Category Archives: Crime

“We are fighting for our land, and we are being killed, one by one.” Eliseu Lopes, tribe leader in Brazil

Guarani are an indigenous people that live across Argentina, Bolivia and southwestern Brazil. When Europeans first arrived in South America in 1500 the Guarani numbered around 400,000. At that time, they were living in small communities and grew manioc, maize, wild game, and honey.

Cue a few hundred years and their leaders are being murdered by ranchers in a land dispute that should have ended in 1993.

Earlier this month, 27-year-old Guarani leader Marinalva Manoel was raped and stabbed to death after traveling 1,000km to Brasília to lobby the government to recognize Guarani land rights.

NGO Survival International has evidence Guarani-tribe leaders are being murdered by gunmen hired by ranchers eager to quash a land dispute in the rancher’s favour. Ranchers use Guarani land to grow sugar cane, soya and cattle. Profits are huge and ranchers are actively protected by local police and politicians, leaving the Guarani at their mercy.

Guarani leaders are singled out, attacked and killed by ranchers’ gunmen as a result of their campaign for their ancestral land to be mapped out and returned to them. Many leaders have received death threats. According to Brazil’s constitution, all the tribe’s land should have been returned to them by 1993.

Forced to live in overcrowded reserves and roadside camps while ranchers earn huge profits on their land, the Guarani suffer alarming rates of malnutrition, suicide and violence. A recent wave of eviction orders threatens to further worsen their horrific plight.

Despite many promises, successive governments have failed to resolve Brazil’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Survival International is asking anyone interested in protecting the rights of indigenous people to write to the Brazilian government and force them to sort the issue out in the Guarani’s favour.

Or send an email to President Dilma Rousseff at sg@planalto.gov.br

Something like:

Dear Dilma,

I am deeply concerned successive governments have failed to map out the lands of the Guarani tribe of Mato Grosso do Sul.

Without their ancestral land, the Guarani cannot survive. Their leaders are being killed one by one, their children are dying of malnutrition and they suffer one of the highest suicide rates in the world. The worldwide community is sickened by your failure to protect your people.

Please uphold the constitution and demarcate the Guarani’s lands immediately, before more lives are lost.

Sincerely,

Local Brazilian Funk DJ shot to death outside his home last night

(WARNING: Disturbing image in link at end of article)

A Funk DJ in Belo Horizonte was shot dead outside his house in Pampulha last night by two motorcyclists that rode past him, confirmed it was him and then circled back to open fire. He was shot ten times and died at the scene.

Although police say they don’t know the motive for the killing, rumours are that DJ Paulinho was mixed up with the wrong girl – a girl already attached to someone dangerous. His death could have been as petty as that – seems ridiculous, doesn’t it?

The worst thing about it is that this motive has been seen before in the Brazilian music scene.

The rumours echo the murder of MC Daleste a few years back, a huge Funk star making $60,000 a night when he was murdered (reportedly by cops) live on stage. MC Daleste was supposed to have been fooling around with a girl attached to a big drug-trafficker. For that, he was killed.

DJ Paulinho wasn’t a mega-star DJ in Brazil, but he had enough sets that he would work the local Funk circuit in Belo Horizonte, and he’d toured in the US, Portugal and France. He had a song called “Vai Paulin Vai Paulin” which got pretty famous.

Below is a video of him doing a Funk mix at Conexão Rio. The crime-scene image for DJ Paulinho is here – don’t click the link if you don’t want to see a dead body or blood.

Rest in peace – descanse em paz.

 

 

Fear and loathing in Sao Paulo: citizens driving armoured cars in Brazil’s richest city

How do you spot an armoured car in Sao Paulo? Check out the distorted reflection from the windows. The toughened glass they use to protect the car from bullets is slightly wavy, and the glass has a thick black border. Also, look at how they sit a bit lower to the ground, and how the tyres have a plastic sheen rather than the matte finish of rubber.

When you know how to spot an armoured citizen’s car (um carro blindado) you’ll begin to see them everywhere. Sao Paulo residents love their armoured cars.

A single shot fired at the driver of a “carro blindado” or armoured car, in Sao Paulo.

But is Sao Paulo really that dangerous? And what happens when you get out of the car? You can’t wear an armoured vest for the rest of your life, so armoured cars are only really useful when you’re waiting at traffic lights.

It’s not exactly cheap to make a car blindado, either. Depending on the size of the vehicle it runs from 50,000 reais (£15,000 or $25,000) to 80,000 reais (£25,000 or $40,000) to reinforce the suspension, put armor-plating in the engine and door-panels, replace the glass with a toughened resin and change the tyres for run-flats.

The car has a shorter life-span carrying its extra shell, and depreciates quicker than a normal car. Engines are constantly strained and the chassis buckles under the extra weight. Armoured cars are good for scrap in a few years.

Totally-destroyed armoured car, although the glass never smashed through.

And probably a total waste of money, and for why I’ll give you an example. My Paulista friend told me a story about his friend that drove an armoured car around Sao Paulo. At the traffic lights a ladrão approached his friend and pointed a gun at the glass. He demanded his watch.

Now, the friend was in an armoured car, so the bullet wouldn’t go through the glass. But the friend remembered that replacing the bullet-proof glass would cost 5,000 reais, and his watch only cost 2,000 reais.

So the friend cracked open the window and handed over his watch, saving himself 3,000 reais in the process…

The perception of security is often used by car-manufacturers to sell expensive cars. SUVs like Humvees and Range-rovers (military vehicles) in the US and Europe offer a kind of sanctuary, where the outside world can’t get to you. As a result you feel safe, even though you can’t live in your car forever.

In Brazil, crime is a serious problem. But armouring a car still seems like overkill. I’m not sure it really offers either security or safety. If they want you, they will follow you and either force you from the vehicle or wait until you get out.

“Brazilians really like football.” Protests down by half since the World Cup started in Brazil

Across Brazil’s 10 biggest cities there were 71 major protests in the 12 days before the World Cup started. In the 12 days since the opening game there have been 43.

Sao Paulo’s Folha gathered data from police, transport bodies, trade unions and social movements to collect the data, which is probably still too vague to draw anything but broad generalisations about popular protests in Brazil. One sociologist said in the report: “Brazilians really like football.”

Folha reckons underlying motives for the protests are changing, too. Before the World Cup started protests were being held in support of pay-rises and improved work conditions. Trade unions knew that heightened pressure would be thrown onto the government to act in the unions’ favour quickly, as the government wouldn’t want tourists witnessing protests in the street.

At least for the teachers here in Belo Horizonte, it didn’t work. A 15 per cent pay-rise (after three years of 6-8 per cent inflation had seen their real wages eroded) was rejected, and the teachers went back to work days before the World Cup started.

Now the protests are more generally Anti-World Cup.

One of the problems with protests this year is that last year’s Confederation’s Cup protesters saw how their anti-corruption, pro-Brazil protests were “hijacked” by organised, extreme-right elements that wanted Dilma out and their people in.

Consequently a lot of citizens don’t want to protest for fear they’ll be portrayed as extreme-right antagonists. Such is the problem with popular protest; with so many problems in Brazil, it’s hard to be clear about what you’re protesting about.

Six reasons Neymar represents everything that’s wrong with Brazil and its wealthy elite

Although the advertising machine around Neymar works hard to make him appear a pretty nice guy, here’s six reasons why the footballer – rightly or wrongly – represents everything wrong with Brazil’s wealthy, corrupt elite and the crushing inequality these powerful figures create.

1) He, or the people around him, are corrupt: When Neymar signed for Barcelona its vice president Josep Maria Bartomeu said Neymar’s transfer fee was €87.2 million. They then declared the  official transfer fee on documents as €57 million, as €40 million “supposedly… flowed to a company which is close to Neymar’s family.”

Brazilian politicians are famously corrupt. One politician was elected to Brazil’s Congress while under investigation for murder after having an adversary killed with a chain saw. Another is wanted by Interpol after being found guilty of diverting more than $10 million from a public road project to offshore bank accounts. I can’t find the source but I read recently that 60 per cent of Brazilian politicians are currently under police investigation.

2) He’s rich: Neymar was making 1.5 million reais a year at just 16 years old. He makes 9 million euros a year now playing for Barcelona.

Similarly, Brazilian politicians are among the highest paid and least productive in the world.

And in the world of business the 15 Richest Families In Brazil are worth an estimated $122 billion — or about 5% of the country’s total GDP. Out of 65 Brazilian billionaires listed by FORBES in its World’s Billionaires list, 25 are blood relatives.

3) He’ll sell himself to the highest bidder: Neymar has sponsorship deals with Castrol, Red Bull, Volkswagen and Panasonic and an 11 year boot deal with Nike worth at least $1 million per year. There’s nothing wrong with footballers making hay while the sun shines, though.

Brazilian politicians see nothing wrong using the same “sponsorship” tactics, however. Municipal and state officials are close to the mega-corporations that run Brazil’s construction, beverage, transport, energy and food industries. The cost of building Brasilia’s World Cup stadium nearly tripled to $900m in public funds, for example, largely due to allegedly fraudulent billing.

This after the construction company for Brasilia’s stadium increased its political donations 500-fold in the most recent election.

4) He’s light-skinned: Neymar’s dying his hair blonde might seem insignificant, but it takes on huge cultural significance in a country that has a legacy of slavery and inequality. It’s known as “Branqueamento”, (“Whitening”) and can lead to a prosperous shift from the darker-skinned underclass to the lighter-skinned Brazilian elite.

Neymar a few days ago: tall and tanned and young and blonde?
Neymar before the Brazil-Mexico game: tall and tanned and young and blonde.

Over 70 per cent of Brazilian politicians are light-skinned.

The Berkeley Review suggests this is because white Brazilians have more money on average than non-whites. Brazilian politicians elected to office had significantly higher mean total assets, at 432,000 Brazilian reais (R$), than those who were not elected, whose average assets totaled only R$188,000. White Brazilians have an average net worth of R$440,000, compared to R$247,000 for non-whites, indicating that on average white politicians simply have more cash to spend on campaigns than non-whites, and therefore gain power more easily.

5) He left Brazil: In 2010 Neymar’s agent said Neymar “wants to become the best player in the world. The chances of him doing that while playing in Brazil are zero.” Neymar added that  it was a “dream” of his “to play in Europe”.

There’s nothing against a football player wanting to play for one of the biggest teams in the world, and those teams are in Europe. But it is a familiar desire amongst the wealthy Brazilian elite to leave the country (they have the power to change, rather than rob from) and in which they have made their fortune to hide their money in Cayman Islands bank accounts or spend it on handbags, iPhones and suits in New York and Europe.

In 2005 a senior politician in Lula’s government was seized at an airport with $100,000 in his underwear as part of the Mensalão corruption saga.

6) He’s not afraid of backing out on a promise: Neymar promised his youth club Santos he wouldn’t leave them until after the 2014 World Cup. Santos consequently doubled his wages to raise him to European footballer salary levels.

…And in 2013 Neymar signed for Barcelona, anyway.

Politicians are familiar with breaking promises. A trainline between Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro promised for the 2014 World Cup has, as of today, never even started. A huge number of World Cup projects remain unfinished or were never started. Belo Horizonte’s metro system was supposed to be extended for the World Cup. As of today it has one line.

Dilma, Cade o Metro? ("Where is the Metro?")
Dilma, Cade o Metro? (“Where is the Metro?”)

So there you have it; six reasons why Neymar represents everything that wrong with Brazil and its wealthy elite.

FIFA won’t pay any tax to the Brazilian government on its sales and merchandise at the 2014 World Cup

In 2002, Japan and South Korea spent 10 billion reals (£2.8bn, $4.4bn) each on hosting the World Cup,  and (after taxes) FIFA made a profit of 3 billion reais.

In 2006, Germany spent 9 billion reais on its World Cup, and (after taxes) FIFA made a profit of 5 billion reais.

In 2010, South Africa spent 11 billion reais on its World Cup, and (after taxes) FIFA made a profit of 6 billion reais.

In 2014, Brazil has already spent 35 billion reais on hosting the FIFA World Cup. And for the first time ever, FIFA will be exempt from paying all taxes to the Brazilian Treasury.

As a result, FIFA stands to profit 15 billions reais from the 2014 Brazil World Cup.

FIFA told Brazil it would only allow the country to host the World Cup if it made the football organisation exempt from imported goods taxes (IPI), the contribution to Social Security Financing (Cofins) on imported goods and services, and the Contribution to the Programs for Social Integration and Heritage Formation of the Public Servant ( PIS-Pasep) on imports.

The savings from FIFA not paying tax amount to around 2.5 billion reais. That’s money that would have gone into the government coffers that will now remain in Switzerland, where FIFA has charitable status and pays almost no taxes anyway.

“Brazil stands to win a lot more by the stimulating effect on the economy,” said the Brazilian sports minister Orlando Silva back in 2010. Brazil’s economy has slowed to 0.2 per cent in the run up to the World Cup, an indication that huge sporting events don’t bring quite the stimulus politicians were expecting, although it has made a few people very rich.

If nothing else, Brazilians should be angry that FIFA is paying no tax for the sales it makes on its merchandise. It’s giving nothing back to the country financially. It’s also using an army of unpaid volunteers to make sure the World Cup goes well. Protests against the government are already shutting down entire highways in Belo Horizonte – it will be interesting to see how many protests flare up in the next few weeks.

 

Child sex-trafficking in Brazil a problem foreign journalists could report. Prostitution, a legal, trade union-certified profession involving consenting adults , is not.

If there were really one million prostitutes in Brazil, as this Independent article suggests, that would mean one in every 200 Brazilians was a prostitute.

More than that, considering half of that 200 are men, and  assuming most prostitutes are women, it would mean one in every hundred women in Brazil was a prostitute.

Thousands of journalists are set to arrive in Brazil to cover the 2014 World Cup. Hopefully these journalists will dig deep into the country and leave aside the antiquated, colonial image of Brazil as a hyper-sexualised third-world country where everyone lives in a favela and sells drugs in between Samba and Carnaval.

What journalists and visiting tourists will actually find is that Brazil is a modern, technologically-advanced country full of entrepreneurs, lawyers, doctors and hard-working Brazilians working 14-hour-days to provide for their families and loved ones.

Brazil has its own Silicon Valley, super-fast broadband, some of the best (free) universities in the world and more progressive social policies than most western nations on issues such as obesity (a wave of public health education and stringent controls on fast-food and candy companies), workers’ rights (successfully lobbying corporate giant McDonalds to provide better working standards) and advertising (food and drink adverts aimed at kids labelled an “abusive practise”, and all outdoor advertising billboards banned).

Brazilian prostitutes  on Avenida Alfonso Pena, Belo Horizonte, Brazil.
Brazilian prostitutes on Avenida Alfonso Pena, Belo Horizonte, Brazil.

So no, there probably aren’t a million prostitutes in Brazil. Prostitution is, however, legal, and always has been in Brazil, which protects sex-workers and allows them access to trade unions as well as mental and sexual health services. Pimping is – quite rightly – illegal in Brazil. It is hugely progressive to see a country take such a progressive approach to one of the “oldest professions” rather than hiding behind phony puritanism and snobbery.

If we’re talking about real problems in Brazil, let’s take a look at child prostitution.

Agencies such as Meninadanca operate in the poorer northern areas of the country where poverty is high and families sell their children to passing truckers and sex-tourists. The Sun wrote a story about a 15-year-old selling herself to tourists in Rio de Janeiro for £26 a time. She was rescued a few weeks before the World Cup starts. Thousands of children won’t be.

This photo was taken outside the World Cup stadium at Fortaleza a few weeks ago:

Child prostitution in the shadow of the Castelão World Cup stadium in Fortaleza, Brazil.
Child prostitution in the shadow of the Castelão World Cup stadium in Fortaleza, Brazil. Photo courtesy of Meninadanca.

The sex-trafficking of thousands of Brazilian children is a real problem foreign journalists could be spending their time reporting. A completely-legal, trade union-certified profession involving adults old enough to make their own decisions, is not.