If Brazil’s federal
government does not have the courage to take
on its constitutional duties and re-establish the rule of law in a
Rio de Janeiro converted into a no-man’s-land, let it at least show
its apprehension and its solidarity with the Brazilians of Rio, at the
mercy of the pusillanimity of the governing couple, the Garotinhos.
The couple which governs the State of Rio (Governor Rosinha Garotinho and
Public Security Secretary Anthony Garotinho) has invented a new formula for
dealing with emergencies: silence. And at the same time the federal government
discovered that looking to the side is the best way of disguising blind spots.
Together, they produced,
in the last few days, one of the most shocking displays of insensitivity and
irresponsibility on the part of the public sector in the face of the brutality
which took place in one of the parts of the Brazilian federation.
What was shocking about
the carnage at the Casa de Custódia de Benfica, in Rio, was not simply
the high number of deaths (between 30 and 38), nor the form of the executions,
in the best Islamic terrorist style.
The uncertainty about
the number of victims, almost a week after the beginning of the prison mutiny,
added to the news published yesterday, that order still had not been restored,
bears witness to the incompetence and disregard of those involved directly
The sly maneuverings of
the Garotinhos to bury in silence the shadowy episode in Benfica were only
successful because they found in the federal government a partner with the
same taste and equal inclination for juggling and empty twaddle.
It has to be said as strongly
as possible that the Republic and Brazilian state are being flagrantly violated
not only by rioters and murderers, but above all, by those in government who
do not fulfill their obligation to guarantee a state of laws, and hardly have
the stature to face the dimensions of the institutional catastrophe provoked
by their neglect.
If the federal government
does not have the courage to take on its constitutional duties and re-establish
the rule of law in a federal unit converted into a no-man’s-land, let it at
least show its apprehension and its solidarity with the Brazilians of Rio,
at the mercy of the pusillanimity of the Garotinhos.
The muteness and inaction
of Brasília were decisive in stimulating the muteness, inaction, and
principally, the cynicism of this arriviste duo contracted expressly to humiliate
and ruin the former Federal Capital.
The most dramatic thing
is that while in Benfica the moral and physical integrity of the Brazilian
state was collapsing, in Brasília, at the Praça dos Três
Poderes, the sending of troops to establish the integrity of the Haitian state
was being celebrated
Recently arrived from
the Chinese picnic, dressed, by presidential decree, as diplomats, those working
on our governability are now only thinking about our image outside Brazil.
The style for the moment is lace cuffs.
The chaos on the unhappy
Caribbean island takes priority; in Brasília no one knows where Benfica
is, nor assesses the political effects of the demoralizing of a Casa de Custódia
by a criminal faction.
To hell with how things
look internally, who cares about the sense of dereliction and unprotection
that has taken hold of the population of the second most important state in
All that is important
is to imagine that after our triumphant visits abroad we will be immediately
chosen to be permanent members of the Security Councilalthough without
the resources to construct prisons able to resist the hammering of those imprisoned.
Part of the Rio press
cannot be exempted from this malicious conspiracy of passivity. Shivering
with the autumn cold, suddenly Europeanized, or simply conned by the Garotinhos,
the truth is that this depressing picture can only happen in a society where
part of the press is distracted. Or without muscle.
The announcement of a
mobilization for the impeachment of Governor Rosinha would have fatally changed
the agenda for the recent ministerial meeting in Brasília. Even though
her party, the PMDB, is part of the Lula’s political coalition and completely
controls Rio’s legislative assembly.
The blowout which followed
the announcement of the formidable measures to promote development would be
understood in Benfica and in Rocinha if, instead of coming up with soccer
balls to distribute in Haiti, the authorities had awoken from their lethargy.
Or at least enough to remember that they are authorities.
Alberto Dines, the author, is a journalist, founder and researcher at LABJORLaboratório
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 email@example.com.
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