Category Archives: Dilma

“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,

“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.

 

Interview with Brazil’s “Chainsaw Queen” politician, who wants to loosen laws to chop down more trees in Brazil

Brazilian politician Kátia Abreu leads agricultural lobbying in loosening controls on Amazon deforestation. She wants to make Brazil a powerhouse in the exportation of soy products, a plan which will require deforestation to take place, unless it can be carefully controlled in areas like Minas Gerais’ Triângulo Mineiro.

Here are the highlights from her interview with The Guardian about a country in which more environmental activists are murdered than anywhere else in the world.

Running for president is not a plan – it is fate. Criticism from radical environmentalists is the best form of endorsement. It gives me satisfaction. It shows I am on the right track and playing the right role.”

“We have all the essential elements: abundant water, advanced technology and plenty of land for production. Based on this, we can become number one without cutting down trees.”

She alleges environmentalists, indigenous groups and landless peasants are working for foreign interests. “I don’t have concrete proof of this but I get a very strong impression that this is the case.”

“Forty years ago, the average Brazilian spent 50% of his or her income on food. Now the proportion is about 18%.”

“For many years, environmentalism reached an extreme pitch and we in the agribusiness sector were treated like criminals. Now, our agribusiness sector can influence the choice of kings and queens in Brazil. In the past, we only exercised economic influence. Now we also have political power.”

Most chillingly, Abreu said:

“We cannot rest on our laurels. There are many things holding back progress – the environmental issue, the Indian issue and more. But even with these problems we keep producing high levels of productivity. Imagine how high it might be without those obstacles.”

Brazil signs first “Internet Constitution” into law, with social media protest loopholes

Brazil has signed the Marco Civil da Internet, hailed as the first ever “Internet Constitution“, or “Internet Civil Rights” bill. It’s been designed to create a “free, creative and secure” web, and includes a lot of fair use policies and protections for the average user.

Marco Civil grants stronger powers to the Brazilian government to remove content with judicial decree, which seems pretty troubling ahead of predicted protests during the 2014 World Cup. Especially as previous protests in Brazil were co-ordinated through social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Although content can only be removed following a court order, an exception allows the immediate exclusion of “certain material” even prior to analysis by the Justice Courts (“abre uma exceção que permite a exclusão de determinados materiais antes da análise da Justiça”, Seção III, Art. 21), according to Sérgio Amadeu da Silveira, a member of Brazil’s Comitê Gestor da Internet no Brasil.

This provides a loophole for politicians, big businesses and private individuals to remove harmful content immediately, without a court order.

This could be helpful when trying to prevent protesters arrange a riot on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, or criticising brands for their support in corrupt practices.

Anti-presidential posters: “Dilma, chega de mentira” (“We’re tired of lies”)

Dilma Rousseff is the current President of Brazil. Belo Horizonte was supposed to have an improved, extended metro system by the opening of the 2014 World Cup. With 60 days to go, it does not. 

Daughter of a Bulgarian entrepreneur, Rousseff was raised in an upper middle class household in Belo Horizonte. She was a socialist during her youth, although now she is more of a “pragmatic capitalist”.

Rousseff became a guerrilla fighter following the 1964 coup d’état against the military dictatorship. She was jailed between 1970 and 1972, where she was reportedly tortured.

As Minister she helped introduce “Luz para todos” (“Light for all”), an attempt to bring electricity to the poorer parts of Brazil. It was supposed to be paid for by the government but the money actually comes out of higher tariffs for customers.

She also backs the “Fome Zero” (“Zero Hunger”) campaign, and took federal tax off everyday items (meat, milk, beans, rice, flour, potatoes, tomatoes, bread, sugar, coffee powder, cooking oil, butter, bananas and apples).

Throwing the poor a bone is a politically-calculated move to get millions of votes behind you (see Lula’s Bolsa Familia or “Family Allowance”, an act handing out cash transfers to the poorest). It looks good, it’s fairly cheap, and it actually helps the poorest of society (poverty reportedly fell by 27 per cent and it directly helped 12 million families). I say “reportedly” because politicians know how to make the stats look good.

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

Public sector workers have been regularly striking during her term as president but she refuses to cater to their demands, insisting the private sector should be prioritised in all economic issues.