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Brazzil - Nation - April 2004

Happy Indian Day, Brazil!

Clashes between the Cinta-Larga Indians and diamond miners
have left around 30 miners dead in the Brazilian Amazon.
The international human rights groups and similar bodies,
which spend so much time condemning Brazilian society
for its treatment of the Indians have predictably remained silent.

John Fitzpatrick

Brazzil Picture According to my diary, today is Indian Day and the Brazilian Army Day. However, the way things are going in the Amazon state of Rondônia, the Indians who live there and the soldiers based there are unlikely to have much time for celebrating. Clashes between the Cinta-Larga Indians and diamond miners have left around 30 miners dead. The Indians have accused the miners, called garimpeiros, of illegally occupying and mining in Indian lands.

The agency which is supposed to look after Brazil's Indian communities, Funai, has backed the Indians' version. Whether the miners were acting illegally or not it is hard to justify massacring them and leaving their bodies in the jungle to be eaten by wild animals, which is what the Indians did.

The international human rights groups and similar bodies, which spend so much time condemning Brazilian society for its treatment of the Indians have predictably remained silent. It seems that it is OK for Indians to kill miners but not OK for miners to dig for diamonds in Indian lands. Two wrongs obviously make one right. Let's hope there is an official Miners Day coming up to cheer up this hated minority.

Has Brazil Brought the US Porn Industry to a Halt?

There is an interesting article in today's New York Times (April 19) entitled "H.I.V. Cases Shut Down Pornography Film Industry". The report says that America's multi-billion-dollar pornographic film industry has virtually shut down after two actors were infected with the virus that causes AIDS. Considering the size of the industry, it is surprising that something like this has not happened before. The report goes on to suggest that one of the actors contracted the virus during a visit to Brazil in March and learned he was infected on April 12.

Another porn actor was quoted as saying he had been offered a chance to make an adult film in Brazil earlier this year but had turned it down after the Brazilian agent had been unable to guarantee that medical tests on actors would be genuine.

If even professional porn actors can contract the AIDS virus then no-one is safe. I have seen nothing in the Brazilian press about this but if it is true, it should be a warning to sex tourists. Brazil has made great progress in tackling AIDs over the last decade, but the danger is ever present.

Marisa Makes Herself at Home

Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva's wife, Marisa, is certainly making herself at home in the official presidential residence, according to the Brazilian media. She is reported to have asked for some flower beds to be laid in the shape of the red star of the Workers Party (PT).

The work has been done and those flying overhead now have a fine view of this symbol of socialism. The only problem is that "dona" Marisa does not seem to have considered that this property belongs to the nation and not to the political party her husband founded it. The PT denied that dona Marisa had come up with the idea and said the gardeners themselves had thought of it.

Amidst all the righteous indignation and harrumphing from Lula's many bourgeois enemies it was nice to see a bit of humor from one newspaper correspondent who suggested that the next symbol to be planted there would probably be that of Corinthians, Lula's favorite football team.

Survival of the Fittest

Most people don't associate Charles Darwin with Brazil. They normally think of him reaching his theories on evolution when he was in the Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador. However, Darwin spent several months in Brazil in 1832 when he was on his voyage of discovery. Since he was not a crew member of the "Beagle", he had great freedom and often left the ship for weeks at a time to travel around Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Peru.

He devotes the second chapter of The Voyage of the Beagle to his stay in Brazil and his trips in the Rio de Janeiro area. He not only describes the flora and fauna but also comments on slavery and the lives of the Brazilians in a way that makes one wish he had spent more time here and less in other places.

How about this description of a phenomenon which is still with us—criminals. "We were accompanied by the son of a neighbouring farmer—a good specimen of wild Brazilian youth. He was dressed in a tattered old shirt and trousers and had his head uncovered: he carried an old-fashioned gun and a large knife. The habit of carrying the knife is universal: and on traversing a thick wood it is almost necessary, on account of the creeping plants.

"The frequent occurrence of murder may be partly attributed to this habit. The Brazilians are so dexterous with the knife that they can throw it some distance with precision and with sufficient force to cause a fatal wound. I have seen a small number of little boys practicing this art and from their skill in hitting an upright stick, they promised well for more earnest attempts."

Estado Eats Humble Pie

I hope readers will let me indulge in one of my favorite hobby horses—the inflated opinion O Estado de S. Paulo newspaper has of itself. As one of Brazil's more serious papers it has much to offer and is a must read.

However, it is owned by a family called Mesquita, which blatantly uses the paper as a vehicle to boost the Mesquita name and history in a way which resembles North Korea's cult of Kim Il Sung and Kim Il Jong.

The editor-in-chief, Ruy Mesquita, recently appeared on television to receive a prize. Ever since, the readers' letters section has been given over to ingratiating messages on how marvelous and wonderful he was. The paper has even published lists of correspondents.

Over the years, I have dearly wanted to send a fawning spoof letter praising the Mesquitas to see if it would be published but that would be a bit unprofessional. Fortunately it looks as though someone else has done so or, perhaps, a disgruntled journalist thinks that things have gone far enough. Here is a free translation of a correction, which appeared in the April 18 edition.

"By mistake, among the messages of congratulations sent to the journalist Ruy Mesquita for winning the Communication Personality Prize for 2004, the name of the publisher of the Folha de S. Paulo, Octavio Frias de Oliveira, was published in error yesterday." Since the Folha is the Estado's main rival it looks as though the Mesquita family mouthpiece has been the victim of a practical joker.

John Fitzpatrick is a Scottish journalist who first visited Brazil in 1987 and has lived in São Paulo since 1995. He writes on politics and finance and runs his own company, Celtic Comunicações - www.celt.com.br - which specializes in editorial and translation services for Brazilian and foreign clients. You can reach him at jf@celt.com.br.
© John Fitzpatrick 2004. All rights reserved.

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