About the time the mass protests were happening in Brazil, David Cameron visited Afghanistan. Because of his excess weight, the Captain Pugwash look alike wore all black in sizzling heat. Cameron worries about being fat. He should worry about Brazil instead and what might happen next in Britain. The Tories did not create food banks but they exist as a suitable metaphor for his sticking plaster nation. In the main, the Brazilians protest whilst the British riot. The Brazilians wave banners and block roads to the international airports. So far, these roadblocks have affected 100 Brazilian cities. Airports enable the rich to travel their country and avoid the poor so they are an obvious target. Meanwhile, the British normally loot shops whilst carefully side stepping book chains. Who wants to waste time reading in a society that says you are entitled to any goodie that you can afford or grab? Brazilian President, Dilma Rouseff, has a popular rating higher than both Obama and Cameron, which is why chubby Dave should worry. Unlike the Brits and the Tories, the majority of Brazilians regard the ruling Workers Party as a beneficial agent in Brazilian politics. It has managed to redistribute some income to the very poor whilst creating a thriving economy.
Some right wing Americans have concluded that the riots in Brazil are another example of socialism failing. Although the ruling party is called Partido Trabadores (Workers Party) it is not socialist. The socialists are in a party called not that surprisingly the Brazilian Socialist Party. A good tip for right wing American analysts is socialists can be identified by the term socialists. The World Cup winning footballer Romário and a possible future role model for Wayne Rooney is one of the 7 elected representatives of the Brazilian Socialist Party. Romário grew up in poverty and had a poor education but he could play football and was cool and handsome. (Actually, forget about Wayne Rooney.) Just in case that does not make you feel envious, Romário is also no slouch when it comes to political analysis. Romário accepts that the protests revolve around the cost of the World Cup. He originally voted for the World Cub being held in Brazil but he took that decision when previous President, Luiz Inacio Lula de Silva, promised that the money allocated to the World Cup would not be excessive and the finance would be transparent. Neither has happened, and Romário believes that the World Cup will prevent the Brazilian Government from addressing urgent social problems. ‘We have a bad situation that will be made worse,’ says Romário. Everybody knows the football will be expensive. The initial budget of R$25.5bn (£7.4bn) has risen to R$ 28bn which is 3 times the cost of the World Cup in Germany in 2006. To whom all this money will go is not clear despite what de Silva said although those awfully nice people at FIFA will make R$4bn profit tax free. In a sense, we have another single-issue protest invading the streets. Funding the World Cup has meant reductions in what is being spent on education, health and safety. But as Romário explains, single-issue protests do not occur in a vacuum. ‘Brazil may have improved its economic index but it remains socially vulnerable,’ argues the ex-footballer. The World Cup may be for Rouseff what Iraq was for Blair. The left in the UK never forgave Blair for joining sides with a man they regarded as a dumb Texan neo-fascist and ignored the genuine social improvements achieved by New Labour. The governments of Lula and Rouseff have also achieved much but the cynical opportunism on display sticks in the throat of
ordinary Brazilians. Instead of worrying about the real problems that exist in the favelas, authorities hire artists on the cheap to paint the shantytowns so they will not offend the tourists and, if they arrive, the especially sensitive English football fans. This feel good gesture has occurred while the Brazilian police have adopted a siege mentality against the criminal and drug dealers that control the favelas. This may not be as cynical as it sounds. It is a bold move to confront the drug barons but it also suggests a desperate gamble. Violent crime in Brazil still continues unabated and the murder rate compares to that of Mexico. If the Government expected social unrest, they would have predicted civil disruption from criminals rather than middle class youngsters waving flags. In the past, a criminal syndicate protested against the conditions of their gang leader in prison by ensuring the city of Sáo Paulo could not function. They also killed a few people. Fortunately, the crisis was resolved, and the prisoner concerned was allowed to continue with his luxurious lifestyle inside his exclusive quarters within the prison. Facing such threats, it is not surprising that the PT Government has not addressed the corruption that exists in Brazil. Unlike in the USA and the UK, their political process lacks the finesse of government contracts and land subsidies to legally transfer money from the poor to the rich. In Brazil, the powerful simply steal the money from taxes and when caught ask their friends in the judiciary to find them innocent which invariably happens. To help the poor, PT may have sneaked in the Bolsa Familia Programme much like Gordon Brown did with tax credits in the UK, but for the corrupt elite little has changed. Brazil is a country where the cities have helipads on the top of tall buildings for the abundant private helicopters. In the same cities, young unemployed people are often obliged to sleep in the streets. Fewer than 3% of the population own 66% of the land. In that other great failed socialist experiment, the UK, 0.69% of the population own 69% of the land. The Brazilian economy is thriving but it also depends on a lot of people willing to spend all day on the streets with the hope of earning a couple of dollars. Brazil has street hustlers unable to plan beyond the next 24 hours, and the UK has food banks for those who worry about how their children might eat.
In Brazil, an 8p increase in bus fares is significant and galling especially as traffic in the cities is chaotic and for the stressed commuters somehow slow and dangerous. The protesters feel that if a World Cup can be afforded then why should Brazilians have to pay to travel on overcrowded buses. Some Britons have similar feelings. If Britain can pay for Afghanistan, HS2 and Trident why do we need food banks? The Brazilian economy has improved and has an index that even satisfies The Economist which is gratified that the rich are benefitting more than the poor. Education is still a weakness in Brazilian society, unless of course you have a helicopter to take you to an exclusive school. In the Education Quality Index, Brazil is ranked second last. Indeed, the famous amiability of the Brazilians may have roots in the education system. Other young people around the world fret over exam results. Many young Brazilians can ignore overstretched teachers and enjoy the sunshine. Unfortunately, this cannot go on, and ordinary Brazilians consider it scandalous that football takes priority over the development of their children. Those inside the stadium who watched Brazil win the Confederations Cup are different. They can afford the tickets, enjoy the triumph and return to their guarded retreats and favoured lifestyle. Over a million of the rest have taken to the streets to protest, and Brazilian TV has shown how the police take off their badges so they can beat up social critics. Fortunately, the police have had practice. This is how they have treated the poor in the favelas for some time. But Brazil triumphed in the Confederations Cup, and Rouseff has offered reforms. There has been another protest this week but the situation is calmer. The countdown to the World Cup begins but not in the way envisaged.
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