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May 2003

Brazil: Next Stop, Civil War

The correct name for what we are up against in Brazil is
narcoterrorism. Violence has become a federal issue and
the fight against violence, with or without formal intervention,
with or without the Armed Forces in the streets,
must also become a federal issue.

Alberto Dines

Illusion has its limitations. At some point econometrics has to run into reality. Economics is not an abstraction. The use and application of all measurements such as C-bonds, the country risk, the exchange rate and other animals, is an artificial process—just like experiments in laboratories, performed under optimal conditions and with no environmental interference.

It was inevitable, this contamination of political newscasts by police newscasts. Same thing with the conjugation of crime statistics and the economic indexes in the business pages. Corporate manuals and rituals would not allow this here, but it has been happening in the international press, forced to see our country as an integrated phenomenon, with no random segmentations. It is not a coincidence that, in the last few days, the New York Times, BBC-World, the Walt Street Journal and the Economist—the latter two with worldwide clout in economic and business affairs—have dedicated plenty of space and time to talk about the escalation of violence raging in Brazil.

We fool ourselves again, and dangerously, when we avoid calling a spade a spade and take refuge in minimalist and fictitious classifications. What we are up against is a generalized, pre-civil war insurrection. `Organized crime' is idle talk and false rumors. The correct name to use is narcoterrorism.

The horrors of the iron-hand years have excluded from our legal vocabulary the term "atentado à segurança nacional" (assault to homeland safety) and we are now paying an exceedingly high price for all the euphemisms and linguistic mannerisms that blind us from facing the issue in its true dimensions. Violence has become a federal issue and the fight against violence, with or without formal intervention, with or without the Armed Forces in the streets, must also become a federal issue. Openly and ostensively. In all spheres, including foreign relations. The FARCs can no longer be treated with lace cuffs. The Complexo da Maré slums start on the bottom of Guanabara Bay and ends in the jungles of Colombia.

At each victim fallen, each act of violence, each scare, each civic insult and each assault to the rule of law inflicted by the outlaw power, we are reminded that we are up against a federal emergency. Recently, the eixo rodoviário Norte-Sul (north-south freeway axis) was sectioned by incursions in Linha Vermelha (Red Line) and Linha Amarela (Yellow Line) and by the control over Avenida Brasil, in Rio. These are not parochial, metropolitan or statewide occurrences; these are national risk situations. This is the truth and it needs to be faced head on and designated appropriately.

All the reconciliation events uniting Rio's governor dona Rosinha and Rio's former governor dona Benedita and festive little get-togethers for coronel Bolinha (colonel Tubby, former governor Anthony Garotinho) and his rivals are not only ridiculous but also an outrage to the memory of those fallen and humiliated by the Confederation of Violence. The cynical little smiles and taps on the back, on the eve of the funeral of a free society, expose widely and openly a sham and a hoax.


The Morro do Turano is no longer an urban district; it is now a federal district. The criminal assault (premeditated, as became evident) against Estácio de Sá University is not the stuff for a mere B.O. (Bulletin of Occurrence). It deserves a C.R.I., or Constatação de Ruptura Institucional (Verification of Institutional Breach).

When we have a de facto governor, Anthony Garotinho, admitting that he has lost control over the situation and the Justice Minister, in the Observatório da Imprensa TV program, answering a question from journalist Dora Kramer, uncomfortably admitting that he would rate with a grade five the performance of the Rio de Janeiro State authorities in matters of public safety, there is no way we can continue to disguise the labeling and the size of the disaster.

The reach of this disaster is not only factual but also conceptual. When a few decent senators such as Pedro Simon and Jefferson Peres propose tearing apart the Code of Ethics and dissolving the Ethics Committee following the decision by the president of the Senate to file and conclude the judicial proceeding against ACM (senator Antônio Carlos Magalhães), the King of Telephone Tapping, we can see the moral magnetization between the degradation of law and order in Rio de Janeiro and the degradation of political practices in the high spheres of the Republic.

When the majoritary PT (Workers Party)—the party of hope and change—capitulates before this affront, concerned with the majority it needs in order to pass reforms it has always fought against, what we have is a political-partisan everything-goes which also explains the federal complacency with the Governor Couple of Rio de Janeiro that has been costing so many tears and so much damage.

When the pseudo-oppositionist PSDB allows Senator Tasso Jereissati to openly articulate the support necessary to protect his partner-friends ACM and Sarney in one of the most sordid maneuvers of recent history in Congress, it is clear that the party needs a name change. It should take aside the SD (of Social Democracy) and entitle itself simply PB, the Banana Party—fiberless, boneless and emasculated.

This is the time to call a spade a spade. Before the spades—together, healthy, smilingly and politically correct—end up destroying what we still have left in terms of decency and courage.

Alberto Dines, the author, is a journalist, founder and researcher at LABJOR—Laboratório de Estudos Avançados em Jornalismo (Laboratory for Advanced Studies in Journalism) at UNICAMP (University of Campinas) and editor of the Observatório da Imprensa. He also writes a column on cultural issues for the Rio daily Jornal do Brasil. You can reach him by email at obsimp@ig.com.br  

Translated by Tereza Braga, email: tbragaling@cs.com

This article was originally published in Jornal do Brasil - www.jb.com.br 



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