quinta-feira, 30 de dezembro de 2010

Brazil Eager to be a Force of Change and Moderation in the Region

From Deutsche Welle

Thursday, December 30, 2010

On New Years Day, Brazilian Worker’s Party President-elect Dilma Rousseff takes over from her mentor, outgoing President Luis Inácio "Lula" da Silvia. She has big shoes to fill as she tries to emulate her predecessor.

Lula has an approval rating over 80 percent. His social welfare programs and economic policy have lifted millions out of poverty, paid off the country's debt to the IMF, and sailed South America's largest economy through the world financial crisis at over 7 percent growth a year.

Lula also set a new precedent in Brazilian foreign policy, lifting his country into the international arena like few have in Brazilian history. He increased dialogue with the emerging BRIC powers (Brazil, Russia, India and China) and in May 2010, negotiated the Iran-Turkey-Brazil nuclear deal.

But it was in Western Hemispheric relations where Lula truly carved his mark, and where Dilma will be expected to pick up where he leaves off. Lula quickly broke with the historic Brazilian position of bowing to US dominance in the region, and paved a new path for Brazilian foreign policy.

"Under Lula, Brazil began to see South America as an autonomous geopolitical region, separate from the United States and not subordinated," Igor Fuser, analyst and professor at the Cásper Libero University in São Paulo, told Deutsche Welle.

With Foreign Minister Celso Amorim, Brasilia shouldered its historic ties with the United States, blocking the US-sponsored Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) and turning toward South-South cooperation and regional integration. Under Lula, Brazil joined the Latin American leftward tide, embracing radical neighbors such as Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Bolivian President Evo Morales.

Yet Lula was also willing to walk the line, negotiating and courting friendly relations with everyone, including the Unites States. In 2007, Lula signed ethanol agreements with then-President George W. Bush. This April, Brazil signed a bilateral military cooperation agreement with the US.

"It is a pragmatic foreign policy. It is a progressive, reformist, autonomist foreign policy, but it is not a foreign policy to challenge the center of global power, or the United States," said Fuser.

Foreign policy under Dilma

BRIC leaders

Dilma has promised to continue Lula's policies, "but it is going to be a lot more difficult than on the domestic front, because Lula's foreign policy is highly personalized. It has been probably one of the most personalized foreign policies in the history of Brazil," Oliver Stuenkel, visiting Professor in International Relations at the University of São Paulo and a Fellow at the Global Public Policy Institute, told Deutsche Welle.

"For example being at an IMF meeting and declaring that Brazil would start lending money to the IMF and then at home criticizing the IMF," said Stuenkel. "I think Lula was really able to align with developing countries and position himself as a leader of the South and also get along fairly well with the European countries and America."

Dilma lacks the personality of the charismatic Lula da Silva, which will make her job more difficult. However, she "is a good manager and a good technocrat," Adam Isacson, Regional Security Program Director of the Washington Office on Latin America, told Deutsche Welle. "Her foreign policy all depends on her choice of foreign minister."

At the beginning of the month, Dilma announced that she had picked 56-year-old career diplomat Antônio Patriota to fill the position of foreign minister. The move was expected and seen as a continuation of Lula's foreign policy under the Dilma administration. Patriota has worked with the current foreign minister for 15 years.

In another sign of continuity, Marco Aurélio Garcia will remain at his post of special foreign policy adviser under Dilma. In an interview in November, Garcia said that there will be no change in foreign policy under the new government, and that the president-elect won't shy away from intervening on the international scene as Lula has.

Patriota – a boost for Washington?

The future Foreign Minister Patriota is the current Brazilian Secretary General of Foreign Relations, but he spent more than two years as Brazilian Ambassador to the United States. The diplomat is still on good terms with Washington.

"There is no doubt that Patriota was very loved and respected in Washington," Peter Hakim, President of the Inter-American Dialogue Institute, recently told the Brazilian newspaper O Imparcial. "But he will have to modify at least the style of Amorim and Lula, adopting less conflictive positions with the United States, because in the best of the circumstances, the two countries are going to collide on many issues, while Brazil grows in importance."

Lula befriended the US but disagreed with Washington over Iran and criticized the US for its continued blockade against Cuba. In 2009 he denounced the Honduran coup d'état against President Manuel Zelaya. For four months Lula housed ousted-president Zelaya and his advisors in the Brazilian embassy in Teguciglapa, despite criticism from the United States.

Washington insiders say they are looking forward to the change in Brasilia. But president-elect Dilma has made it clear that the US is not at the core of Brazilian foreign policy as it once was. While Patriota may be a force of moderation in US-Brazilian relations, Brazilian insiders say that both the economic crisis and the US midterm elections will likely push Brazil to distance itself further from the United States.

"The first prognosis made by sectors close to the Lula government is that the Republican victory in the legislative elections in the US strengthened the certainty of maintaining more autonomous Brazilian foreign policy," said Fuser. "The political sector that supports the Dilma government is also very skeptical of US measures to combat the economic crisis."

Regional integration

Mercosur ministers

Over his nearly eight years in power Lula has mediated international conflicts between Venezuela and Colombia and overseen the inauguration of the EU-inspired Union of South American Nations (Unasur) in Brasilia. The Unasur South American Defense Council (SADC) was promoted by Lula's Defense Minister Nelson Jobim, and approved in late 2008. The region's countries have increased trade and collaboration over energy and development.

All signs point to continued policies of regional integration under Dilma. "Mercosur and South America will continue to be among the top priorities," said Dilma's foreign policy advisory Garcia in November.

But like her predecessor, Dilma is going to face resistance to both Mercosur and Unasur from Brazil's private sector - by far the largest in the region.

"The problems of regionalism in South America do not just depend on the political will of the Brazilian government. In terms of international affairs, Brazilian relations is represented above all by the businesses," said Fuser.

Brazilian companies are interested in increased access to new and expanding markets. Despite their involvement in the Southern Cone trade block, Mercosur, (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay) Brazil's closest neighbors are not necessarily keen on powerful competition from their much larger competitors. And despite increased commercial ties in the region, the US is still Brazil's largest trading partner, followed closely by China, and then Argentina and Germany.

It is clear that with the planet's eighth-largest economy, and a population of just under 186 million people - nearly equaling all the other South American countries combined - Brazil is key to any regional projects. But there is a question over how much Brazil itself is willing to sacrifice to make integration a reality.

"If you look at Brazil in Mercosur, it's like Germany and France combined in the EU. It's by far the most important player, so everything basically depends on Brazil. Germany, for example has made huge efforts to promote integration. Germany has, to a large part, financed integration. It has really given up sovereignty. Brazil, in my opinion is not willing to do either," said Stuenkel.

Despite Brazil's new-found international prominence, Latin America's largest country is still wrestling with its own problems - poverty, inequality, violence, a failing education system and an antiquated tax regime - that Dilma says she will tackle first. For most Brazilians foreign policy was not even an issue in this year's elections.

"For us Brazilians, it wasn't of central importance, but in reality it is one of the most important points," said Fuser. "This Brazilian election was of huge international importance, with global implications."

Dilma may not have the charisma of President Lula, but after five years as Lula's chief of staff, she has proven herself a powerful woman. While some analysts believe that Lula will be directing the new government from behind the scenes, Dilma appears to have already found her own voice on several issues, albeit within the framework of Lula's policies.

"In South America, the Lula government was a force of change and moderation at the same time," said Fuser. "The new Dilma government doesn't see any reason to change direction. At the same time, it also doesn't see any reason for a radicalization."

segunda-feira, 6 de dezembro de 2010

Rio Crackdown—Cleaning Up Drug Gangs to Create the Olympic City

From New America Media

Monday, December 6, 2010

RIO DE JANEIRO—They are calling it: “D Day for the war against drug trafficking.” “Rio’s War.” “Elite Squad 3.” Rio de Janeiro residents are used to living with low-intensity warfare in their own backyard, as gangs and police duke it out in the city’s favelas (slums). But the last couple of weeks have been like nothing residents have ever seen before. They say it’s the largest such operation in Rio’s history and there is likely more to come.

While massive city-wide violence may be the immediate reason for the crackdown, just as important are two events still several years away: the World Cup, which is coming to Brazil in 2014, and the Summer Olympics, set for Rio two years later.

On Thursday, November 25, after days of violence thought to be incited by imprisoned gang leaders, 500 officers from Rio’s police force pushed their way into the Vila Cruzeiro, one of two major narco-trafficking strongholds in the northern part of the city. The officers were backed by six armored tanks lent from the marines—the first time this type of high-powered machinery was used in such an operation.

Knowing they couldn’t hold back the tanks, hundreds of gang members fled from Cruzeiro into the neighboring Complexo do Alemão, actually a mass of 15 favelas with 57,000 residents that has been under the control of drug gangs for three decades.

Three days later, some 2,600 military troops and police officers pushed into the Complexo do Alemão. Although there were small skirmishes, the police took the favela with little resistance, arresting at least 20 gang members and confiscating 13 tons of marijuana, 200 kilos of cocaine and 10 kilos of crack.

Analysts say these sort of police actions could become more common as Brazil’s leaders try to assure the rest of the world, and especially World Cup and Olympics officials, that the country is safe and stable.

Praise for Police—and Concern for Harsh Tactics

The police offensive—like something out of the wildly popular Elite Squad 1 and 2 movies (Tropa de Elite)—earned praise from the mainstream media. In Vila Cruzeiro and Complexo do Alemão, residents offered water to the arriving soldiers and made a record number of calls to the city’s gang hotline, providing tips on the whereabouts of gang members and drug and weapons caches. The overwhelming community support led one BOPE soldier to say that he had “never seen anything like it.”

Yet it seems that many innocent bystanders were also caught up in the raids. Isabel Cristina Jennerjahn, a member of the Network of Movements and Communities Against Violence, confirmed the sense of relief felt by the majority of was Vila Cruzeiro’s residents, but she told the Brazilian weekly Brasil de Fato that many people have also decided to move out. According to Jennerjahn, the BOPE ransacked several homes and prevented family members from collecting the bodies of traffickers killed during the action.

"I have never felt so humiliated," one Complexo do Alemão resident, who asked not to be identified, told IPSNews.net. She said that during the operation, the police smashed homes and mistreated "honest" workers like her cousin, who she said had nothing to do with "the crooks."

Some see a link between the harsh tactics and the fact that 60 percent of the forces involved in the favela occupations have spent time with the Brazil-led U.N. peacekeeping force in Haiti. “We’ve been warning that this would happen for a long time,” said Sandra Quintela of the Jubilee South Network, who has denounced the “constant” repression and human rights abuses carried out by the Brazilian force in that country. “They train there to practice here.”

In Rio, the day after the Vila Cruzeiro action, Amnesty International called on Rio’s police to act within the law.

According to the human rights group, Rio police have killed more than 500 people so far this year in so-called “acts of resistance.”

“This [narco] violence is totally unacceptable, but the police response has put communities at risk,” said Patrick Wilcken, the organization’s Brazil researcher. “The authorities must ensure that the security and well-being of the broader population comes first and foremost in any operation carried out in residential areas. The current wave of criminal violence is symptomatic of wider failures throughout the criminal justice system.”

From Drug Gangs, to Milicias, to UPPs

For many years, the fight between the gangs and police was at a relative, albeit violent, standstill. Payoffs. Skirmishes. Low-intensity warfare. The narcos knew their territory. Where the Police Battalion of Special Operations (BOPE) was able to kick the traffickers out, clandestine milicias sprouted up. Organized largely by plainclothes police and firefighters, these paramilitary groups took control of their areas, charging their own bribes in exchange for service and protection. By 2007, according to an Amnesty International report, milicias controlled 92 of Rio’s 1,000 favelas, and the following year,
a massive investigation by the Rio de Janeiro State Legislative Assembly sent 275 people to prison, including police and elected officials. The investigation reported that milicias controlled 171 communities throughout the state.

A year after Brazil was selected to host the 2014 World Cup, and only months before it was granted the Olympics, police went on the offensive, working to “pacify Rio” by eradicating the gangs from the favelas. Special operations ran the narco-traffickers out of Santa Marta and set up the first Pacifying Police Unit (or UPP, for Unidades de Polícia Pacificadora) just up the hill from the middle-class neighborhood of Botafogo. The UPPs are essentially police units tasked with ensuring that the gangs don’t return.

There are now 13 UPPs across the city, many adjacent to the middle and upper-class neighborhoods in the Zona Sul in southern Rio de Janeiro. To an extent, they have been a success, ridding the neighborhoods of the gangs.

But real estate prices in the areas with UPPs have soared—almost doubling in Santa Marta, for example—which means that many renters who stuck it out through the worst of the gang era are being pushed out by gentrification.

Meanwhile, gang members from the UPP-patrolled areas lashed out by taking their violence to the streets. Some traffickers traveled north, to the poorer end of town, where both Vila Cruzeiro and Complexo do Alemão are located.

More UPPs on the Horizon

The violence that erupted across the city on November 21—precipitating the police assaults—was apparently ordered by jailed gang leaders, in retaliation for creation of the UPPs. Several cars were hijacked and buses torched. The incidents ignited a wave of violence across the city, which, according to O Globo, resulted in 34 deaths and 192 arrests in just four days.

Despite predictions by residents in the Complexo do Alemão that the “circus” would soon be over, the security forces aren’t going away. Rio state governor Sérgio Cabral announced this week that the BOPE and armed troops would occupy the favelas at least through next October, when the city plans to replace them with UPPs.

Meanwhile, with Rio's narco-traffickers on the run, there is enormous pressure on President-elect Dilma Rousseff, the onetime Marxist guerilla who takes over from President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on January 1, to establish UPPs elsewhere around the country.

Many believe the creation of the UPPs is based entirely on the upcoming international sports competitionss. “This is not done to eradicate the drug trafficking— it is to have military control of some strategic areas for the Olympic city that they envision,” Marcelo Freixo, the human rights lawyer largely behind the milicia investigations and a Socialist and Freedom Party (PSOL) member who represents Rio de Janeiro in the state legislature, told Agencia NP.

Freixo and others see a correlation between the UPPs and 10-foot-high containment walls that were built around several poor neighborhoods last year, under the pretext of environmental preservation. Brightly colored sound barriers have also been erected along the major highway from Antonio Carlos Jobim International Airport to the city center, obscuring the view of the poor communities on the other side.

“The UPPs, as well as the acoustic barriers and the walls around the favelas, are part of the Olympic project,” Freixo said. “A project for a city that is going to be very exclusive, a city for the few. We know that Rio is going to go through these problems,” he added, referring to the recent violence and the likelihood of more in the future. “Where you build an Olympic city, you are also creating non-Olympic cities around it.”

This reality was further confirmed on December 2, with the WikiLeaks disclosure of a U.S. State Department document on Brazil:

"The SENASP (the National Secretariat for Public Security, Ministry of Justice) has been put in charge of security for the Olympics and will be coordinating the GOB's overall on-the-ground security efforts. Rio authorities, meanwhile, expressed confidence in the impact the Favela Pacification Plan (Ref d) will have on the city's overall security. The Plan - which involves evicting drug traffickers, establishing a sustained police presence, and providing basic services to favela residents - envisions the "pacification" of over 100 favela communities by 2016."

quinta-feira, 2 de dezembro de 2010

Celebrating Brazilian Samba Day (December 2nd)

Since most people are unable to celebrate Brazil's Samba Day in person, this is the next best thing. Several playlists with Samba, Pagode, Adoniran Barbosa, Paulinho da Viola, Zeca Pagodinho and more.

quarta-feira, 1 de dezembro de 2010

South of the Ballot Box

Here's a great review of our 2008 documentary, Beyond Elections, by NACLA's Todd Miller.

"After the midterm elections in November, headlines throughout the United States trumpeted the news of the great Republican comeback. The voters had spoken, and once again it was time to go home and wait until the next opportunity to vote. But what if elections weren’t the exclusive focus of democratic practice? Anyone interested in the question of radical democracy, more in practice than in theory, would do well to watch Beyond Elections. The documentary turns to the urban neighborhoods, rural communities, immigrant organizations, and worker collectives that span the Americas, from Argentina to the Bronx—all of them experimenting with collective decision making in the spaces where they live and work." To read more. To watch the film, visit www.beyondelections.com

Wikileaks- US & Honduras

Great article from Robert Naiman, analyzing wikileaks info from the US on Honduras... "By July 24, 2009, the US government was totally clear about the basic facts of what took place in Honduras on June 28, 2009. The US embassy in Tegucigalpa sent a cable to Washington with the subject, "Open and Shut: The Case of the Honduran Coup," asserting that "there is no doubt" that the events of June 28 "constituted an illegal and unconstitutional coup." More here.

segunda-feira, 29 de novembro de 2010

Brazilian Police Take Another Gang Stronghold in Rio

Brazil's military and police took the second of two major narco-trafficking strongholds in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday. 2600 military and police took part in the operation into the Complexo do Alemão. Although there were small skirmishes, the police took the favela with little resistance. The Complexo do Alemão is home to more than 50,000 residents. Narco-traffickers have controlled the slum for three decades. Police arrested at least twenty gang members, and confiscated 13 tons of marijuana, 200 kilos of cocaine and 10 kilos of crack. Officials across Brazil applauded the operation as historic. With Rio's narco-traffickers on the run, there is more pressure than ever for future President Dilma Rousseff to establish the Pacifying Police Units (UPP) elsewhere around the country. More on the UPP, from last Friday's blog post.

sábado, 27 de novembro de 2010

Violent Calm

Deep violent veins streak through the ever-expanding sky before me,
Like a boat navigating though the waters below,
And I on this grand porch, like something from decades, centuries past,
Staring out on the landscape below.

I am both one and yet another.
The vibrant colors of the setting sun reflected in the clear and calms waters,
The yellow lights dotting the hillsides
The tropical mountainside,
The vegetation.

I am a sailor,
Charting my course,
Standing watch,
Watching the sun sink low, and be swallowed up by the ocean.

Thick shape-less clouds slowly march north.
Slowly, calmly, curiously, and incessant.

Calm, yes, calm,
That is the word.

The churchgoers sing in the colonial capela next door.


And yet, just a couple dozen miles away, rests all eternity.
Waiting. Stalemate. Preparation. Ready for attack.
Movement. Confusion. No turning back. Rio is burning.

The calm before the storm.

And it will come like a fury.
Perhaps late evening or some early morning,
Like a dragon, like a disease, upon the Complexo Alemão,

Like something out of District 9, like something out of a Hollywood action thriller. It will not be pretty. It will not be quick. Many lives will be lost.
Many dreams cut short. And these deep violent violet veins streaking across the ever-expanding sky before me. Now calmly blanketing the sky before me, in the direction of Rio.

sexta-feira, 26 de novembro de 2010

Rio Violence & Olympic Dreams

They are calling it: “D Day for the war against drug trafficking”. “Rio’s War”. “Elite Squad 3”. Rio de Janeiro residents are used to living with low-intensity warfare in their own backyard, as gangs and police duke it out in the city’s favelas (slums). But this Thursday was like nothing residents had ever seen before. They say it’s the largest such operation in Rio’s history and there is likely more to come.

After days of violence, 500 officers from Rio’s police force pushed their way into the Vila Cruzeiro on Thursday. The officers were backed by six armored tanks lent from the marines—the first time this type of high-powered machinery was used in such an operation. Knowing they couldn’t hold back the tanks, hundreds of gang members fled from Cruzeiro into the neighboring Complexo do Alemão, actually a mass of 15 favelas and home to a little over 57,000 residents.

Both Vila Cruzeiro and Complexo do Alemão, in Northern Rio de Janeiro have been strongholds of Rio’s narco-trafficking gangs, at a time when their territory has been quickly disappearing.

For many years, the fight between the gangs and police was at a relative, albeit violent, standstill. Payoffs. Skirmishes. Low intensity warfare. They knew their territory. Where the Police Battalion of Special Operations (BOPE) was able to kick the traffickers out, clandestine milicias sprouted up. Organized largely by plainclothes police and firemen, these paramilitary groups took control of the region, charging their own bribes in exchange for service and protection. According to a 2007 report by Amnesty International, at the time milicia controlled 92 of Rio’s 1000 favelas.

With the World Cup (2014) and Olympics (2016) on the way, however, the city police force stepped up operations. Like a scene out of the 2007 Brazilian film "Elite Squad" (Tropa de Elite), the police began to work to “pacify Rio”, by eradicating the gangs from the favelas. In 2008, special operations ran the narco-traffickers out of Santa Marta, and set up the first Pacifying Police Unit (UPP-Unidade de Polícia Pacificadora), just up the hill from the middle-class neighborhood of Botafogo. The UPP are essentially police units set up in poor communities, with the goal of ensuring that the gangs don’t return.

There are now 13 across the city, many next to the middle-upper class neighborhoods in the Zona Sul or Southern Rio de Janeiro. More are planed. To an extent, they have been a success. These neighborhoods are free of the gangs (and it appears milicia, although only one UPP so far has been set up in an area formerly controlled by the milicia). They are now also experiencing a housing market boom. In Santa Marta, for example, prices have doubled. Unfortunately, this means that many families that were renting, and who stuck it out through the worst, are now are being pushed out by gentrification because they can't afford to pay the rent.

Meanwhile, the gang members had to go somewhere. Violence in the streets increased. Others traveled North to the poorer end of town.

Last Sunday, in what appears to be an order from imprisoned gang leaders in retaliation to the construction of the UPPs, several cars were hijacked and buses torched. The incidents ignited a wave of violence across the city, which according to O Globo, has culminated in 34 deaths and 192 arrests since Sunday. Nearly a hundred cars, buses and vans were set ablaze. 150 schools were temporarily closed and university classes suspended. Thirteen prisoners in Catanduvas Maximum Security Prison in Parana have been transferred to the state of Northern state of Rondônia. Authorities in Rio de Janeiro have asked to transfer another eight prisoners out of state.

The Rio police department now says an attack on the Complexo do Alemão is inevitable, and will take place within the next six months. Defense Minister Nelson Jobim has promised to support the raid with 800 troops from the armed forces.

What is going on? What changed?

Analysts in today’s O Globo compared Rio to the Middle East. Compared the gangs to terrorists and Mexico’s drug cartels. But Rio’s narco-traffickers are nothing new. They have been around for decades. At the heart of the question are the UPPs and the Olympics.

“The UPPs are a project to militarily retake certain areas of interest to the city,” Marcelo Freixo, PSOL representative to the Rio de Janeiro state legislature, told Agencia NP this week. “This is not done to eradicate the drug trafficking, it is to have military control of some strategic areas for the Olympic city that they envision.

Freixo should know, he is a human rights lawyer and the man largely behind a massive investigation into the milicias, which sent 275 people to prison, including police and elected officials.

Last year, along with the creation of the first UPPs, under the pretext of environmental preservation, 10-Foot high containment walls were built around several poor neighborhoods. Sound barriers were recently erected alongside the major highway from Antonio Carlos Jobim International Airport to the city center, blurring the view of the poor communities just beyond the brightly colored panels.

“The UPPs as well as the acoustic barriers and the walls around the favelas are part of the Olympic project. A project for a city that is going to be very exclusive, a city for the few,” said Freixo, then referring to the recent violence. “We know that Rio is going to go through these problems. Where you build an Olympic city, you are also creating non-Olympic cities around it.”

Those looking for a little context, should check out the Brazilian films, Elite Squad 1 & 2.

quinta-feira, 25 de novembro de 2010

Dilms Begins To Select Her Team

Brazilian President-Elect Dilma Rousseff has begun to select her team. Mercopress reported this week that “economist Alexandre Tombini will be the next president of the central bank; economist Guido Mantega will continue as Finance minister and engineer Miriam Belchoir coordinator of PAC (program to bolster growth) will become Planning and Budget minister.”

quarta-feira, 24 de novembro de 2010

Culture, Land and Resistance: Brazilians Celebrate Black Consciousness Day

From Toward Freedom

Tuesday, 23 November, 2010
The Zumbi statue

Over this past weekend Brazilians celebrated the annual Black Consciousness day, commemorating the anniversary of the death of Zumbi dos Palmares, Brazil’s most important black hero. Brazil is South America’s largest country and home to the largest black population outside of Africa.

Commemorations began early, just after dawn. Afro-Brazilian community and religious leaders climbed up the pyramid at the base of the statue and ceremoniously washed the bust of Zumbi dos Palmares.

“It’s really important for us to receive this strength from our eternal fighter, Zumbi, and you can feel his presence in the moment,” said Mestre Kotoquinho, who helped to lead a group of Afro-Brazilian Afoxe musicians and performers.

“Today, Zumbi dos Palmares is a national hero. He is in the national heroes pantheon. This was an accomplishment of the Black Movement, and it makes us very proud,” said Nayt Junior, a member of the black movement and Brazil’s National Program on Africa. “So today, the day of black consciousness, is a day for reflection about inequality and our fight for social equality.”

Zumbi was the leader of the historic Palmares Quilombo, the largest and most famous of the autonomous villages formed by runaway slaves throughout Brazil. At its height as many as 20,000 people may have lived in the Palmares Quilombo before it was destroyed in 1695 by the military.

According to Junior, there are still 2400 identified quilombos across Brazil. But only a couple hundred have been officially recognized by the Brazilian government. The rest are still fighting for their land titles.

“The process of granting land titles is very slow. We even think that there isn’t that much of an interest on the part of the government to hand over these land titles,” said Yvone de Mattos Bernardo, a resident of the Maria Conga de Mage Quilombo in Rio de Janeiro, which is among those yet to be recognized.

Mattos Bernardo points some of the blame on the powerful lobby of large landowners in the Brazilian Congress, which she says “are doing everything they can to turn over decree 4887 which President Lula made in 2003, which created the process which gives the right to quilombos to receive the legal titles to their land.”

Outgoing Brazilian President Luis Inácio “Lula” da Silva paid more attention to racial equality than his predecessors. Less than two weeks after taking office, he signed law 10.639, mandated the teaching of Afro-Brazilian history in schools and established November 20th as Black Consciousness Day in the school calendar. While Black Consciousness Day is not yet officially a national holiday, it is celebrated across the nation and recognized as a holiday in several states, including Rio de Janeiro.

“I think very significant progress has been made, with the signing of this law and the creation of the SEPPIR, the Secretary for the Promotion of Racial Equality. It’s a secretary with the status of ministry, and this is the first time a secretary was created to specifically think about these issues,” said Fernanda Felisberto the co-owner of Kitabu, one of what she says is only four bookstores in Brazil focusing exclusively on black issues, and the only one in Rio de Janeiro.

In Rio, celebrations continued throughout the day. A seemingly endless line of Samba groups performed on the main stage while members of Afro-Brazilian Umbanda and Candoble religions danced nearby, their long white dresses billowing to the ground. In a nearby circle, jogadores (players) practiced the Afro-Brazilian martial art, Capoeira, to the rhythm of the berimbau, pandeiro, and singing.

“Capoeira is a martial art, disguised as a dance, which the slaves did to confuse their owners. It was a dance, but they were actually practicing their martial art. That’s really important,” said Joåo Enrique Junior, of the Ouro Preto Capoeira group, and one of those in the circle. “It’s not just an art, it’s a way of expressing your feelings. It’s not just a fight, it’s everything.”

The festivities were held at the foot of the Zumbi statue in Praça Onze, at the heart of what was once one of Rio de Janeiro’s most emblematic Afro-Brazilian neighborhoods, the region that coined the name “favela” and the birthplace of the first samba groups. Ironically, the community was bulldozed in 1941 to make way for the massive fourteen-lane President Vargas Avenue. Rio’s samba stadium a few blocks away, and the bust of Zumbi are a few remaining links to the past. As is another statue, this in Praça Quinze de Novembro, Rio’s historic center, where the figure of João Candido Felisberto stands watch over Rio’s Guanabara Bay.

It was here that the black leader led the Chibata Revolt exactly one hundred years ago. On November 22nd, 1910, after a fellow sailor was whipped 250 times, João Candido and hundreds of black sailors took control of their ship. Sailors on three other vessels followed the lead, directing their canons towards the city of Rio de Janeiro, then Brazil’s capital. They demanded an end to the practice of whipping in the Brazilian navy, and within five days the President Hermes da Fonseca succumbed. But the Brazilian government quickly rescinded on their promise to grant amnesty to the rebelling soldiers. Hundreds were discharged from the navy, rounded up, imprisoned, and killed. João Candido was only released two years later.

This year’s festivities in Rio paid special homage to João Candido. Across town, the grassroots group, Union and Eyes Alive Popular Theater performed their play on the Chibata Revolt.

“This is so important because João Candido along with Zumbi dos Palmares, as well as many other great leaders, is unfortunately not recognized by the official history and literature,” said Oswaldo Ribeiro, who acted the part of João Candido in the performance. “So presenting this play, João Candido of Brazil: The Chibata Revolt, is bringing to society the recognition and value of blacks, and the historic and social participation of blacks in this country.”

Brazil is the country with the largest black population outside of Africa. According to the Brazilian Geography and Statistics Institute (IBGE), in 2008, people who self-identify as brown or black made up over half the Brazilian population of 183 million people. Throughout the country, however, racism and discrimination is still widespread and institutional.

According to a 2009 IBGE study, over the last decade racial equality has improved slightly, but it is still drastically skewed. Whites in Brazil have on average nearly two years more education than blacks. Nearly 15% of whites in Brazil have a college education, compared with only 5% of blacks. Over 70% of the poorest sector of society are black and brown, while 80% of the richest one percent is white. The same study in 2007 stated that more than two-thirds of the illiterate population in Brazil are black and brown. Whites make roughly 40% more than blacks with the same education.

“They say this country was founded on racial democracy,” says bookstore owner, Felisberto. “That’s the biggest lie here. It was through Black Movement struggle that we even achieved a date that had to do with our identity.”

In 1888, Brazil was the last country in the Western hemisphere to officially abolish slavery. For many years, blacks celebrated May 13th, the day of abolition.

“But it was absolutely cruel for us to commemorate that date, because we know the state of the black population in this country. For us it is fundamental for this day to reference a national black hero like Zumbi instead of May 13 – that was the date that Princess Isabel, the white Portuguese Princess, signed the law to free the slaves.

Members of the Black Movement in Brazil's southernmost state of Rio Grande do Sul first began to celebrate November 20th as Black Consciousness day in the early 1970s.

“Today is a day to celebrate, it is a day for play, but tomorrow reality comes once again. We are going to find blacks in line for the bus, in line for the hospital, being assassinated by the authorities, often without even being asked who they are,” says Baptist Preacher João Carlos Araujo, a member of the Black Movement and Vice President of the Brazilian Ecumenical Commission Against Racism, who attended the Black Consciousness Day festivities.

Araujo says reparations are needed, as is more profound affirmative action. He, like many at the celebration are optimistic that President-elect, Dilma Rousseff, will continue Lula’s policies, and further confront the disparate inequalities in Brazilian society. But they are quick to affirm that there is a long way to go for true equality.

Brazilian Foreign Policy under Dilma: Interview with Igor Fuser

From Americas Program

Tuesday, 23 November, 2010

On Oct. 31, Brazilians elected their new president, Worker’s Party (PT) candidate, Dilma Rousseff. Over the last eight years, President Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva, has turned the world’s attention to Brazil like never before, as his country has increasingly participated on the international scene.

To understand what this will look like under the Dilma government, I sat down with Igor Fuser, international journalist and Professor at the Cásper Libero University in São Paulo. Fuser has a Masters degree in International Relations and is the author of the book “Petroleum and Power: U.S. Military Involvement in the Persian Gulf.”

What are some of the things that most stood out in Brazilian regional foreign policy under Lula. How was it so different from foreign policy under previous Brazilian governments?

Lula’s election and the eight years of the Lula government profoundly changed Brazilian foreign policy. It is one of the areas where the contrast between the policies of the Lula government and [the previous government of] Fernando Henrique Cardoso was most evident.

Historically throughout the 20th century, Brazil acted in a way that was rooted in recognizing U.S. hegemony. From the beginning of the Baron of Rio Branco[1], the founding father of Brazilian diplomacy in the beginning of the 20th Century, Brazil recognized the leadership of the United States and was a candidate to be number two after the U.S.—to be a sub-hegemon. So it was a partner with the United States, and by delegation, a leader in South American or Latin America, but always with the auxiliary support of the U.S. and this caused a lot of resentment and conflicts with the neighbors, above all Argentina, which never accepted Brazil’s position.

Under Lula, Brazil adopted another position. Brazil joined with other countries like Venezuela and Argentina and—although they don’t say this in their diplomatic discourse—they put themselves in opposition to the Monroe doctrine. Brazil began to consider South America as an autonomous geopolitical region, separate from the United States and not subordinated to the hegemony of the U.S.

The defining moment in Brazilian foreign policy was the thumbs down to the FTAA (Free Trade Area of the Americas). Former president Fernando Henrique had been in favor of the FTAA, but he didn’t have the conditions to carry it out. The Lula government adopted a position clearly against the FTAA and pointed Brazil in another direction, under the banner of Unasur (the Union of South American Nations), the push to strengthen relations within Mercosur (The Common Market of the South), and a series of positions contrary to the United States on many levels in the region. Other examples are the support for [Venezuelan President Hugo] Chavez against destabilization attempts, and rejection of the coup d’état in Honduras that had the implicit support of the U.S. government–not necessarily the entire Obama government, but very influential sectors of the Obama administration. The posture of the Brazilian government in Honduras was another defining moment of Brazil’s autonomous position in the regional and hemispheric context.

What are the possibilities for Dilma to be able to continue this? How will foreign policy be under her government?

The outlook is for the continuation of the policies of the Lula government. In Brazil, Itamaraty, the Ministry of Foreign Relations, has a lot of autonomy, and the group that is in charge of Itamaraty should remain at the helm. The most notable person in this group is the Minister of Foreign Affairs Celso Amorim. He won’t necessarily be the next chancellor. We’ve heard the name Antonio Patriota, who is part of Amorim’s group.

So the outlook is for the continuation of the same foreign policy. However, this is a foreign policy that cannot be summed up in two or three words. It is not an anti-American foreign policy. It is a foreign policy that looks for cooperation with the United States, and looks for the best possible relations with the United States, but not in terms of subordination.

A good way to understand Brazilian foreign policy is to compare it with the defeated candidate, Jose Serra. What was Serra’s proposal? To reduce South-South cooperation and relocate the political axis of Brazilian foreign policy to the traditional partners, basically the United States and Western Europe, in detriment to initiatives such as Mercosur and Unasur. So with the defeat of Serra and the Dilma government, Brazil should expand its ties with the so-called South. With India, China, South Africa. The emphasis of multipolarity should be maintained and eventually increase, depending on the current international context.

What does the recent U.S. midterm congressional elections mean for U.S.-Brazil relations?

The first prognosis made by sectors close to the Lula government is that the Republican victory in the U.S. legislative elections strengthens the certainty of Brazil depending less on its ties with the United States.

The political sector that supports the Dilma government is also very skeptical of U.S. measures to combat the economic crisis. The expectation is for the crisis to continue and to become even worse over the coming years in the United States. An intensification of the crisis in the United States makes the U.S. less important for the Brazilian market or as a source of investment for Brazil. This evaluation confirms the Brazilian decision to try to combat the crisis basically with its own means.

The comparison can be made between Brazil and Mexico. The country in Latin America that most tied itself to the United States was Mexico and when the U.S. went into crisis, Mexico was hit even worse. Mexico is drowning in a profound crisis; the U.S. crisis completely dragged Mexico down.

On the contrary, Brazil came out of the crisis really well. Brazil based itself on its domestic market, with its own accumulation of capital, with its state businesses, with its ties to its South American neighbors, and the government is convinced that this is the way to go.

The new government doesn’t see any reason to change direction. At the same time, it also doesn’t see any reason for a radicalization. In South America, the Lula government is a force of change and moderation at the same time. It is an extremely cautious foreign policy. It is a pragmatic foreign policy. It is a progressive, reformist, autonomist foreign policy, but it is not a foreign policy that challenges the center of world power, or the United States. It is not a leftist foreign policy or in any way a revolutionary foreign policy. But it is a foreign policy that creates a more favorable context for more transformations in South America.

Can you imagine if Serra had won? We would have a right-wing conservative foreign policy, aligned with the most conservative sectors of the United States. A foreign policy that would put itself immediately in a hostile position toward the most progressive experiences in South America. If Serra had won the Brazilian elections, and not Dilma, it would have been a disaster for Bolivia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Argentina, Paraguay, Cuba, the Mexican left and for the possibilities of progress in Peru.

For us Brazilians the international dimension of these elections in Brazil wasn’t that important, but in reality it is one of the most important points. This Brazilian election was of huge international importance, with global implications. The possibility of a multipolar world is dependent on having a center-left, left-wing government here in Brazil, which was the Lula government and now will be continued by Dilma.

In April of this year, Brazil and the United States signed a military cooperation agreement. What does this mean, what will it mean for Dilma, and what exactly is this military agreement?

As much as I know, it has to do with Brazilian access to American military technology and arms. I don’t know how far-reaching it is. You can understand this agreement within the pragmatic vision of Brazilian foreign policy, which is a foreign policy that isn’t against cooperation with the United States. The United States is seen as a friend and partner, like many other friends and partners. Lula said, “my friend Bush” when George W. Bush came to Brazil. But he also says, “my friend Chavez.” He even said, “my friend Ahmadinejad.” Everyone is Lula’s “friend.” This is a partially Lula’s personal style, but it also reflects the pragmatism of Brazil’s position in the world.

You said that everyone is a “friend” for Lula. Will it be the same thing for Dilma?

Without a doubt. Of course Lula and Dilma have very different personalities. But Dilma thinks the same way as Lula, and Dilma would never distance herself from what Lula would do. To the contrary of what the conservative press says, Dilma is a woman who is very well prepared. She has her own ideas. She thinks with her own head. She isn’t just a bureaucrat that Lula chose and put there. She has a history. She was a left-wing activist in her youth. She was an activist in the Democratic Labor Party of Leonel Brizola, before the PT, but at no point will she distance herself from Lula’s direction.

Lula is still the great figure in Brazilian politics, even if he has no position in the government. I don’t think he will comment often, because Lula is interested in Dilma truly exercising her role in the presidency. So Lula will not be the Brazilian “Putin.” Vladimir Putin is no longer president, but he is the Prime Minister. Lula will be traveling around the world. He’s going to set up his Institute. He’s going to give an interview every once in a while, but he’s not going to interfere in the daily Brazilian affairs. Lula will only be called upon if there is really a moment of crisis, and Dilma is attacked by the opposition. Then it is possible that he will be called to support Dilma. But on the other hand, Dilma is going to follow his lead. Dilma’s team in the government is going to be made up of the same people that already hold positions in the Lula government.

With respect to regional integration, Unasur, Mercosur, and Bilateral cooperation between Venezuela and other countries. Do you believe the forecast is that all of these are going to continue?

Yes, but that is not necessarily an optimistic forecast. The problems of regional integration in South America do not just depend on the political will of the governments. The Brazilian government is not Brazil. Brazil is much more than the government. Brazil is the government, society, and in terms of foreign affairs, Brazilian relations are represented above all by the businesses.

There is a lot of resistance of Brazilian businessmen to Mercosur. There is even greater resistance to Unasur. And the policy of regional integration in Brazil is in itself contradictory. It is a policy that has an element of solidarity and cooperation, and there is another element that is the expansion of Brazilian capitalism into the neighboring countries, which is hegemonic. So this contradictory aspect of Brazilian foreign policy is going to be inherited by the Dilma government. And nothing indicates that the Dilma government is going to take decisive action to overcome this contradiction.

The problem is the following. Any project of regional integration that involves the commercial sector, automatically means that Brazilian industry invades the neighboring countries, asphyxiating the possibility of local development. So the question of asymmetry[2] is very serious, it’s a huge obstacle to be removed.

Brazilian foreign policy, especially over the last few years of the Lula government, has emphasized that our integration needs to be less commercial and more structural, geared towards physical infrastructure, energy projects, joint development and industrial projects, but this is very theoretical. Physical infrastructure has progressed, albeit less than expected. However, at the end of the day, the defining areas of integration continue to be in commerce.

So, the goal of region integration should be maintained by the Dilma government, but at the same time, there are obstacles. And in order to remove these obstacles, you would need a new coalition of forces, which doesn’t exist. Dilma’s electoral victory took place within the framework of a coalition of forces that isn’t essentially different than the previous. It’s slightly more favorable. We can’t forget that it wasn’t just Dilma’s victory. The government, led by the PT, has a very significant majority in the congress. This gives the government more freedom to act. The capacity of an effective opposition of the conservative forces in the congress is less than it was under the Lula government. At the same time, this isn’t a left-wing congress. It is allied to the government, which is united above all by very specific interests, but it does not necessarily support the government ideologically.

Brazil’s foreign policies will also depend on the economic situation. The maintenance of favorable macroeconomic conditions in Brazil will leave the government with more freedom to act. The opposite is also true. If conditions of the Brazilian economy get worse, this will fuel the opposition and will take Brazil into a more cautious position on every level, including foreign policy.


[1] José Maria da Silva Paranhos, Jr., (1845 — 1912). Brazilian Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1902-1912. He is recognized for successfully defining the country’s borders with all of its neighbors.

[2] In this case, speaking of the asymmetrical relations between the South American countries. Brazil is by far the largest country in the region, with the strongest economy. As Fuser points out countries like Argentine and Uruguay experienced periods of de-industrialization during the Neoliberal 1990s and it is difficult for them to compete with Brazilian big business.

quinta-feira, 18 de novembro de 2010

quarta-feira, 17 de novembro de 2010

III Continental Meeting of the Guaraní in Asuncion

Indigenous Guaraní from Paraguay, Bolivia, Brazil and Argentina are meeting this week in Asuncion, Paraguay for the Third Continental Meeting of the Guaraní. The first two took place in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil in 2006 and 2007.

During the meeting they are discussing land rights, self-determination, sovereignty, legal tools in the defense of their struggle, autonomous organizing, political participation, and working together across country boarders.

sexta-feira, 5 de novembro de 2010

Dilma do PT vence a oposição e a mídia hostil e se transforma na primeira mulher presidente do Brasil

de CIP Americas Program

Segunda-Feira, 5 de Novembro, 2010

A Candidata do Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT), Dilma Rousseff, será a primeira mulher presidente na história brasileira. Ela foi eleita esse domingo, 31 de outubro, com um pouco mais de 56 por cento dos votos, vencendo o candidato conservador José Serra por doze pontos. Em seu discurso de vitória, Dilma clamou pela união e agradeceu ao presidente cessante Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva. Os apoiadores da Dilma foram às ruas, enchendo a avenida Paulista, em São Paulo.

Mas a vitória não foi fácil. O debate do segundo turno girou em torno de temas como aborto, religião, escândalos, e uma mídia deliberadamente focada em derrotar o representante da esquerda.

“O debate eleitoral este ano não foi como esperávamos, um debate sobre as propostas para o país, para o desenvolvimento e inclusão social”, disse Celso Woyciechowski, presidente da maior federação de trabalhadores do Brasil, a CUT, no estado do Rio Grande do Sul.

“Infelizmente, o debate se polarizou em questões que são importantes, mas não são prioridade em termos de propostas para o país. Especialmente quando o candidato José Serra tentou focar em questões que dividem a sociedade, como aborto e religião,” disse Celso.

Essas questões foram predominantes no debate um mês atrás, tendo ambos os candidatos buscado atrair os votos de evangélicos que apoiaram a candidata do Partido Verde Marina Silva no primeiro turno, em grande parte responsáveis pelos seus notáveis 20% dos votos. Serra opôs-se firmemente ao aborto, baseado no que ele chamou de seus “valores cristãos”. A candidata do PT, Dilma Rousseff, foi mais sutil sobre o tema, dizendo-se a favor do aborto em casos extremos. Muitos acreditam que ela tenha sido pressionada a não adotar uma postura mais progressiva pelo debate eleitoral e pela Igreja Católica.

De acordo com o Instituto Brasileiro de Estatística, IBOPE, por volta de 70% da população brasileira são contra o aborto, mas muitos brasileiros afirmam que o mesmo não deveria ser tema de campanha.

“É covardia levar esse tema para o debate eleitoral. Nunca se levantou este assunto em uma séria discussão democrática em que todos pudessem se expressar, especialmente as vítimas. Em vez disso, eles levantam o tema no calor do momento eleitoral para derrubar o seu adversário de forma antidemocrática,” diz Cristóvão Feil, sociólogo e editor do blog Dario Gauche há quatro anos.

A mídia entrou na questão e criticou fortemente o posicionamento brando da Dilma, enfraquecendo a sua liderança nas pesquisas.

Em 10 de outubro, O Globo, o jornal do maior canal de televisão brasileiro, publicou a manchete: “O aborto ilegal mata uma mulher a cada dois dias.” Apenas no final do artigo, em uma das páginas de trás o artigo menciona que a maioria dessas mortes se referem a mulheres pobres que não têm outra opção que não se submeter a procedimentos perigosos em clínicas clandestinas – um problema que poderia ser solucionado tratando-se o aborto como um problema de saúde pública como muitos já solicitaram, inclusive o presidente Luis Inacio “Lula” da Silva e Maria Jose Rosado Nunes, coordenador da ONG Católicos pelo direito de Decisão. (1)

Doze páginas no mesmo jornal, outra manchete que diz: “Lula admite: a disputa está mais difícil”. À mesma se seguiu um artigo tão longo quanto intitulado: “Líderes de Estado serão o Triunfo de Serra”.

“A mídia está basicamente fazendo campanha para o candidato [Serra]”, diz Jefferson Pinheiro essa semana, membro do coletivo de mídia local, que já tem seis anos, Catarse, em Porto Alegre.

“Muitas vezes eles ignoram completamente as éticas jornalísticas, manipulam abertamente, omitem informações. E, embora nós já esperássemos isso da mídia, o que já é desencorajador, nesta eleição, em especial, eles ultrapassaram todos os limites.”

A mídia cobriu amplamente a esposa de José Serra, Monica, que acusou a Dilma de ser a favor da “matança de bebês” enquanto fazia campanha com o candidato a vice-presidente do seu marido, Indio da Costa (DEM), no estado do Rio de Janeiro, em setembro. (2) Ironicamente, Monica levou inadvertidamente o vigor da mídia com relação ao tema do aborto a um fim abrupto em meados de outubro, quando vazou a informação de que ela mesmo teve um aborto. (3)

Quando parecia que os candidatos chegariam a um debate real, saiu a notícia, em outubro, de que José Serra foi atingido por um projétil durante a sua campanha no Rio de Janeiro. Serra tirou folga pela manhã e culpou os violentos apoiadores da Dilma. A rede de televisão do Rio, a Globo, rapidamente editou um vídeo mostrando o ataque. No fim das contas, o objeto era uma bola de papel. Bloguistas ridicularizaram o exagero da mídia. Até mesmo empregados da Globo de São Paulo expressaram a sua vergonha em serem associados à produção.

Na mídia impressa, a Folha de São Paulo foi exposta por publicar fichas criminais falsas da Dilma Rousseff, e outros jornais publicaram histórias do seu envolvimento alegado em seqüestros enquanto lutava contra a ditadura brasileira. Durante toda a campanha, a revista de direita Veja publicou semanalmente histórias ligando Dilma a escândalos de corrupção e mostrando o seu partido como uma besta faminta por poder.

“As matérias de capa da revista Veja, por exemplo, uma após a outra são criminais. O que eles estão fazendo de fato encosta no criminal, pois são desinformações, informações fora de contexto, mentiras muitas vezes, e eles sem dúvida influenciarão o voto de muitas pessoas”, diz Pinheiro.

Pouco após o primeiro turno das eleições deste ano, membros de movimentos sociais, sindicatos, e mídia independente do Brasil protestaram, em São Paulo, contra o que eles chamaram de golpe de mídia em andamento. O presidente cessante Lula da Silva reiterou na semana passada que a mídia brasileira está nas mãos de 9-10 famílias.

O Brasil tem uma longa história de manipulação da mídia. A ditadura de 20 anos (1964-1984) era muito ligada à mídia corporativa do Brasil. Alguns analistas especulam que o presidente Lula da Silva perdeu a sua primeira eleição à presidência da república em 1989 devido à cobertura manipulada pela Rede Globo de Televisão. O documentário britânico de 1993, Beyond Citizen Kane (Muito Além do Cidadão Kane), de Simon Hartog salienta o papel mordaz da Rede Globo e do seu poderoso dono Roberto Marinho.

“No Brasil, nós não temos um monopólio, o que temos é um oligopólio”, diz Pinheiro. “Mais de 90% de toda a informação, notícias e jornalismo que são produzidos no Brasil estão nas mãos de seis grandes grupos, que são grupos de empresários. Como nós sabemos em todo o planeta, a comunicação nas mãos de empresários serve aos seus interesses políticos e econômicos na defesa da sua classe social, que tem o poder econômico.”

Os três maiores conglomerados são Abril, Globo e Band. A Abril controla o mercado editorial brasileiro e também é dona da MTV Brasil. Sete das dez revistas mais lidas no país são propriedade da Abril, inclusive a Veja que é a revista semanal com a maior circulação no mundo fora dos Estados Unidos. A Globo tem a maior rede de televisão do país, controlando 340 canais e afiliados pelo o Brasil. A Band, ou o Grupo de Comunicação Bandeirantes lidera com a cobertura de esportes com 144 canais e 22 afiliados.

Mas apesar do histórico de tendências da mídia, analistas de base afirmam que este ano a cobertura da mídia está ainda pior do que o normal.

“A campanha entre o partido do Serra e a mídia corporativa foi mais articulada, utilizando técnicas das eleições dos Estados Unidos com Sarah Palin,” diz Claudia Cardoso, uma ativista de mídia de longa data e coordenadora regional do congresso de comunicação nacional. “Eles estavam organizados. Representantes de jornais, rádio e TV se encontraram em março deste ano e se organizaram para essa campanha. Isso é que é mais preocupante.

Em uma excelente análise da tendência da mídia durante a campanha, o jornalista Alexandre Haubrich escreveu em seu blog, Jornalismo B, em 20 de outubro:

“Nessa campanha, nós vemos a imprensa dominante se organizando contra o governo Lula e a candidatura de Dilma Rousseff, principalmente através de três dos seus jornais (Folha de São Paulo, Estadão e O Globo), duas revistas (Veja e Época) e um canal de televisão (TV Globo). Através de acusações constantes em artigos e ataques diretos em editoriais, os jornais cumpriram o poderoso papel de despolitizar a campanha, e oferecer questões ao debate que têm pouco ou nada a ver com propostas mais amplas para o país.”

De acordo com Cardoso, a mídia brasileira consegue de se safar de coisas das quais não conseguiria em outro lugar, pois o conteúdo e a propriedade da mídia são completamente desreguladas. O Brasil não tem um comitê regulatório como a Comissão Federal de Comunicações dos Estados Unidos (U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC)). O coletivo de mídia, Intervozes, diz que mesmo que a tentativa da FCC de desregulamentação da consolidação da mídia tivesse sido aprovada em 2004, ainda assim os Estados Unidos teriam leis mais fortes do que o Brasil. (5)

“Quando se tem uma mídia que funciona ferozmente, que não é regulada, e não há formas de participação da sociedade na mudança da sua forma de funcionamento, a mídia pode fazer o que quiser. E este é o problema, a falta de regulação,” diz Cardoso.

Essa é uma das questões que ela espera que a Dilma resolva uma vez assumido o poder. Mas ela terá um longo caminho à frente. Centenas de políticos brasileiros por todo o país são parceiros ou diretores de mídia. Dezenas de senadores e representantes do congresso têm profundas ligações com a mídia corporativa. (6) É um lobby forte e uma voz poderosa.

Em setembro, o presidente Lula criticou a mídia por agir “como partidos políticos.” A imprensa brasileira respondeu que ele estava tentando limitar a liberdade de expressão. O presidente da Agência Inter-Americana de Imprensa (IAPA Inter-American Press Agency), Alejandro Aguirre, chamou os comentários do Lula de “perigosos”.

“Nós estamos muito preocupados com a situação no Brasil. Em outras declarações nós expressamos isso, mas estamos esperançosos de que a pessoa que substituir o Sr. Lula da Silva como presidente respeite os direitos civis e humanos, e o direito de expressão como a pedra angular da democracia,” disse Aguirre à Globo. (7) O fato de a IAPA ter as suas próprias ligações históricas ao “oligopólio” e às antigas ditaduras latino-americanas foi ignorado. (8)

Existe um crescente movimento de democracia de mídia no Brasil. Em dezembro do ano passado, 1500 representantes da mídia independente e comunitária do Brasil encontraram-se para o primeiro Congresso Nacional de Comunicação. O objetivo era dar os primeiros passos em direção a algo como a nova lei argentina de mídia aprovada no ano passado.

A lei argentina destinou dois terços do espectro de rádio e TV para estações não-comerciais, e requereu que os canais utilizassem mais conteúdos argentinos. Também obrigou a companhia de mídia líder do país, Grupo Clarin, a vender várias das suas holdings. (9)

Mas o Brasil ainda tem um longo caminho pela frente. O presidente Lula não apresentou nenhuma das propostas do Congresso de Comunicação para as agências legislativas do Brasil para aprovação. Qualquer presidente que o fizesse seria rapidamente desaprovado pela imprensa antagônica. “Mesmo se a Dilma vencer, ela não será capaz de tocar no modelo da mídia,” diz Cardoso, que diz ainda que a salvação é a internet.

Durante a campanha eleitoral, “blogs, sites, e o Twitter ajudaram a organizar as ruas,” diz ela. Uma das maiores razões por que “tantas coisas foram desmascaradas,” e por que ela conseguiu a retumbante vitória no domingo.

Também não atrapalha o fato de o mais importante apoiador da Dilma, o presidente cessante Lula da Silva, ter atualmente uma taxa de aprovação de mais 80%. Dilma assumirá o cargo em 1º de janeiro. Ela prometeu dar continuidade às políticas do Lula. Depois das vitórias no mês passado tanto no senado como no congresso, a coalizão política da Dilma teve uma maioria substancial tanto no nível executivo como legislativo. Dada a sua dupla vitória – nas pesquisas e sobre a campanha da mídia contra a sua candidatura – Dilma e seus apoiadores têm motivo para celebrar.

Michael Fox é jornalista freelance, repórter e produtor de documentários baseados no Brasil. Ele é co-autor de Venezuela Speaks: Voices from the Grassroots, e co-diretor de Beyond Elections: Redefining Democracy in the Americas. Seu trabalho pode ser encontrado em www.blendingthelines.com.

1. O aborto e as eleições presidenciais, Carta Capital, September 30, 2010


2. http://www.advivo.com.br/blog/luisnassif/monica-serra-dilma-e-a-favor-de-matar-criancinhas

3. http://noticias.r7.com/eleicoes-2010/noticias/mulher-de-serra-disse-que-fez-aborto-afirmam-ex-alunas-20101016.html

4. Donos da Midia, http://donosdamidia.com.br/levantamento/politicos

5. http://www.intervozes.org.br/noticias/as-reais-ameacas-a-liberdade-de-expressão-no-brasil

6. www.intervozes.org.br

7. http://en.mercopress.com/2010/09/23/lula-s-attacks-on-the-press-dangerous-and-has-him-on-track-with-chavez

8. http://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/3308

9. http://www.foxnews.com/world/2009/10/10/new-media-law-approved-argentina/

Brazil’s First Woman President Overcomes Opposition, Hostile Media

From CIP America's Program

Monday, 01 November, 2010

Worker’s Party (PT) Candidate, Dilma Rousseff, will be the first woman president in Brazilian history. She was elected into office this Sunday, October 31st, with just over 56 percent of the votes, defeating conservative candidate Jose Serra by twelve points. In her victory speech Dilma called for unity and thanked outgoing President Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva. Dilma supporters took to the streets, filling Paulista Avenue in São Paulo.

But victory was not easy. The second-round campaign debate centered on abortion, religion, scandals, and a mainstream media deliberately set on defeating the left-wing front-runner.

“The electoral debate this year wasn’t what we wanted it to be, a debate over the proposals for the country, for development, and social inclusion,” said Celso Woyciechowski, President of Brazil’s largest worker’s federation, the CUT, in the state of Rio Grande do Sul.

“Unfortunately, the debate became polarized around issues that are important, but aren’t the priority in terms of the proposals for the country. Especially when the candidate Jose Serra tried to focus on issues that divide society, like abortion, like religion,” said Celso.

These issues rose to prominence in the debate a month ago, as both presidential candidates sought to attract evangelical voters who supported Green Party candidate Marina Silva in the first round, in large part responsible for her remarkable 20% of the vote. Serra staunchly opposed abortion, based on what he called his “Christian values.” Worker’s Party candidate Dilma Rousseff came out softer on the issue, saying she supports abortion in extreme cases. Many believe she was pressured away from a more progressive stance by the electoral debate and the Catholic Church.

According to the Brazilian Statistics Institute, IBOPE, some 70% of the Brazilian population is against abortion, but many Brazilians say the issue has no place in the campaign.

“It’s cowardly to take this to electoral debate. They’ve never brought this up with a serious democratic discussion where everyone can express themselves, especially the victims. Instead, they bring it up in the heat of the electoral moment to take down their adversary anti-democratically,” says Cristóvão Feil, a sociologist and the editor of the popular 4-year-old blog, Dario Gauche.

The mainstream media picked up on the issue and widely criticized Dilma’s soft position, weakening her lead in the polls.

On Oct. 10, O Globo, the newspaper for Brazil’s largest media chain, led with the headline: “Illegal Abortion Kills One Woman Every Two Days.” Not until the end of the article on one of the back pages does the article mention that the majority of these deaths come to poor women who have no other option but to submit to dangerous procedures in clandestine clinics—an issue that could be resolved by treating abortion as a public health issue as many have called for, including President Luis Inácio Lula da Silva and Maria José Rosado Nunes, coordinator of the NGO Catholics for the Right to Decide (1).

Twelve pages into the same paper, another large headline reads: “Lula Admits: The Dispute Has Become More Difficult.” This is followed by an equally large article entitled: “State Leaders will be the Triumph of Serra.” Article after article of O Globo revealed a clear slant in favor of conservative candidate, Jose Serra.

“The media are pretty much campaigning for candidate [Serra],” said Jefferson Pinheiro this week, a member of the six-year-old local media collective, Catarse, in Porto Alegre.

“Many times they completely ignore journalistic ethics, they openly manipulate, they omit information. And although we expected this from these media, which is already disheartening, in these elections especially they crossed every line.”

The media widely covered Jose Serra’s wife, Monica, who accused Dilma of being in favor of “killing babies” while campaigning with her husband’s vice-presidential candidate, Indio da Costa (DEM), in the state of Rio de Janeiro in September.(2) Ironically, Monica inadvertently brought the media’s heyday with the abortion issue to an abrupt end in mid October, when it was leaked that she herself had an abortion. (3)

Just as it seemed the candidates could get down to a real debate, news broke on Oct. 21 that Jose Serra had been hit by a projectile while campaigning in Rio de Janeiro. Serra took the afternoon off and blamed violent Dilma supporters. The Rio’s TV network Globo quickly edited a video showing the attack. It turned out that the object was a paper ball. Bloggers debunked the media mock-up. Even employees at Globo’s São Paulo office expressed their embarrassment at being affiliated with the production.

In the print media, the Folha de São Paulo has been exposed for publishing fabricated Dilma Rousseff police reports, and other papers have printed stories of her alleged involvement in kidnappings while fighting against the Brazilian dictatorship.

Throughout the campaign, the right-wing magazine Veja published weekly stories linking Dilma to corruption scandals and painting her party as a power-hungry beast.

“The cover stories of the magazine Veja, for example, one after the next are criminal. What they are doing in fact does border on criminal, because they are disinformation, information out of context, lies many times, and they without a doubt will influence the vote of many people,” says Pinheiro.

Shortly before this year’s first round of the elections, members of Brazil’s social movements, unions, and independent media protested in São Paulo against what they called the ongoing media coup. Outgoing President Lula da Silva reiterated last week that the Brazilian media is in the hands of 9-10 families.

Brazil has a long history of media manipulations. The 20 year-long dictatorship (1964-1984) was closely tied to Brazil’s corporate media. Some analysts speculate that President Lula da Silva lost his first bid at the Presidential seat in 1989 because of manipulative coverage by the Globo Television Network. The 1993 British documentary, Beyond Citizen Kane, by Simon Hartog highlights the scathing role of the Rede Globo and its powerful owner Roberto Marinho.

“In Brazil, we don’t have a monopoly, what we have is an oligopoly,” says Pinheiro. “More than 90% of all of the information, news and journalism that is produced in Brazil is in the hands of six large groups, which are groups of businessmen. As we know across the planet, communication in the hands of businessmen serves their economic and political interests in the defense of their social class, which has the economic power.”

The three largest conglomerates are Abril, Globo and Band. Abril controls the Brazilian editorial market and also owns MTV Brasil. Seven of the ten most read magazines in the country are owned by Abril, including Veja which is the weekly magazine with the largest circulation in the world outside of the United States.

Globo has the largest television network in the country, controlling 340 local outlets and affiliates across Brazil. Band, or the Bandeirantes Communication Group leads with sporting coverage leader with 144 local outlets and 22 affiliates.

But despite the history of media spin, grassroots analysts say this year’s media coverage is even worst than normal.

“It was a more articulated campaign between Serra’s party and the corporate media, using techniques from elections in the United States with Sarah Palin,” says Claudia Cardoso, a longtime media activist and regional coordinator for the national communication congress. “They were organized. Newspaper, radio and TV representatives met in March of this year and they organized for this campaign. That is what is most concerning.”

In an excellent analysis of the media bias during the campaign, journalist Alexandre Haubrich wrote in his blog, JornalismoB, on October 20th:

“In this campaign, we see the dominant press organizing itself against the Lula government and the candidacy of Dilma Rousseff, principally through three of its newspapers (Folha de São Paulo, Estadão and O Globo), two magazines (Veja and Época) and one television channel (TV Globo). Through constant accusations in articles and direct attacks in editorials, the newspapers fulfill the powerful role of depoliticizing the campaign, and offering issues to the debate that have little or nothing to do with larger proposals for the country.”

According to Cardoso, the Brazilian mainstream media is able to get away with things they wouldn’t be able to elsewhere because media content and ownership are completely deregulated. Brazil has no public regulatory committee like the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The media collective, Intervozes, says that even if the FCC’s attempted deregulation on media consolidation had passed in 2004, it would have left the United States with stronger laws than Brazil. (5)

“When you have media that runs wild, that’s not regulated, and there is no way for society to participate in changing the way they function, they can do what they want. And that’s the problem, the lack of regulation,” says Cardoso.

This is one of the issues that she hopes Dilma will tackle once in office. But she will have a long road ahead. Hundreds of Brazilian politicians across the country are either partners or directors of mainstream media. Dozens of senators and congressional representatives have deep ties to the corporate media. (6) It’s a strong lobby and a powerful voice.

In September, President Lula criticized the mainstream media for acting “like political parties.” The Brazilian press responded that he was trying to crack down on the freedom of speech. The President of the Inter-American Press Agency (IAPA), Alejandro Aguirre, called Lula’s comments “dangerous.”

“We are very concerned with the situation in Brazil. In other statements we have expressed this, but we are hopeful that the person who succeeds Mr. Lula da Silva as president will be respectful of civil and human rights, and of freedom of expression as the cornerstone of democracy,” Aguirre told Globo. (7) The fact that the IAPA has its own historic ties to the “oligopoly” and Latin America’s former dictatorships was ignored. (8)

There is a growing media democracy movement in Brazil. Last December 1500 representatives of Brazil’s independent and community media met for the country’s first National Communication Congress. The goal was to take the first steps towards something like the new media law Argentina passed last year.

The Argentine law set aside two-thirds of the radio and TV spectrum for noncommercial stations, and required channels to use more Argentine content. It also forced the country’s leading media company, Grupo Clarin, to sell off many of its holdings. (9)

But Brazil still has a long way to go. President Lula didn’t present any of the proposals from the Communications Congress to Brazil’s legislative branches for approval. Any president to do so would be quickly lambasted by an antagonistic press.

“Even if Dilma wins she won’t be able to touch the media model,” says Cardoso, who adds that the saving grace is the Internet.

During the electoral campaign “blogs, websites, and twitter have helped to organize the streets,” she says. One of the major reasons why “so many things were debunked,” and why she was able to pull off the resounding victory on Sunday.

It also doesn’t hurt that Dilma’s most important supporter, outgoing president Lula da Silva, currently has an approval rating over 80%. Dilma will take office on January 1st. She has promised to continue Lula’s policies. After victories last month in both the congress and senate, Dilma’s political coalition has a solid legislative majority. This is the first time in democratic Brazil that a political coalition has held such a substantial majority in both the executive and legislative branches. Given her double victory—at the polls and over the mainstream media’s campaign against her candidacy– Dilma and her supporters have reason to celebrate.

Michael Fox is a freelance journalist, reporter and documentary filmmaker based in Brazil. He is co-author of Venezuela Speaks: Voices from the Grassroots, and co-director of Beyond Elections: Redefining Democracy in the Americas. His work can be found at www.blendingthelines.com

Edited by: Laura Carlsen


1. O aborto e as eleições presidenciais, Carta Capital, September 30, 2010


2. http://www.advivo.com.br/blog/luisnassif/monica-serra-dilma-e-a-favor-de-matar-criancinhas

3. http://noticias.r7.com/eleicoes-2010/noticias/mulher-de-serra-disse-que-fez-aborto-afirmam-ex-alunas-20101016.html

4. Donos da Midia, http://donosdamidia.com.br/levantamento/politicos

5. http://www.intervozes.org.br/noticias/as-reais-ameacas-a-liberdade-de-expressão-no-brasil

6. www.intervozes.org.br

7. http://en.mercopress.com/2010/09/23/lula-s-attacks-on-the-press-dangerous-and-has-him-on-track-with-chavez

8. http://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/3308

9. http://www.foxnews.com/world/2009/10/10/new-media-law-approved-argentina/

sexta-feira, 29 de outubro de 2010

Radio: Brazilians Head to Polls for Presidential Run-off Election


Friday, 29 October, 2010

Listen to Radio Report

Brazilians take to the polls again this Sunday for the second and final round of the Presidential elections. Worker’s party candidate, Dilma Rousseff leads conservative candidate Jose Serra in the polls. But it has not been an easy campaign. The second round debate has centered on abortion, religion, scandals, and a mainstream media campaign against the left-wing front-runner. Mike Fox has more from Porto Alegre, Brazil.

quinta-feira, 28 de outubro de 2010

Homage to a Fallen Patriot - Nestor Kirchner

The scene is surreal. The crowd passes buy slowly, respectfully. Touching the casket before them, last words murmured silently. Cristina is across from them, nodding her head to the crowd filing through, touching her heart. Brown hair hangs to hear shoulders, sunglasses to hide the anguish, flanked by family, Bolivian President Evo Morales, and many others. The madres and abuelas embrace her, bandanas tied around their heads in remembrance of those that have passed.

Presente”, cries the crowd packed into the Latin American Patriot’s Gallery of Argentina’s Presidential Palace, Casa Rosa. Another patriot has fallen.

“The death of Nestor Kirchner is irreparable,” writes Argentina torture-survivor Patrica Isasa from Washington DC. “Amidst sobs, anguish, full of memories… and with the certainty that the future is ours! We should pay honor to his memory and continue down the road that he indicated, but which is difficult. We have lost a unique leader… the great statesman, the great constructor of popular power, the great visionary, and above all a great companion!!! He who returned dignity to the people, who annulled the laws of impunity, who honored memory and justice.”

Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa arrives to applause, as does Uruguay President Pepe Mujica. The crowd and the ceremony continue in silence. Wordless, speechless silence. Motionless in this quickly shifting universe. Motionless and silent, broken only by emotional cries from the crowd. “Por Argentina!” Shouts, cries, respect, and tears. Hope and dreams of a tomorrow. Dreams uplifted by the man lying before them. Dreams and memories that will never be forgotten, and homage to a fallen patriot – Nestor Kirchner (25 February 1950 – 27 October 2010). To watch the ceremony on Argentina's Public TV Channel 7.