In the UK, the Labour Party has said this week that it will withdraw the Winter Heating Allowance from rich pensioners. In Brazil, the Government provides condoms free in hotels for everyone, the active and the decrepit visitors like me. Clearly, the debate about universal instead of means tested welfare entitlement exists everywhere. Health Minister, Alexandre Padilha, is on the defensive but for other reasons. His department had commissioned an advertising campaign called, ‘Not ashamed to use a condom.’ The advert also had the intention of ‘reducing prejudice against sex workers.’ Already, it sounds too complicated. The advert, which Minister Padilha insists was only a prototype for circulation within the Department, has been referred to as ‘the happy prostitute’. Of course, the Brazilians are amiable people but one can imagine the disaster. The advert will not be used.
Talking of rubber, the model and environmentalist, Lily Cole, has launched a line of sustainably sourced rubber jewellery. It is not aimed, she insists, at those men who buy jewellery for women so they can bend them to their will. Her ambition is to encourage industry based on wild rubber and to use the profits for reinvestment in the Amazon region. Lily is English and a quite charming antidote to some of the English we have to watch on TV these days. Lily has also proposed an altruistic social network called ‘impossible.com’. The idea is that people will donate gifts and services to help others. Lily who is either a really nice person or just a bit thick has called it a ‘Society of Giving’. But if she makes the selfish feel uncomfortable she should be encouraged.
If we can abandon the idealism for a moment, though, and return to sex because this next development should definitely worry backbench Tories. Last year, Brazil legalised same sex marriage. Since then, Brazil has held its biggest ever Gay Parade. More than 3 million people attended and celebrated whatever is celebrated on these occasions. I know, I need to watch it here. There are plenty of warnings such as the ‘happy prostitute’ ad campaign but I will continue. During the celebration, Gay Rights activist, Everton Correia spoke to the media. His words would terrify the UK Tory establishment if they heard them. ‘There are 190 million Brazilians and not all gay people have come out.’ One wonders what he may mean, 190 million marchers perhaps? Just as well Everton has never met David Cameron who cynically used legalisation of same sex marriage
to divert attention from his extreme right wing Government. We should be pleased for gays but have no illusions about Cameron. It is a shame about the Christian name but Everton, unlike many supporters of the football team with the same name, understands the difference between progress and being patronised. Everton says there is still plenty of homophobic violence in Brazil and that Sao Paulo is not typical of the South American country. Like the UK, life in the various regions differs considerably. According to Everton, what a difference a day makes is not as much as people think. The problem of child labour is a good example.
In the years between 2010 and 2012, there was a 30% reduction in child labour in Brazil, more bad news for the Tories who are always heartened by evidence of exploitation and competitive unit costs. In some Brazilian states, though, the numbers of children working has risen. In the state of Amapà, the incidence of child labour has increased by 67%. Brazil has a Commission for the Eradication of Child Labour so it can be assumed that someone in Amapà in a certain job recently became unemployed. The most vulnerable group are considered to be the 10 to 13 year olds. For this group, the numbers have climbed overall by 1.5%. If Everton, with his flair for numbers, were a child, he would be especially concerned because the situation may be worse than the numbers suggest. Families in a recent social survey reported that in total 3.7 million children were working. But 5 million children in Brazil are believed to not attend compulsory schooling. At least 1.97 million of working children are employed in conditions that the Commission describes as ‘hazardous or insalubrious’. Young lives are being risked through exposure to not only danger but also poisonous vapours and material. This is more than a few kids sagging school or what the Tories, when they talk about poverty, describe as irresponsible parenting. Indeed, some of the images released by the Commission are disturbing. Eradication of child labour appears, like the ambition of Everton for total emancipation, to be a hopeless dream, especially as we can rely on the rich and powerful to obstruct progress.
And a way of life dies hard, of course, which is why Brazilian authorities have to be sensitive about child labour and the sex industry. Another Brazilian tradition is the land dispute. Recently, they have reappeared. The authorities have sent an army to a farm in the Western State called Mato Grosso do Sul, actually only 200 soldiers not the whole army. The owner of the farm is a local politician. Since the Terena tribe has occupied the property, one person has been killed. After the police arrived to calm the dispute, an unidentified gunman injured another and two more have disappeared. A local judge has issued an eviction order for the tribe to leave the farm by Friday. The Terena tribe say that the ranch is on their ancestral land.
He said, ‘ We’re not going to put out the flames by putting alcohol on the bonfire’.
Cardoza is travelling to the Sidrolandia region where the farm under dispute is located. Brazil has good internal airlines, which is good, because this Minister will need to be mobile. 2000 members of the Kaingang and Gurani indigenous groups are blocking highways in Mato Grosso do Sul to protest against the decision of the Government to stop granting land to indigenous communities. In the Amazon, a land that we know is dear to Lily Cole, the Munduruku group are occupying the site where the huge Belo Monte hydraulic dam is being constructed. It will be the third biggest dam in the world or it will be if somebody can get the Munduruku out of the way. And the FA thought laying the turf at Wembley was complicated.
The constitution of Brazil allows for 13% of land to be claimed by indigenous groups. Rather, it did until the farm lobby accused the Government of seizing land settled by farmers a hundred years ago, and the politicians wavered. Oh yes, shall we remember the past as the farmers suggest? The indios of Brazil avoided slavery. They were merely slaughtered, persecuted and exploited. The department of state that had responsibility for protecting the indios was corrupt and colluded in their slaughter. The result of that collusion was considerable. In 1500, when the Portuguese arrived, there were 5,000,000 indios in Brazil. Today, there are only 270,00. The ancestral land was stolen and because the indios were somewhat aghast at the moral codes introduced by European civilisation many were killed. The story, of course, is not unique to Brazil. It stains all of South America. Outsiders might expect the farm lobby to use another argument and it would if it was not so powerful. The obvious needs stating. Farmers should give the indigenous their land and keep quiet about the past.
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