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Brazzil - Memory - July 2004

Brazil: Call the Cops! Save the Maracanã!

With rare exceptions, the great Brazilian capitals allow
themselves the luxury of destroying their own memory. And that
of the nation. And now, in Rio de Janeiro, there is talk of demolishing
Maracanã. The greatest cathedral of soccer, repository of victories
and tragedies, the stadium is threatened by the bigwigs.

Carlos Chagas


Picture There are possible advantages for the lack of partisan political hubbub predicted for the next few days: space for discussion of other, possibly more important subjects.

Can the reader imagine the French government and the city of Paris deciding to demolish the Eiffel Tower, after concluding that it was lacking in amenities for the millions of tourists that visit it every year? How about putting up another tower in the same spot, a more modern one, with architecture befitting the space age?

In the same way, wouldn't it be better to knock down all the houses along the traditional avenues of the French capital, get rid of those spiral staircases and the minuscule elevators, so as to improve the health of the tenants.

And the building of the National Assembly is old? Bulldoze it. Notre Dame, which began construction in 1000, has no central heating, the gargoyles alarm the children, and the stone columns simply cannot be disinfected. Better to tear it down and erect another, a very modern cathedral...

Someone who proposed such crimes against the history and culture of France would be arrested, at the very least. Well then. With rare exceptions, the great Brazilian capitals, which are much newer, allow themselves the luxury of destroying their own memory. And that of the nation. And now, in Rio de Janeiro, there is talk of demolishing Maracanã.

The greatest cathedral of soccer, permanent symbol of our leadership in the sport, repository of countless victories and tragedies, the stadium is threatened by the bigwigs and wiseguys.

It is alleged that it is old, and has no amenities for sportsmen and journalists. Once demolished, it would make way for a modern and electronic sports center...and of course there would be much money to be made by the entrepreneurs and commissions for the profiteers. Time to call the cops....

Ham Country

The professor, deputy and ex-minister Delfim Netto is a master at the art of creating images which are disturbing, but faithful to Brazilian reality. He advises his students to look at the map of Brazil, but upside down. "It is a big prosciutto ham", he notes, adding that "everyone wants to carve off a little piece."

The worst of it is that the shopowners pay no attention to the ham. They let everyone come in and cut off their slices. At most, they run after the thief and negotiate the return of a few bits of fat.

Look at what is happening now. China bans the import of our soy, and only reestablishes imports after we come down on the price.

Russia interrupts the import of beef because a cow was found to have hoof-and-mouth disease, in a non-exporting state, like Pará. And because of this, Russia has still not paid for the beef which the Russians already ate some time ago.

Now it is Argentina's turn. Appliances, fabrics, beef and cars were exported from Brazil to Argentina. Everything by the book, prices calculated according to Mercosur regulations. Suddenly, the contract is no longer honored.

First they interrupted imports, and now they are demanding new prices, or rather, they are raising tariffs. And there we go to Buenos Aires, hat in hand, giving in on that which is our right, just as we did in Beijing and Moscow. And let's not even mention our relations with the US, the major consumer of the Brazilian ham.

Somber Outlooks

It's party time for the government. Lula is eating cookies and accepting caps, with smiles, exhortations to optimism, and announcements of social programs.

The marketers are showing off growth statistics and the BNDES (Banco Nacional de Desenvolvimento Econômico e Social—National Economic and Social Development Bank) paves the way for the media with plenty of greenback.

This is a symptom of the bitterness which dominates the PT. Because polls continue to predict the defeat of its candidates in the mayoral elections for the most important capital cities.

The PT is trying to turn the game around by passing off a false euphoria. They should watch out, because the voters don't forget unrealized campaign promises. There is still time to change expectations, as long as the government looks after the stomachs of the majority. Even after the fiasco of the minimum wage, why not try to get Zero Hunger really working?

Lula will bring together ministers and PT leaders to discuss the electoral chances for its candidates. It ought to be a secret meeting, without false illusions. After all, 2006 depends on what happens in 2004.

Carlos Chagas writes for the Rio's daily Tribuna da Imprensa and is a representative of the Brazilian Press Association, in Brasília. He welcomes your comments at carloschagas@hotmail.com.
Translated from the Portuguese by Tom Moore. Moore has been fascinated by the language and culture of Brazil since 1994. He translates from Portuguese, Spanish, French, Italian and German, and is also active as a musician. Comments welcome at querflote@hotmail.com.

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