While World Athletes Fight for Gold in Rio, Some Residents Will Just Try to Stay Alive

Protests in Rio against the Olympic Games As excitement builds with the start of the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, so too does the threat to the country’s poor black population. There are fears that recent changes in the event’s security procedure and interim President Michel Temer’s nonchalant attitude toward potential problems could bring a history of institutionalized racism and police violence to the surface, with mortal consequences.

The government has publicized its focus on foreign threats to the Olympics’ security, but has failed to recognize the implications of increased security for marginalized favela communities.

Fearing a terrorist attack at such a high-profile event, a private firm, Artel Recursos Humanos, was hired to ensure the safety of Rio and its visitors.

The company, however, was revealed to have no prior security experience when it hired only 500 of its promised 3,000 security personnel.[1]

Protests in Rio against the Olympic Games

As a result, the matter has been taken over by about 85,000 Brazilian police and military officers, which constitute “the largest-ever such deployment for a megaevent in the nation’s history.”[2]

While these measures are superficially promising in preventing terror, the real threat lies in the city’s already-high murder rate, particularly of black men by police, the same police whose forces have been unprecedentedly amplified.

Accordingly, in the months leading up to the August 7 commencement of the Olympics, Amnesty International (AI) and other human rights bodies have documented an increase in police repression in the favelas of Rio, including several deaths.[3]

This increase is not unusual. When Brazil hosted the FIFA World Cup in 2014, “police killings in Rio de Janeiro state shot up by 40%.”[4]

Already marginalized favela residents were among the primary targets of this violence, especially as they were forced out of their homes in an effort to beautify the city.[5]

The fact that this excessive police presence in Rio’s favelas continued for almost a year after the World Cup is also a cause for concern.[6]

Such brutality is not without historical foundation. In a recent publication on Olympic security, AI asserts that, “years of violence and a history of racism [in Brazil] have produced negative stereotypes that stand in the way of justice.”[7]

The police violence seen in the favelas of Rio is part of a larger trend of marginalization and institutionalized racism. As put by one of Brazil’s few black senators, Brazil’s poverty “has a color, and that color is black.”[8]

Not only does the country’s poverty have an institutionalized color, but it is also linked to a distinct mortality rate; due to favela violence, black men have a life expectancy that is approximately 10 years shorter than the country’s average.[9]

Gang violence is a palpable issue in favelas, but that cannot be the only attributable cause. Human Rights Watch reports that about 75 percent of last year’s killings by police were of black men, making for an approximate total of 484 black deaths.[10]

Despite increased public and international concern, interim President Temer has expressed confidence that “there will be peace” at the Olympics.[11]

It is speculated that Temer is using the Olympics as a way to legitimize his presidency after the impeachment of former President Dilma Rousseff.

Although Rousseff’s own involvement in both the 2014 World Cup and this year’s Olympics have been criticized as well, Temer has failed to even recognize the problem, assuring reporters that “military police… will guarantee 100% security of Olympic venues” and conveniently failing to acknowledge other types of violence.[12]

Such nonchalance is even more evident in his refusal to veto May’s “General Law of the Olympics” bill, a move that severely limits the rights to free expression and protest.[13] Unsurprisingly, Temer’s cabinet is composed entirely of white men, which effectively isolates him from the plight of less fortunate groups.[14]

Overall, it’s feared that the combined forces of institutionalized racism, increased Olympic security, and Temer’s denial of the situation’s peril will further subject black Brazilians to death by police.

While the world’s attention is focused on opulent Olympic stadiums, located just hundreds of meters from the poorest favelas, it is imperative that attention be paid to such domestic danger as well.

Long term solutions to systemic racism and police violence are equally as important as they are complex, but for now, the affluence of the Olympic Games should not overshadow the awareness of Brazil’s poorest and most-marginalized citizens.

Without significant changes in the current administration’s security tactics, it is likely that Rio 2016 will result in a resounding defeat of justice for black Brazilians. While athletes from around the world will be fighting for Olympic gold, many of the city’s residents are already fighting for their lives.

Notes:

[1] Connors, Will. “Brazil Police to Take Over Security Screening at Rio Olympics.” Wall Street Journal. July 29, 2016. Accessed August 01, 2016. http://www.wsj.com/articles/brazil-police-to-take-over-security-screening-at-rio-olympics-1469814374.

[2] Ibid.

[3] “Violence Has No Place in These Games!: Risk of Human Rights Violations at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.” Amnesty International Charity Limited. Amnesty.org. Accessed August 1, 2016.

[4] “The Deadly Side of the Rio 2016 Olympics.” Amnesty.org. Accessed August 01, 2016. https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/campaigns/2016/06/deadly-side-rio-olympics-2016/.

[5] Hilderbrand, Rachael, and Jonas Schlotterbeck. “Rio De Janeiro’s Bitter 2016 Olympic Evictions.” COHA.org. May 27, 2016. Accessed August 03, 2016. http://www.coha.org/rio-de-janeiros-bitter-2016-olympic-evictions/.

[6] “The Deadly Side of the Rio 2016 Olympics.”

[7] “The Deadly Side of the Rio 2016 Olympics.”

[8] Brazil in Black and White, dir. Adam Stepan, by Mike DeWitt and Adam Stepan, prod. Robert Stone, Public Broadcasting Station, 2007, DVD.

[9] “Some of the Most Damning Evidence Yet on Police Brutality in Rio De Janeiro.”

[10] “”Good Cops Are Afraid”” Hrw.org. July 07, 2016. Accessed August 01, 2016. https://www.hrw.org/report/2016/07/07/good-cops-are-afraid/toll-unchecked-police-violence-rio-de-janeiro.

[11] Connors, Will.

[12] Ibid.

[13] “Brazil on Fast-track Course to Repeat Epic World Cup Failures during Olympics.” Amnesty.org. Accessed August 01, 2016. https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2016/06/brazil-on-fast-track-course-to-repeat-epic-world-cup-failures-during-olympics/.

[14] “Brazil’s Hidden History of Racial Tension Will Be Hard to Hide during Rio Olympics.” Fox News Latino. July 28, 2016. Accessed August 03, 2016. http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/sports/2016/07/28/brazil-hidden-history-racial-tension-will-be-hard-to-hide-during-rio-olympics/.

Liliana Muscarella is a research associate at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA) – www.coha.org. The organization is a think tank established in 1975 to discuss and promote inter-American relationship. Email: coha@coha.org.

Tags:

You May Also Like

A book by former Brazzil contributor John Fitzpatrick.

“Compared with São Paulo, New York is Sleepy Hollow.” A new book about Brazil´s biggest city.

Former Brazzil contributor John Fitzpatrick has just published a collection of short stories called ...

São Paulo Gay Parade in São Paulo - Rovena Rosa/Ag. Brasil

São Paulo’s Gay Parade Gets Political and Wages War Against Religious Fundamentalists

The world’s largest pride parade kicked off Sunday in São Paulo, Brazil, in a ...

Brazilian writer and psychoanalyst Rubem AlvesTender Returns by Rubem Alves

Brazilian Writer Rubem Alves on the Mystery of Love

From Tender Returns, a new translation of Brazilian writer Rubem Alves. Alves, a theologian, ...

Just the Basics

People practice this kissing ritual everyday without even thinking about it. They wake up ...

More Sex, Please! We Are Brazilian

Everything you ever wanted to know about sex in Brazil and never was able ...

After Carnaval, We’ll Do

There seems to be very little tangible evidence of progress on vital reforms in ...

A Chance for Rio and Brazil to Shine. But There is Also a Shameful Legacy

The Rio de Janeiro Olympic and Paralympic Games start today after over 39 billion ...

Rio Police Indict Lying US Swimmers and Want Them to Apologize to the Brazilian People

The Brazilian government chief of staff, Eliseu Padilha, announced today, in Rio de Janeiro, ...

Best-seller Books, Plays and Movies – January2002

By Brazzil Magazine Dois Perdidos Numa Noite Suja (Two Lost Souls on a Dirty ...

It seems the future never arrives in Brazil What Lies Ahead in Brazil? Brazil Has No Exemplary Past or Present. But What Lies Ahead for the Country? Europeans, US, developed country, developing country. Bolsonaro, future B. Michael Rubin For years, experts have debated what separates a developing country from a developed one. The GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of a country is one simple way to measure its economic development. Another way to measure a country's progress is the extent of public education, e.g. how many citizens complete high school. A country's health may be measured by the effectiveness of its healthcare system, for example, life expectancy and infant mortality. With these measurement tools, it's easier to gauge the difference between a country like Brazil and one like the U.S. What's not easy to gauge is how these two countries developed so differently when they were both "discovered" at the same time. In 1492 and 1500 respectively, the U.S. and Brazil fell under the spell of white Europeans for the first time. While the British and Portuguese had the same modus operandi, namely, to exploit their discoveries for whatever they had to offer, not to mention extinguishing the native Americans already living there if they got in the way, the end result turned out significantly different in the U.S. than in Brazil. There are several theories on how/why the U.S. developed at a faster pace than Brazil. The theories originate via contrasting perspectives – from psychology to economics to geography. One of the most popular theories suggests the divergence between the two countries is linked to politics, i.e. the U.S. established a democratic government in 1776, while Brazil's democracy it could be said began only in earnest in the 1980s. This theory states that the Portuguese monarchy, as well as the 19th and 20th century oligarchies that followed it, had no motivation to invest in industrial development or education of the masses. Rather, Brazil was prized for its cheap and plentiful labor to mine the rich soil of its vast land. There is another theory based on collective psychology that says the first U.S. colonizers from England were workaholic Puritans, who avoided dancing and music in place of work and religious devotion. They labored six days a week then spent all of Sunday in church. Meanwhile, the white settlers in Brazil were unambitious criminals who had been freed from prison in Portugal in exchange for settling in Brazil. The Marxist interpretation of why Brazil lags behind the U.S. was best summarized by Eduardo Galeano, the Uruguayan writer, in 1970. Galeano said five hundred years ago the U.S. had the good fortune of bad fortune. What he meant was the natural riches of Brazil – gold, silver, and diamonds – made it ripe for exploitation by western Europe. Whereas in the U.S., lacking such riches, the thirteen colonies were economically insignificant to the British. Instead, U.S. industrialization had official encouragement from England, resulting in early diversification of its exports and rapid development of manufacturing. II Leaving this debate to the historians, let us turn our focus to the future. According to global projections by several economic strategists, what lies ahead for Brazil, the U.S., and the rest of the world is startling. Projections forecast that based on GDP growth, in 2050 the world's largest economy will be China, not the U.S. In third place will be India, and in fourth – Brazil. With the ascendency of three-fourths of the BRIC countries over the next decades, it will be important to reevaluate the terms developed and developing. In thirty years, it may no longer be necessary to accept the label characterized by Nelson Rodrigues's famous phrase "complexo de vira-lata," for Brazil's national inferiority complex. For Brazilians, this future scenario presents glistening hope. A country with stronger economic power would mean the government has greater wealth to expend on infrastructure, crime control, education, healthcare, etc. What many Brazilians are not cognizant of are the pitfalls of economic prosperity. While Brazilians today may be envious of their wealthier northern neighbors, there are some aspects of a developed country's profile that are not worth envying. For example, the U.S. today far exceeds Brazil in the number of suicides, prescription drug overdoses, and mass shootings. GDP growth and economic projections depend on multiple variables, chief among them the global economic situation and worldwide political stability. A war in the Middle East, for example, can affect oil production and have global ramifications. Political stability within a country is also essential to its economic health. Elected presidents play a crucial role in a country's progress, especially as presidents may differ radically in their worldview. The political paths of the U.S. and Brazil are parallel today. In both countries, we've seen a left-wing regime (Obama/PT) followed by a far-right populist one (Trump/Bolsonaro), surprising many outside observers, and in the U.S. contradicting every political pollster, all of whom predicted a Trump loss to Hillary Clinton in 2016. In Brazil, although Bolsonaro was elected by a clear majority, his triumph has created a powerful emotional polarization in the country similar to what is happening in the U.S. Families, friends, and colleagues have split in a love/hate relationship toward the current presidents in the U.S. and Brazil, leaving broken friendships and family ties. Both presidents face enormous challenges to keep their campaign promises. In Brazil, a sluggish economy just recovering from a recession shows no signs of robust GDP growth for at least the next two years. High unemployment continues to devastate the consumer confidence index in Brazil, and Bolsonaro is suffering under his campaign boasts that his Economy Minister, Paulo Guedes, has all the answers to fix Brazil's slump. Additionally, there is no end to the destruction caused by corruption in Brazil. Some experts believe corruption to be the main reason why Brazil has one of the world's largest wealth inequality gaps. Political corruption robs government coffers of desperately needed funds for education and infrastructure, in addition to creating an atmosphere that encourages everyday citizens to underreport income and engage in the shadow economy, thereby sidestepping tax collectors and regulators. "Why should I be honest about reporting my income when nobody else is? The politicians are only going to steal the tax money anyway," one Brazilian doctor told me. While Bolsonaro has promised a housecleaning of corrupt officials, this is a cry Brazilians have heard from every previous administration. In only the first half-year of his presidency, he has made several missteps, such as nominating one of his sons to be the new ambassador to the U.S., despite the congressman's lack of diplomatic credentials. A June poll found that 51 percent of Brazilians now lack confidence in Bolsonaro's leadership. Just this week, Brazil issued regulations that open a fast-track to deport foreigners who are dangerous or have violated the constitution. The rules published on July 26 by Justice Minister Sérgio Moro define a dangerous person as anyone associated with terrorism or organized crime, in addition to football fans with a violent history. Journalists noted that this new regulation had coincidental timing for an American journalist who has come under fire from Moro for publishing private communications of Moro's. Nevertheless, despite overselling his leadership skills, Bolsonaro has made some economic progress. With the help of congressional leader Rodrigo Maia, a bill is moving forward in congress for the restructuring of Brazil's generous pension system. Most Brazilians recognize the long-term value of such a change, which can save the government billions of dollars over the next decade. At merely the possibility of pension reform, outside investors have responded positively, and the São Paulo stock exchange has performed brilliantly, reaching an all-time high earlier this month. In efforts to boost the economy, Bolsonaro and Paulo Guedes have taken the short-term approach advocated by the Chicago school of economics championed by Milton Friedman, who claimed the key to boosting a slugging economy was to cut government spending. Unfortunately many economists, such as Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman, disagree with this approach. They believe the most effective way to revive a slow economy is exactly the opposite, to spend more money not less. They say the government should be investing money in education and infrastructure projects, which can help put people back to work. Bolsonaro/Guedes have also talked about reducing business bureaucracy and revising the absurdly complex Brazilian tax system, which inhibits foreign and domestic business investment. It remains to be seen whether Bolsonaro has the political acumen to tackle this Godzilla-sized issue. Should Bolsonaro find a way to reform the tax system, the pension system, and curb the most egregious villains of political bribery and kickbacks – a tall order – his efforts could indeed show strong economic results in time for the next election in 2022. Meanwhile, some prominent leaders have already lost faith in Bolsonaro's efforts. The veteran of political/economic affairs, Joaquim Levy, has parted company with the president after being appointed head of the government's powerful development bank, BNDES. Levy and Bolsonaro butted heads over an appointment Levy made of a former employee of Lula's. When neither man refused to back down, Levy resigned his position at BNDES. Many observers believe Bolsonaro's biggest misstep has been his short-term approach to fixing the economy by loosening the laws protecting the Amazon rainforest. He and Guedes believe that by opening up more of the Amazon to logging, mining, and farming, we will see immediate economic stimulation. On July 28, the lead article of The New York Times detailed the vastly increased deforestation in the Amazon taking place under Bolsonaro's leadership. Environmental experts argue that the economic benefits of increased logging and mining in the Amazon are microscopic compared to the long-term damage to the environment. After pressure from European leaders at the recent G-20 meeting to do more to protect the world's largest rainforest, Bolsonaro echoed a patriotic response demanding that no one has the right to an opinion about the Amazon except Brazilians. In retaliation to worldwide criticism, Bolsonaro threatened to follow Trump's example and pull out of the Paris climate accord; however, Bolsonaro was persuaded by cooler heads to retract his threat. To prove who was in control of Brazil's Amazon region, he appointed a federal police officer with strong ties to agribusiness as head of FUNAI, the country's indigenous agency. In a further insult to the world's environmental leaders, not to mention common sense, Paulo Guedes held a news conference on July 25 in Manaus, the largest city in the rainforest, where he declared that since the Amazon forest is known for being the "lungs" of the world, Brazil should charge other countries for all the oxygen the forest produces. Bolsonaro/Guedes also have promised to finish paving BR-319, a controversial highway that cuts through the Amazon forest, linking Manaus to the state of Rondônia and the rest of the country. Inaugurated in 1976, BR-319 was abandoned by federal governments in the 1980s and again in the 1990s as far too costly and risky. Environmentalists believe the highway's completion will seal a death knoll on many indigenous populations by vastly facilitating the growth of the logging and mining industries. Several dozen heavily armed miners dressed in military fatigues invaded a Wajãpi village recently in the state of Amapá near the border of French Guiana and fatally stabbed one of the community's leaders. While Brazil's environmental protection policies are desperately lacking these days, not all the news here was bad. On the opening day of the 2019 Pan America Games in Lima, Peru, Brazilian Luisa Baptista, swam, biked, and ran her way to the gold medal in the women's triathlon. The silver medal went to Vittoria Lopes, another Brazilian. B. Michael Rubin is an American writer living in Brazil.

Brazil Has No Exemplary Past or Present. But What Lies Ahead for the Country?

For years, experts have debated what separates a developing country from a developed one. ...

WordPress database error: [Table './brazzil3_live/wp_wfHits' is marked as crashed and last (automatic?) repair failed]
SHOW FULL COLUMNS FROM `wp_wfHits`