup host cities, are also on the brink of a strike. In the Federal District, the bus drivers successfully negotiated a 20 per cent salary increase before the games begin, as Brasília, Brazil’s national capital, is also a key World Cup host city.

The Significance of the World Cup

The World Cup officially begins this Thursday and is considered a site of struggle for the Brazilian Left, both the autonomous and the organized, as the mega event has helped to highlight the state of inequality and social injustice in many Brazilian cities. The negative legacy of the World Cup ranges from large sums of public money spent on the event and some of its lavish structures to urban property speculation, gentrification, forceful removals, unjust labour trends, and even deaths related to the stadium renovations. It also provides a new kind of leverage, as the Brazilian government works to build up the spirits of the population with patriotism and the love for soccer. Such patriotism attempts to downplay the questions generated by the articulations of “There won’t be a World Cup,” “World Cup for whom?” and “At the World Cup, there will be struggle” that permeate the chants and demands of the groups mobilizing around the World Cup issue. The Brazilian government will be under international scrutiny for a month, and there is pressure for the host cities (and their respective airports) to run as smoothly as possible in face of the construction delays, budget scandals, and the growing antagonism toward FIFA that surround the games.

Those most interested in the success of the event have also attempted to undermine the strength of the movement. In the words of the next president of the Brazilian Soccer Confederation, Marco Polo del Nero: “These protests have from 500 to 1000 people. São Paulo has 14 million inhabitants. It’s little, next to these 14 million. The proof is that all the tickets for the World Cup and the Brazilian team exhibition games were sold. The protest is by a minority.”[4]

“At the World Cup, there will be struggle”

The articulation “There won’t be a World Cup” (Não vai ter copa) was especially popular earlier in the year, and it targeted the World Cup spending and abuses. While the concept was powerful at first, it soon became evident that the World Cup was quickly approaching and it would happen – to the point that even president Dilma Rousseff boasted that “there will be a World Cup” on social media. The concept was then rearranged around the idea that the World Cup that will happen would not be the one the state and FIFA wanted, since the discontent would eclipse the festivities and the attempt to conceal the social problems in Brazil. It is true that enthusiasm around the event and supporting Brazil’s national soccer team seems subdued and World Cup decorations are not as widespread as before; however, a portion of the population is still looking forward to the event and will be present at the stadiums – primarily those who can afford to do so.

Another popular articulation is the question “World Cup for whom?” and it is central to the work of the Popular Committees of the World Cup, which focus on exposing the negative impacts of the games and mobilizing opposition against the way the government and FIFA have managed them. The question is interesting, as it helps to unveil the structures that make such a profitable event possible, especially as the government’s argument that this World Cup is for the Brazilian people has fallen apart and cannot be justified based on the love for the national sport. The answer, the committees show, is a World Cup for big capital, large construction companies, property owners, and the elites who can access the games and get perks that middle-class attendees cannot afford. It is primarily a World Cup for FIFA, a private institution whose World Cup dealings have been slowly exposed.[5]

Mega events are normally promoted as a big tourism opportunity for the host country, and they are said to leave a legacy of improved infrastructure and national image. In the Brazilian case (and no doubt, to some extent, everywhere else where such events are held), the legacy is broken promises of improvement, capital and property speculation, dispossession, and the promotion of a constructed image of Brazilian culture that highlights the exotic and the stereotypical while it actively erases the social processes that make up the daily lives of Brazilians. Let us take the example of the favelas. Their alleged pacification, that is, the takeover of the favelas by the Pacifying Police Units (UPPs) in an effort to drive drug dealers away and make them safer, is a myth. The UPPs are known by favela inhabitants as repressive, racist, and violent. The disappearance of a man called Amarildo last year at a Rio de Janeiro favela after being taken for questioning by the police led to anger and protests. Amarildo has been joined by numerous others, such as Douglas (known as DG), and Cláudia. The three were parents and hard workers, and their murders are linked to criminal activities by the military police of Rio de Janeiro.[6] Despite these stories and many others, the favela pacification is part of an effort by the city to promote them as lively communities where samba, carnaval, soccer, and feijoada thrive. The favelas are transformed into an exotic object in the unequal space of the city, one that can be exploited by tourism and conceals social injustice through a racist and commodified idea of cultural diversity.

“Thus, it brings to the forefront the idea of a more permanent struggle that is energized by the dialogue and solidarity that arises when many groups, social movements, and parties join forces to expose, denounce, oppose, and resist together. ”

This is why the notion of “At the World Cup, there will be struggle” (Na copa vai ter luta) is so important. Promoted mainly by organized actors, such as radical left parties and central unions, it is not meant to say struggle was absent before and will be present during the event. Actually, it provides the social struggles in the city with a useful frame of contestation of capital and the neoliberal actions of the state. It is also a tool for politicization, as it demonstrates that popular discontent during the games is not limited to the oppression related to the FIFA interests, but to a larger system that permits such events to take on such a scale of exploitation for profit. Thus, it brings to the forefront the idea of a more permanent struggle that is energized by the dialogue and solidarity that arises when many groups, social movements, and parties join forces to expose, denounce, oppose, and resist together. Ultimately, these joint struggles should aim to continue the work of mobilizing their membership base, which is fundamental to promoting class consciousness, as well as to politicize others into the struggle of building alternatives and a political project.

It is not only a matter of what we are struggling against, but also what we are struggling for. The lessons of the past year in Brazil, which have moved toward a renewed focus on the organized struggle of the people, need to be taken seriously. The victories that have resulted must be used to draw the movement toward questions of where to go after the World Cup moment is gone. Finally, the apparent losses of today as capital continues to threaten the movement through political and police repression must fuel our intransigence, as Gramsci argued, so that the eventual victories can be understood for what they ought to be in the socialist struggle: an offensive against capital that puts us closer to an alternative, rather than momentary collaboration with the state and bourgeois power. •

All support for the workers’ strike. #attheworldcup there will be struggle.

Sabrina Fernandes is a Ph.D. candidate in Sociology at Carleton University. Her research focuses on contemporary Left articulations in Brazil by political parties, social movements, and mass mobilizations. She is currently in Brazil following the organized struggle around the World Cup. Contact info: www.facebook.com/sabrinafernandesphd.

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Will Young Marxist-Leninists Be the Gravediggers of Capitalism

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