Brazil: The Circus costs Plenty, so No Bread for the Hungry

Sporting Mega-Events

What the Protesting Brazilians Learnt from Their BRICS Compatriots

The legendary Pele got an earful from the hundreds of thousands of protestors on the streets of Brazil who refused to heed his appeal to “forget” the protests and support the national football team. Unthinkable as it is, does it indicate that popular protests have finally overcome their inability to challenge the sporting mega event, that the modern-day “circus” is now seen for what it is: a scam of massive proportions?

Sharda Ugra (Sharda.Ugra@espn.com) is senior editor, ESPNcricinfo.com and has been a sports journalist for almost 24 years.

This article was published last week in the Web Exclusives section of the EPW website. This article is the expanded and revised version of what appeared on the Quartz.com website, http://qz.com/98428/deceit-fraudand- fi rst-world-problems-brics-graduated-tothe- sports-big-leagues-and-now-regret-it/

On the night Brazil beat current world champions Spain to win the Confederations Cup football final, Brazilian coach Luis Felipe Scolari was asked a loaded question. About what it was like playing football at a time Brazil was shaken by street protests, some violent, against institutional corruption and lopsided public expenditure. Scolari responded with fury. “Not my area”, he said and, after asking the journalist if he was English (which he was) barked, “So what happened before the Olympics over there? Maybe you want to take a look at your own country before saying there’s something wrong with mine.”

The Confederations Cup victory aside, June 2013 will go down as the winter of Brazil’s discontent, sweeping along in the heart of its anger, football and the Rio Olympic Games of 2016, the two events expected to pitch-fork the country into global acclaim. These two Brazilian sporting showpieces, the 2014 football World Cup and the 2016 Olympics have, however, turned into something else.

Putting Futebol in Its Place

A crowd of 5,000-odd that protested near the Maracana Stadium on the night of the Confederations Cup final, was drowned out by cheering fans and street parties that followed the victory. The days leading up to the final, though, had been different: 50,000 clashed with police a few miles from the stadium in Belo Horizonte where Brazil and Uruguay were playing their semi-final. In the capital Brasilia, there were peaceful yet more symbolic protests on the day, where the crowds kicked footballs over a police cordon towards the Brazilian parliament, the Congress.

Scolari’s churlish reply about the London Olympics and “not my area” was his instant retort following his team’s emphatic and impressive win. Until that, Brazil’s players had been far more sympathetic to the protestors with its rising star Neymar, saying in his Instagram microblog, “I want a Brazil that is fair and safe and healthier and more honest”. Once the flush of the Confederations Cup victory has died down (along with Scolari’s anger), the questions asked by Brazilians throughout June are bound to return. The first protest had centred around bus and metro fare hikes in Sao Paulo, but in the space of three weeks, the outcry around the country grew over failing social services, rampant corruption and misplaced expenditure. The crowds grew from tens of thousands to those totalling a million-strong on 20 June in many cities, with the World Cup and the Olympics turning into symbols of everything wrong with the government and the country’s elite. Continue reading

Obama in South Africa: Washington tells Pretoria how to ‘play the game’ in Africa

Protesters greet Obama, June 28, 2013.

By Patrick Bond, Durban

July 1, 2013Links International Journal of Socialist RenewalUS President Barack Barack Obama’s weekend trip to South Africa may have the desired effect of slowing the geopolitical realignment of Pretoria to the Brazil-India-Russia-China-South Africa (BRICS) axis. That shift to BRICS has not, however, meant deviation from the hosts’ political philosophy, best understood as “talk left, walk right” since it mixes anti-imperialist rhetoric with pro-corporate policies.

Overshadowed by Nelson Mandela’s critically ill health, Obama’s implicit denial of a US imperial agenda could not disguise Washington’s economic paranoia. As expressed on June 25 by White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes, “What we hear from our businesses is that they want to get in the game in Africa. There are other countries getting in the game in Africa – China, Brazil, Turkey. And if the US is not leading in Africa, we’re going to fall behind in a very important region of the world.”

Over a century earlier, another Rhodes – Cecil John – explained that very game: “We must find new lands from which we can easily obtain raw materials and at the same time exploit the cheap slave labour that is available from the natives of the colonies. The colonies would also provide a dumping ground for the surplus goods produced in our factories.” Although there is no longer formal slave labour within formal colonies, this sentiment readily links the neoliberal agenda of both the BRICS and the US.

Perhaps embarrassed, Obama himself retracted Ben Rhodes’ confession of inter-imperial rivalry when asked by the White House press corps: “I want everybody playing in Africa. The more the merrier. A lot of people are pleased that China is involved in Africa.”

This must have raised cynical eyebrows, because he added, “China’s primary interest is being able to obtain access for natural resources in Africa to feed the manufacturers in export-driven policies of the Chinese economy.” Continue reading

Washington in Africa: Who will Obama ‘whack’ next?

[An important and detailed look at Washington’s Obama-era African policy initiatives.  Lengthy, but well worth reading.  The conclusions drawn from the information provided are the author’s, and do not necessarily imply Frontlines’ perspective.  —  Frontlines ed.]

Graphic from The Economist

 

by Patrick Bond, Address to the Muslim Youth Movement 40th Anniversary Conference, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, September 30, 2012.  Article was posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with the author’s permission.

 

At a time when popular revolutions are sweeping the globe, the United States should be strengthening, not weakening, basic rules of law and principles of justice enumerated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But instead of making the world safer, America’s violation of international human rights abets our enemies and alienates our friends. – Former US president Jimmy Carter, 25 June 2012, New York Times

US actions since 9/11 represent the final stage in the US’s century-long effort to complete the project of making US-led globalization a concrete reality across the world through three historical moments: 1) the attempted creation of a global Monroe doctrine between 1898 and 1919; 2) the Roosevelt administration’s creation of the Bretton Woods Institutions – the World Bank and IMF – and the UN; and 3) globalization – the US-led effort to establish a new global regime based on free trade, deregulation, and privatization. – Neil Smith, The Endgame of Globalization, 2005

The US Assistant Secretary of State for Africa and former three-time ambassador, Johnnie Carson, was feted by Brooks Spector recently at Daily Maverick, in an article entitled “America’s Mr Africa”. While it is always fitting to honour African-Americans who persevere to the top despite that country’s deep internal racism, Spector makes contentious political and economic claims about the “new” US Africa policy. “For some observers at least”, he says, “Barack Obama’s new partnership with Africa was announced in his speech in Accra [July 11, 2009], when he declared the era of the authoritarian African big man to be over – kaput!”[1] As described below, however, Washington has maintained extremely cozy relationships with a variety of African dictators.

Spector then endorses Carson’s claims that “US interests in the continent fundamentally stem from its interest in strengthening trade to help African states grow their economies and meet development needs”, and that “the US wants to work with African nations to strengthen democratic institutions, good governance and efforts to stamp out corruption [and] to spur economic growth through market-driven, free trade principles”. Sorry, but we recall Washington’s deregulatory support for Wall Street’s market-driven binge, which in 2008-09 contributed to the worst global economic crash in 80 years, resulting in around a million South African job losses. We know that only the wealthy recovered so far, and that in the US, the top 1 per cent received 93 per cent of all new income since 2009, because the system wasn’t fixed. And who can forget White House hypocrisy when it comes to vast and often illegal US agro-corporate subsidies which continue to thwart African production? And is there any capital city whose political system is more corrupted by corporate (especially banking) campaign contributions than Washington, resulting in such extreme malgovernance that Obama cannot even make an effort to convict a single banker for world-historic economic misdeeds?

Spector’s most flawed assumption is that by increasing trade with (and vulnerability to) the world economy, “Africa” grows. Although a few elites have certainly grown rich from extraction, the opposite is more true, if we make a simple, rational adjustment to GDP: incorporating the wasting of Africa’s “natural capital” (a silly phrase but one used increasingly by powerbrokers eyeing the ‘Green Economy’). Measuring this loss is something that 10 African leaders agreed to start doing so in May, in the Gabarone Declaration initiated by Botswana president Ian Khama and the NGO Conservation International. The adjustment entails counting the outflow of natural capital (especially non-renewable mineral/petroleum resources) not only as a short-term credit to GDP (via “output of goods” measuring the resources extracted and sold), but also as a long-term debit to the natural capital stocks, as non-renewable resources no longer become available to future generations. Number-crunch the resource depletion, and net wealth declines in Africa as well as the Middle East. Continue reading