The Brazilian president, Dilma Rousseff, used a free afternoon this last Sunday in Brussels, to visit the Magritte Museum. René Magritte (1898-1967), a Belgium, was one of the most famous of the surrealist artists. He said that the idea of his paintings was to evoke mystery and make the viewer ask, “What does that mean?” And the answer, according to Magritte, was that it was all an unknowable mystery.
After a full schedule in Brussels, Dilma will travel to Bulgaria, where she will visit relatives of her father, Petar Russev, who was born in Gabrovo, then a tiny village, but now a town of 60,000, located about 200 kilometers from the capital, Sofia.
Petar left Bulgaria in 1929. Exactly why he left is not known; it seems to have been politics and finances, probably a combination of both. He left a pregnant wife behind.
Petar lived in France and Argentina before settling in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. In Brazil, now called Pedro Rousseff, he married and had three children: a boy and two girls.
Pedro Rousseff died in 1962, also leaving a son, Lubun, a half-brother of president Dilma Rousseff, in Bulgaria. Lubun, who never left Bulgaria, corresponded with Dilma. He died in 2007. And there are living relatives still there who will be glad to see their now-famous Brazilian relative.
Rousseff will be in Brussels until Tuesday, October 4. She has an extensive agenda including a meeting with the Belgium prime minister, Yves Leterme along with officials from both the European Council and the European Commission.
This Tuesday she will participate in the 5th Brazil-European Summit and the closing ceremony for the 5th Brazil-Europe Business Forum.
In her contacts with European authorities, Dilma has been expressing concern, on the part of Brazil, with the international crisis. Also at the top of her agenda: getting the free trade agreement between Mercosur and the European Union unstuck and back on track.
Negotiations have been stalled since 2006. Dilma has said she would like an agreement concluded by next year. She has said that a deal would mean more trade and more jobs on both sides of the Atlantic.
The Mercosur-EU free trade negotiations bogged down on market access. France is concerned with beef from Brazil and other European countries are worried about opening their services sector. On the other hand, the Europeans are demanding access to Brazilian markets.
As for the international financial crisis, she is offering cooperation with Europe.
Dilma is also preparing for the Rio + 20 Conference that will take place between May 28 and June 6, next year. She insists that Brazil’s main focus will be on sustainable development.
The agenda of the Rio gathering concentrates on three main items: environmental protection, sustainable development and green, alternative economic solutions.
One theme of recent speeches by president Dilma has been that the international crisis was not caused by emerging nations, but by the rich ones. She has referred to the United States and Europe specifically.
Taking advantage of the stopover in Brussels, before she moves on to Turkey and Bulgaria, the president met with the general secretary of the International Soccer Association (FIFA), Jerome Valcke, to discuss preparations for the 2014 World Soccer Cup.
The minister of Sports, Orlando Silva, has also attended the meeting. One thorny question discussed was the General Law for the Cup that the administration just sent to Congress for approval. It contains the legal framework, including civil responsibilities, during the 2014 World Cup.
But it also has a couple of items that run counter to FIFA demands. The main problem seems to be Brazilian law that makes it mandatory for seniors, above the age of 60, to pay half price; FIFA is upset about that.
FIFA is also opposed to the prohibition on the sale of alcoholic beverages (part of Brazil’s federal laws governing sporting events) and a law also giving students the right to pay half price (which is a state law). Dilma and minister Silva have reportedly told Valcke that those items can still be negotiated. A vote on a final version of World Cup law by Congress is expected by mid 2012.
The Europalia, the continent’s biggest cultural event, that will honor Brazil this year, will be opened by president Dilma Rousseff this Tuesday, October 4.
During a period of three and a half months, 130 shows, 60 dance presentations, 20 expositions and 80 literary conferences will take place in Belgium, Luxemburg, France, Germany and Holland.
The Ministries of Culture and Foreign Relations have coughed up 30 million reais (US$ 16.5 million) for the event, along with an undisclosed amount from the private sector and state-run enterprises. Along with Dilma, the ministers of Culture, Ana Hollanda, and Foreign Affairs, Antonio Patriota, will be present at the opening ceremony.
Marcelo Dantas, the director of International Relations at the Ministry of Culture, says that the event’s Brazilian curators made a special effort to “avoid the obvious.”
Among the Brazilian artists who will participate in Europalia, are the creatively eclectic musicians Hermeto Pascoal and Egberto Gismonti. They will be joined by the Brazilian rapper, Marcelo D2 (black music, rock and rap) and the band, Pedro Luiz e a Parede, which also plays rock and rap.
The contemporary dance group, Corpo, from Belo Horizonte, which already has an international reputation, along with Giramundo, a puppet theater, and Intrépida Trupe, with 21 years of mixing circus, theater and dance, will also perform.
The poet and essayist, Augusto de Campos and the writers João Ubaldo ribeiro and Renato Carvalho will be present at literary conferences. There will also be paintings, sculpture and cinema by other Brazilians.
The Europalia began in the 1960s, and for many years honored only European countries. Since 1990, China, Mexico and Japan have been honored. In 2013 the focus will be on India.