Stagecoach To Somewhere – Brazil Report May

Somebody is being cheeky and, inevitably, the powerful are irritated.  The Brazilian Foreign Minister, impeccably named Antonio Patriota, is planning to recruit 6000 Cuban doctors to work in the rural areas or backlands of Brazil.   Because the cities offer trained medics higher wages and sophisticated glamour, the rural poor, like the urban poor in the favelas, are easily neglected.   To the smug rich, this link with Cuba has worrying echoes of how now deceased leftie Hugo Chavez took Cuban medical expertise to Venezuela in exchange for oil.  The governing party in Brazil is called the Workers Party, and that definitely has a left wing ring.  Brazilian President Dima Rouseff, and even her name sounds dangerously ideological, initiated the talks between Cuba and Brazil. The elite in plutocracies, sorry, representative democracies, pride themselves on tolerance and mutualism.  The least the left can do is play fair and not introduce policies on behalf of the workers.  The Brazilian Federal Medical Council has described the initiative as ‘irresponsible’ and described the planned programme of health care as ‘politico-electoral’.  Rouseff also wants to produce medicine jointly with Cuba and lend their ex-revolutionary lefties $176m to develop airports.   If this is not enough to make the rich paranoid, which of course they always are, the Brazilian trade diplomat, Roberto Azevêdo, is now the head of the World Trade Organisation.  He declares his objective to ensure free and fair trade.  Whilst the plutocracy certainly believes in the free market that word ‘fair’ worries them especially as Dima, the lady with a name more left wing than Rosa Luxembourg, has already congratulated the diplomat on his appointment.  The view amongst the Brazilian elite is that people are being careless. Perhaps it is the consequence of the famous Brazilian amiability.  This is what happens when people relax without diligence, which is maybe why Brazil needs 6000 extra doctors and to produce medicines fast.

Two examples of carelessness have recently worried Brazilians.  A week ago, in the coastal city of Arraial do Cabo, a 28 years old woman was accidentally shot by her husband with a harpoon.  The harpoon went through her mouth, and the point came out the other side.  She was rushed to hospital and underwent emergency surgery, which presumably necessitated temporary decapitation.   Neurosurgeon, Allen Da Costa, stated that another half an inch and the unnamed woman would have died.   In the circumstances, half an inch appears to be a generous estimate.  We can be certain that it felt a lot less than half an inch to the lady involved.  Surgeons expect a complete recovery for the woman but are less confident about the prospects of the husband.


A police officer whose name is not available said that officials were looking into the case.  ‘Everything indicates that it was an accident but we are investigating.   We do not think that the husband tried to kill her.  Once she is fully recovered, the lady will be questioned.’   Presumably, the husband has avoided suspicion because he called for the ambulance. But who knows what the woman will have to say?   There could be surprises because meanwhile in Petroplis surgeons spent four hours removing a harpoon spear from the skull of a fisherman who accidentally shot himself.

While diligently cleaning his equipment he triggered the harpoon.   Accidentally, he set off the harpoon gun, so he says,  and the spear went through his left eye and lodged inside his skull.  Has anybody warned the Cuban doctors what to expect?  Perhaps it takes practice to remove all these harpoons. I hope that the victim, Senhor Coutinho, is not a relative of the latest acquisition by Liverpool football club because Coutinho, the currently harpoon free footballer, appears to be finding his form.  The last thing he needs is a harpoon accident in the family.  The Coutinho with the harpoon stuck in his skull arrived at Santa Teresa hospital 10 hours after the incident.   The not that easily surprised Brazilian surgeons were astonished to see that Coutinho was still conscious.  Admittedly, he was slow getting to the hospital but who knows what the man had to do before he left, a final fishing trip perhaps, and maybe he prevaricated.  Maybe he thought by going to hospital he was making a fuss of what was only one arrow.   On his arrival, Coutinho was sedated and the arrow was removed.  The operation lasted four hours.  Again a full recovery is expected.   Senor Coutinho is supposedly excited about wearing glasses.

Never to be outdone on carelessness, our friends the fine policemen of Rio de Janeiro are back in the headlines.    Anybody who thought at least the policemen in helicopters were safe from committing harm while in the sky has had to think again.   A helicopter crew chased a drug dealer through the streets of Rio and packed favelas, firing machine gun bullets at the racing car below.  Not every bullet hit the car but the drug dealer was found dead in his car next day albeit not by the helicopter crew.   The incident is being examined, and the investigators have been asked to determine whether excessive force was used.  Well, the policemen were in the sky and there was some restraint.  Nobody dropped a bomb, and there is absolutely no evidence that harpoon guns were used.  More accidents happen in the home than under helicopters full of policemen watching James Bond DVDs.  If you think that remark about driving and watching DVDs is fanciful then you have never taken a taxi in Salvador.   Presumably, those involved will be asked why they were chasing the drug dealer.   Not every Brazilian will assume that they were pursuing an arrest. But we need a sense of proportion.  Right now in Syria, the warring factions save machine gun fire for the quiet interludes in the conflict.  They call it modest strategic engagement or something.

The Brazilian police do not use tanks and bombs or not at the moment.  The authorities have just ordered thirty-seven German tanks.  They will take part in a pre-Olympic security drive.   Citizens, and drug dealers especially, have been asked to keep their distance but enough cynicism from me.   Life in Brazil has improved.  Lula and Rouseff have not produced any ideas for an economy that would eschew the disgraceful unequal distribution of income that scars the country but some of the Government programmes have mitigated hardship amongst the poor.  And the country is acquiring a confidence and a sense of right and wrong that was missing in the past.

The police in the helicopter were chasing a felon or he certainly became a felon once the helicopter appeared.   The movie, ‘Carandiru’, is available on DVD at Amazon and always worth seeing especially now the original policemen involved in the prison slaughter are on trial.   In 1992, around about the time Jimmy Saville was pestering young British women, prison guards and policemen quelled a prison riot.  They killed 102 prisoners.   The riot had exploded after a row at a football match.   The police went into the cells and slaughtered prisoners at point blank range.  Many of those they killed had surrendered, and some were naked.   This happened because the riot had already calmed when the police stepped inside the prison.   The police slaughtered prisoners indiscriminately.    Like Hillsborough and showbiz paedophilia, the event required memory for Brazilians to see sense and be shocked.


So we must not laugh and make cheap jokes when we hear extreme tales about harpoon accidents.   In Brazil, in their bloody past, there have been people a lot more careless than the two fishermen.  And if the Government is being careless about the sensitivity of an elite that never gave a damn, well, good luck to them.

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  1. Yet another informative and interesting piece. I can almost feel the pain of the arrow, awful!! but did smile at the somewhat black humour.

  2. A great, interesting and humourous piece. I heard about the woman with the harpoon and saw the same image, a miracle that she survived. I love how you said, ‘the woman is expected to make a full recovery… not sure about the husband though’. Fantastic line! Very informative in regards to ‘Carandiru’, as well as the Brazilian policemen. Thank you for a wonderful article and an always intriguing read Howard!

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