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That Open Letter to Brazil

 

Simple truths vs. A nuanced argument

In politics and in life, people like simple truths don’t they? It’s far more satisfying to hear someone ‘tell it like it is’ than it is to endure the lily-livered vacillations of a nuanced argument. Just look at what’s going on in the US right now if you’re in any doubt about that. The problem with simple truths is that while they are always simple they are rarely true.

I’ve been thinking over the subject of today’s post for a while and I expect many of you will partly, or entirely, disagree with my thoughts and conclusions. Other opinions are available and if you disagree with mine then fair enough, I’d be interested to hear your views in the comments section (you might even succeed in changing my mind).

The object of my pondering is “An Open Letter to Brazil” that did the rounds a few weeks back. The author is a “writer, thinker and life-enthusiast [who] writes personal development advice that doesn’t suck” (his words). He writes articles with titles like “How to attract women” and “Shut up and kiss her”. Quite the intellectual then…

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burnt-out-bus

Roseana Sarney – at it again

Back in May 2012 I wrote about the despicable Roseana Sarney, governor of Maranhão, (home to 32 of Brazil’s 50 poorest cities). Back then there was an article which highlighted the incredible amounts of public money she was spending on luxury food.

Roseana-Sarney

Roseana Sarney, governor of Maranhão, one of Brazil’s poorest states. Image: O Globo

 

As well as the ongoing poverty, the state is currently having a prison crisis. Recent investigations uncovered shocking reports of organised rape of female visitors in the state’s main prison, Complexo Penitenciário de Pedrinhas in state capital, São Luís.

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jeitinho

Jeitinho, Gambiarra and Bacalhau

If you spend any amount of time in Brazil, you will soon become familiar with the word jeitinho (sounds like zhay-CHEEN-yo).

 

Here’s what former President of Brazil, Fernando Henrique Cardoso (FHC to his friends) has to say on the matter:

Jeitinho has a double meaning. One meaning is good – that you try to solve problems rather than to put up obstacles… It’s an attitude, “Let’s try to solve this, let’s try to help you.” That’s positive. But there is another meaning, which is to disregard the law, the rules.

From an interview with Catherine Pees Scott

 

The word “jeito” means “way”, as in “I think there’s a way we can do this”. When we use the diminutive (jeitinho) we move into the realms of improvisation and rule bending.

jeitinho

Ran out of gas? A little jeitinho should fix this up!

 

It’s a divisive word because people seem to give it the meaning they want. For some it is about being resourceful and solving problems under difficult conditions; for others it is about not doing things properly, rule breaking and corruption.

Last weekend, Mrs Eat Rio and I were walking down our street when we got to a patch of pavement/sidewalk when had been repaired. The normal sections looked like this:

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Go Dilma!

In general, the British don’t go in for all that whooping and hollering when it comes to politicians. Of course there are a few whoopers and hollerers out there, but most of us tend to feel a tinge of regret when choosing to support a politician. We choose Politician X because, having weighed up the options, we’ve decided that he or she is the least bad of the bunch. Certainly not as bad as Politicians Y and Z. But that doesn’t mean we’re about to start waving flags and having parties.

With that out of the way, I can now say that it seems to me that Dilma (let’s get the pronunciation right – it sounds like JIL-ma) has done a pretty decent job since coming to power. I’m not going to pretend that I spend huge amounts of time reading hundreds of in-depth political pieces (my Portuguese level is closer to João e Luiza vão à Praia), but I’ve formed this opinion based on a few factors.

Dilma recente

There are a lot of images of Dilma out there, not all of them flattering, but I like this one for the fact that it looks fairly natural – less like one of those awful, staged campaign posters.

 

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Using food to steal from the starving

They say that anyone who actively wants to be a politician should be prevented from being one on principle. It’s a cynical way of looking at things, but then it’s not exactly breaking news that politics attracts its fair share of dishonest characters. If we take the example of the UK over the last decade, scandal after scandal has emerged with depressing regularity – politicians accepting money to ask questions in parliament, widespread cheating of expense allowances (i.e. stealing), and over-cosy relationships with evil media moguls to name just a few.

Despite the regularity of political scandals back home, since coming to Brazil I have been shocked not only by how widespread the corruption here seems to be, but also by the sheer audacity and greed with which it is perpetrated.

Sadly it is all too easy to become desensitised to all this dishonesty, but even against this background, every once in a while a story comes along that takes my breath away.

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Clash of the Corruptions

People in Rio are always talking about the upcoming World Cup and Olympics. Will they be a success? What will become of Rio afterwards? Will the pacified favelas be abandoned and left to fall back into the control of drug dealers? What will happen to house prices? The list goes on.

A recent story was that Jérôme Valcke, the General Secretary of FIFA (football’s governing body), has been visiting Brazil to oversee the world cup preparations. Mr Valcke kicked up a storm by stating not only that beer must be sold in Brazilian stadiums, but that it will be sold in Brazilian stadiums. This is in spite of the fact that there has been a law here making such alcohol sales illegal since 2003 2008 (thanks Andre)! His words were:

“Alcoholic drinks are part of the Fifa World Cup, so we’re going to have them. Excuse me if I sound a bit arrogant but that’s something we won’t negotiate.”

Highlighting the fact that you're being arrogant doesn't excuse the arrogance. The head of FIFA, Sepp Blatter (also a scumbag), is a big fan of Valcke, saying: "When he began his work as director of marketing and TV in FIFA four and a half years ago, we were in a financial crisis. Currently we have an equity of 752 million Swiss francs."

 

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Lupi catches bullet

I won’t resign and I won’t be sacked. I have the President’s full support. I guarantee it won’t happen…It will take a bullet to get me out of the ministry. And it will have to be a big bullet, because I’m a big guy. – Carlos Lupi, 8th November 2011.

Politics and corruption in Brazil appear to be intimately linked.

 

Brazil’s Labour minister, Carlos Lupi, announced his resignation yesterday. This makes him the 6th minister to resign because of corruption allegations since President Dilma Rousseff came to power (at the start of 2011). Lupi’s resignation comes after more than a month of allegations and revelations. As the quote above illustrates, this guy is quite a character. In response to the outcry to that followed the above quote, he made another statement apologising to the president:


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