Tag Archives: Politics

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.


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.

Amazon Rainforest in Brazil the most dangerous place in the world for environmental activists

According to Global Witness, the Amazon Rainforest in Brazil remains the most dangerous place in the world for environmental activists. Of 908 environmental activists killed in 35 countries since 2002, 448 were murdered in one country alone: Brazil.

And the murder rate is increasing; from 51 in 2002 to 147 in 2012. In most cases the killers are out free, with only 10 convictions out of 908 dead.

In Brazil, most activists are protesting issues related to natural resources and land-rights, and most victims are indigenous people and minorities.

Barbara Ruiz of the United Nations Environment Programme believes intimidation, violence and criminality are also common against activists. In one example, villagers protesting a mega-project that would cut through their land and destroy their livelihoods were “accused of terrorism for speaking against state security forces who had tried to  expel them from the area.”

Last year Spanish biologist Gonzalo Alonso Hernández, who clashed regularly with illegal loggers and ranchers, was executed in Rio de Janeiro. 

José Claudio Ribeiro da Silva and his wife were murdered by masked gunmen after denouncing illegal logging in the Brazilian state of Para. José had one of his ears ripped off as proof of his execution. Two men were imprisoned, but the farm-owner accused of paying for the killings was acquitted. The farm-owner had purchased land on which three indigenous families lived and da Silva was campaigning to keep them there. 

Deforestation of the Amazon has become a battleground for activists and paramilitary groups. Deforestation increased in 2013 by 28 per cent after a consecutive four-year decline, and environmentalists blame a relaxation of laws that once protected the jungle. According to Global Witness, the regions most affected by deforestation in the Amazon now have the highest recorded violence against activists.


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.