Brazil: Call the Cops! Save the Maracanã!

                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.
by: Carlos Chagas

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

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

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

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

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

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