Thursday, May 19, 2011

Brazil's disappearing favelas: Sporting world's most powerful corporate interests render families homeless in Brazil

In Chile, it was called the The Brick. It was the many-thousand page economic manifesto of Dictator Augusto Pinochet, written by "the Chicago Boys" - Chilean exchange students from the University of Chicago. Disciples of the university's conservative, neoliberal economics professor Milton Friedman, they printed The Brick on "the other 9/11" - September 11th, 1973. As Chile's Presidential palace was being bombed, "Companero Presidente" Salvador Allende was being murdered, and General Pinochet was assuming power, The Brick became Pinochet's economic compass. It guided the country through two decades of slash and burn privatisation, displacement, and inequality - all in the name of "development".

Today Pinochet is reviled and gone, but The Brick has become a default manifesto for much of the globe. Today, it's most ardent sponsors ironically bear its name as an acronym: BRIC. They are Brazil, Russia, India, and China. These ambitious nations have established themselves as the future, not only of global economic growth, but as future centres of international sport. They can offer two things that the decaying, Western powers can no longer provide: massive deficit spending and a state police infrastructure to displace, destroy, or disappear anyone who dares stand in their way.

We are seeing this in particularly dramatic form in Brazil. The country will be hosting both the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics. In the 21st century, these sporting events require more than stadiums and hotels. The host country must provide a massive security apparatus, a willingness to crush civil liberties, and the will to create the kind of "infrastructure" these games demand. That means not just stadiums, but sparkling new stadiums. That means not just security, but the latest in anti-terrorist technology. That means not just new transportation to and from venues, but hiding unsightly poverty from those travelling to and from the games. That means a willingness to spend billions of dollars in the name of creating a playground for international tourism and multi-national sponsors.

Every day in the favelas, the slums that surround Brazil's major cities, these international athletic festivals are vividly recalling the ways of The Brick. Amnesty International, the United Nations, and even the International Olympic Committee - fearful of the damage to their "brand", are raising concerns. It's understandable why.

This week came a series of troubling tales of the bulldozing and cleansing of the favelas, all in the name of "making Brazil ready for the Games". Hundreds of families from Favela de Metro find themselves living on rubble with nowhere to go after a pitiless housing demolition by Brazilian authorities. By bulldozing homes before families had the chance to find new housing or be "relocated", the government is in flagrant violation of the most basic concepts of human rights. (read more)