Monthly Archives: March 2014

Folha newspaper, 1 April 1964.

Folha de S.Paulo newspaper, 1 April 1964: “Congress declares presidency vacant” and “João Goulart (JG) in Rio Grande do Sul (RGS) says he’ll resist”

Brazil has marked 50 years since the 1964 coup d’état which ushered in 21 years of military dictatorship and the disappearance or death of almost 500 people during that time.

Thousands of others were arrested, exiled, tortured and deprived of their political rights.

President Dilma Rousseff, who fought against the dictatorship before being jailed and tortured by the military, said at a special event at the Presidential Palace on Monday that the coup, known as the Golpe, had to be remembered as part of the process which led to Brazil clawing back democracy.

“We learned the value of freedom, the value of an independent, active parliament and judiciary,” Rousseff said in an emotional speech. “We learned the value of a free press, the value of voting.”

“What is required of us today is that we remember and tell the story of what happened: we owe this to all those who died and disappeared, to those who were tortured and persecuted, to their families, and to all Brazilians,” Rousseff concluded.

Tanks in Rio de Janeiro. Golpe 1964. Photo: Arquivo Nacional

Tanks in Rio de Janeiro. Golpe 1964. Photo: Arquivo Nacional

On March 31, 1964, troops led by General Olímpio Mourão headed for Rio de Janeiro from neighbouring Minas Gerais state to execute the coup which had been years in the planning.

Battling a spluttering economy and dwindling support President João Goulart, known as “Jango”, was ousted from power and eventually fled with his family to the Uruguayan capital, Montevideo.

Investigations ongoing

Pedro Simon, who is still a senator at the age of 84 and was a personal friend of President Goulart, told UOL news website that the coup “took everyone by surprise” and that “no one thought things would erupt the way they did”.

Goulart died 12 years later in exile in Argentina, in what was reported at the time as a heart attack.

However, suspicions that he had been killed, possibly poisoned as part of Operation Condor to rid South America of left-wing politicians and their supporters, have never faded.

In March 2013, a National Truth Commission in Brazil, sanctioned by President Rousseff to investigate human rights violations for a period which includes the military dictatorship, announced that it would look into Goulart’s death at his family’s behest.  His body was exhumed in November and taken to Brasília for formal analysis.

There has been mixed reaction to the Commission, whose mandate includes attempting to establish what happened during the years of military rule through witnesses and re-examining available evidence.

Critics of the investigation from the military say they believe the inquiry is an attempt by the political left to exact revenge.

As recently as last week Colonel Paulo Malhães gave testimony to the Commission in which he admitted killing political prisoners and disfiguring and hiding their bodies.

Golpe anniversary protest. São Paulo. Photo: Estadão

Victims of the repressions mark the 50th anniversary of the Golpe at a protest in São Paulo. Photo: Estadão Conteúdo

Opening old wounds

But a 1979 amnesty law, according to which no one can be tried for any human rights abuses committed during the dictatorship, means that Malhães will not stand trial.

That’s one reason why the NTC has come under fire from relatives of those who were lost, some of whom believe it has done little more than open up old wounds with minimal gain.

And although there have been a small number of ceremonies and protests, including from the victims of the military era and others, unthinkably, urging today’s military to topple President Rousseff’s centre-left government by force, Brazilians appear by and large to have chosen to consign this chapter of recent history to the past.

Written for Anadolu Agency  |  SÃO PAULO  |  31 March 2014

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President Dilma Rousseff meets the Caxirola World Cup rattle

President Rousseff has a go on the official World Cup rattle – the caxirola

If you thought South Africa’s vuvuzelas were annoying during the 2010 World Cup, Brazil 2014 might not be much better for you.

Brazil is set to raise the roof on its stadiums with percussion instruments based on traditional indigenous tribal pieces: the caxirola and the pedhuá.

The caxirola, pronounced ca-shi-RO-la, is a type of rattle – somewhere between rainsticks and maracas – based on a indigenous instrument which used dried beans called the caxixi.

The caxirola name comes from joining of the words caxixi and castanhola (“castanets”), and was presented for the World Cup by musician Carlinhos Brown after an investment of R$1 million (US$442,000) in the project.

It has been given a “ringing endorsement” by Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff.

It features the national colours, and is a ‘green’ plastic in the other sense as well, fitting with the country’s role in global sustainability after it hosted the Rio+20 summit in 2012.

Pedhuá whistle

The pedhuá bird whistle replicates the noise of a bird in the tinamou family.

The pedhuá, pronounced peh-doo-AH, is a type of bird whistle, and also has indigenous roots.

The instrument is used to imitate the calls of ground-living birds in the tinamou family, known as inhambus in Brazil, on which natives used to feed (and still do in some places).

The whistle attracts both the birds themselves and those animals intrigued by the call.

The pedhuá, which is capable of making a deafening explosive whistling noise, hails from Paraíba state in the dry, scrubby sertão habitat of the northeast of Brazil.

Expert pedhuá players can imitate the back-and-forth calls of the male and female tinamous, which attempt to relocate each other in the mornings after a night of hiding.

The Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) has licensed the whistle for official World Cup use.

You can see a video report on Globo News (in Portuguese) about the pedhuá here.

A construction worker died at the Arena São Paulo World Cup stadium on Saturday – the third death at the site.

It is the eighth fatality linked to World Cup construction work in Brazil to have occurred during the country’s preparations for the football tournament.

Arena São Paulo, Corinthians, Itaquerão Stadium. Sao Paulo's Corinthians Arena stadium will host the opening match of Brazil's World Cup as planned, says FIFA president. Photo: AFP/Miguel Schincariol.

Three workers have now died at the Arena São Paulo in World Cup construction work. Photo: AFP/Miguel Schincariol.

The worker, named as 23-year-old Fabio Hamilton da Cruz, sustained the fatal injuries after falling from height on Saturday morning while installing the flooring for the stadium’s temporary stands.

Emergency services at the scene reported the man fell around 15 metres. The construction company carrying out the work, Fast Engenharia, said he fell around eight metres, adding that he had been using all appropriate safety gear at the time of the incident.

Mr Cruz was taken to a local hospital for urgent medical intervention but later died of his injuries, the hospital confirmed to local media on Saturday afternoon.

The football team behind the stadium, Corinthians, has announced three days of mourning in connection with the incident.

The construction company that subcontracted Fast Engenharia, WDS Construções, for whom Mr Cruz worked, said it deeply regretted the death and that it was providing assistance to his family.

General Secretary of FIFA, Jérôme Valcke, said on his official Twitter accounts in English and Portuguese that he was “deeply saddened” by the death:

 

Work continues

Despite the incident, Folha de S.Paulo newspaper reported that work continued at the site on Saturday afternoon, with police cordoning off just the area directly associated with the morning’s events.

GloboNews reported that the stadium’s general construction company, Odebrecht, said that work would not be delayed further by the incident.

The stadium – known as the Arena Corinthians or Itaquerão – is far behind schedule and workers are rushing to finish construction of the venue ahead of the World Cup opener on June 12, when Brazil take on Croatia. The stadiums will also hold five other World Cup fixtures.

The 48,000-seater stadium is having approximately 20,000 additional, temporary seats added for the FIFA tournament.

It is not the first death at the São Paulo stadium, nor at the other twelve host city sites.

In November 2013 two workers died at the São Paulo stadium after a crane manoeuvring part of the stadium’s roofing into place collapsed.

Eight people have now died in relation to work at World Cup sites, including one man who died as a result of a heart attack which his family say was brought on by punishing hours at the World Cup site in Manaus.

Saturday’s tragedy comes just days after Valcke said progress at the Arena São Paulo remained a concern, with delays exacerbated by an arguments over who is responsible for paying for temporary facilities to be used only during the World Cup.

Work also continues at stadiums in Curitiba and Cuiabá.

Written for Anadolu Agency

A Brazilian journalist who organised an online protest voicing dismay at the results of a study on the attitudes of Brazilians towards rape and violence against women has received numerous messages from men threatening to rape her.

Nana Queiroz, 28, received the threats after her online protest Eu Não Mereço Ser Estuprada (“I don’t deserve to be raped”) went viral on Friday 29 March.

On Thursday a study by the IPEA revealed the attitudes of over 3,800 Brazilians across Brazil towards sexual harassment, rape and violence against women.

Read Full Article

Dilma tweets on violence against women.

President Dilma Rousseff vows ‘zero tolerance’ to violence against women, after a study showed many Brazilians still blame over 527,000 annual rapes on the victims’ dress sense and behaviour.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff called for “zero tolerance” to violence against women on Friday after a study revealed that some 65% of Brazilians believe women “deserve to be [sexually] attacked” if they dress in a revealing way.

Rousseff made the comments after a study by the Institute of Applied Economic Research (IPEA) was released on Thursday.

In the study survey carried out in mid-2013, 3,810 people – two-thirds of whom women – were asked their opinion on a number of statements concerning harassment and violence against women.

To the statement “Women who used clothes that show off their body deserve to be attacked”, some 65.1% responded that they agreed totally or in part.

Some 58.5% also said they were in complete or partial agreement with the statement “If women knew how to behave, there would be fewer rapes”.

President Rousseff took to Twitter on Friday to say that Brazil as a society had “a long way to go on combatting violence against women”:

“The result clearly shows the burden of the laws and public policy in fighting violence against women. It also shows the government and society must work together to face down violence against women, both in and outside our homes.”

Ending a sequence of messages on her official Twitter account, the president called for “zero tolerance” towards the violence.

UPDATE: On the same day as President Rousseff’s comments, news of an online anti-rape protest hit Facebook and spread like wild fire, with the hashtag #nãomereçoserestuprada – or “I don’t deserve to be raped” and thousands of people showing their solidarity.

The study produced a complex and contradictory picture of attitudes in Brazil towards violence against women: over four-fifths of respondents agreed to some extent that “what happened between a couple in their home should not concern others”.

However, more than nine-in-ten believed that a man who beats his spouse should go to prison.

527,000 sexual assaults a year

The IPEA study concluded that Brazilian society still accepts a status quo where men rule over women but not if it extends to physical violence.

But with regard to sexual violence, most people still consider women to be responsible for such behavior if they wear provocative clothing or behave inappropriately, the study found.

A second IPEA study estimated that Brazil sees around 527,000 sexual assaults or rapes annually, but that only 10% of these cases are reported to police.

Carmita Abdo, coordinator of the Sexuality Studies program at the University of São Paulo (USP), said she was not surprised by the results, which show society still blames the victim for such cases of abuse.

“What leads to sexual harassment or rape is not the clothes that women wear but people who want to harass or rape,” she told Folha de S.Paulo newspaper.

Protests denouncing violence against women have been slowly garnering support in Brazil over the past decade, featuring in and amongst the array of grievances voiced by anti-government and anti-World Cup protests seen in the country since last June.

The global SlutWalk movement, which condemns those who believe a woman is at fault for rape because of the way she chooses to dress, has also had a presence in Brazil since 2011.

Extended version of report written for Anadolu Agency

Sao Paulo World Cup Protest. 27 March 2014. Photo by Ben Tavener

Protesters shout: “Hey, FIFA! Pay my tariff-a!” São Paulo World Cup Protest, 27 March 2014. Photo by Ben Tavener

Protesters took to the streets in a number of Brazilian cities on Thursday to show their disapproval of the government’s spending of public money on this year’s World Cup.

The biggest protest, in São Paulo, saw around 1,000 people march down the central business avenue, Avenida Paulista for the fourth time in 2014.

See photos of the protest

A similar number of military police also lined the streets, protecting businesses and onlookers from potential vandalism and violence – seen at previous events. Traffic was diverted away from the protest and police blocked demonstrators from entering side streets.

Sao Paulo World Cup Protest. 27 March 2014. Photo by Ben Tavener

São Paulo World Cup protest blocks part of the city’s main business avenue, Avenida Paulista. 27 March 2014. Photo by Ben Tavener

Although agitated masked individuals, purporting to be from the anarchy-loving Black Bloc group, united at the head of the protest and verbally abused photojournalists at the scene on more than one occasion, Thursday’s protests saw no violence and no arrests unlike previous editions of the demonstrations held under the general banner of “Não Vai Ter Copa” (Portuguese for “There Will Be No Cup”).

The protest largely related to the upcoming World Cup, but some condemned police violence: protesters reminded onlookers of the recent case of Cláudio Ferreira, who was dragged behind a police car through the streets of Rio after being shot in a police operation against armed gangs in a favela community in the city.

Others gave a reminder of next week’s 50th anniversary of the 1964 coup d’état and ensuing military dictatorship – of which protesters said today’s military police are a living legacy.

One of the São Paulo protest’s organisers, 20-year-old Vitor Araújo, said that its peaceful nature had shown that the demonstrators just wanted a platform to air their grievances, and that police had provoked tensions and violence at previous events:

“We’ve shown that things don’t start with us,” Araúja told Folha de S.Paulo newspaper. “We organized ourselves in such a way to avoid any kind of problem, as they start only when the military police repress them.”

At the end of the protest, the city’s fifth edition was announced for Tuesday 15 April.

Coordinated protests

William Oliveira, a 30-year-old tourism student from São Paulo told the Anadolu Agency that it was his right to come to the street to protests: “I’m hoping the country will improve now that people are coming out onto the streets, going online, and fighting for their rights.”

Sao Paulo World Cup Protest. 27 March 2014. Photo by Ben Tavener

“There Will Be No World Cup!” 27 March 2014. Photo by Ben Tavener

“We’re here to protest, legitimately, against public money being spent for private ends,” São Paulo teacher Jaqueline Meire, 24, told AA.

“We know there is no way we can take back the money that has already been invested in the [World Cup] stadiums, but I hope that as a result of these protests our grievances, demands for public services like transport, health and education, will be addressed.”

An anti-World Cup demonstration was also held in Rio de Janeiro, where protesters gathered at the Central Station, before marching on the city’s main Avenida Presidente Vargas road.

Similar small-scale events were also held in Fortaleza and Belo Horizonte.

Despite their small scale, the nationwide coordination of Thursday’s protests was reminiscent of the mass protests seen during the Confederations Cup in June 2013 and the way in which they were organized.

And although Thursday’s protests are a far cry from last year’s mass protests, in terms of numbers, they have maintained surprising momentum and appear intent on continuing until the World Cup begins in São Paulo on June 12.

Indeed, a protest has already been called for near the city’s World Cup Arena Corinthians stadium, also known as the Itaquerão, for the tournament’s opening match between Brazil and Croatia.

Extended version of article written for Anadolu Agency

Brazil’s finance ministry and central bank have moved to defend the country’s image in financial markets after ratings agency Standard & Poor’s (S&P) dealt a blow by cutting its sovereign debt rating a day before.

S&P. Photo from The Hindu.

S&P cut Brazil’s ratings to just one notch above “junk” but improved its outlook from “negative” to “stable”. Photo from The Hindu.

Brazil’s rating was knocked down a rung on Monday from BBB to BBB-, meaning the economy is now categorised at the bottom end of “investment grade” and just one notch above “junk” territory.

Brazil’s Ministry of Finance moved quickly to label the adjustment as “contradictory” and “inconsistent with the conditions of the Brazilian economy,” quipping that last year’s GDP performance, indicating growth of 2.3%, was among the best seen in emerging markets.

The lower the rating, the higher the borrowing costs the government will pay on world markets. And ultimately, the sovereign rating trickles through to the interest rate costs that Brazilian corporations will pay to borrow. Higher borrowing costs across the board will slow the economy.

The Central Bank played down the news. “Brazil has responded and will continue to respond […] robustly to the challenges that have been set in the new global framework,” a press statement from the bank said, adding that Brazil was “well positioned” as the global economy normalized.

As the economy enters a period of pre-election uncertainty, the downgrading is the last in a run of bad news for President Dilma Rousseff, who has been grappling with concerns over the energy sector, recent defeats in Congress, and a torrent of criticism over the World Cup and its preparations.

‘Mixed signals, weak outlook’

Justifying the downgrade, S&P said “mixed policy signalling by the government, with negative implications for fiscal account and economic policy credibility” and “a subdued outlook for growth over the next two years” would weigh on “policy flexibility and performance”.

The agency did provide some good news in assigning a “stable” outlook for Latin America’s largest economy, which some interpreted as a signal that the new BBB- rating would stay for now and better Brazil remains investment grade than gets downgraded again.

São Paulo stock exchange, Bovespa: 25 March.

São Paulo stock exchange, Bovespa: 25 March.

Indeed Brazil’s main São Paulo-based stock exchange, the Bovespa, appeared to shrug off the downgrade, buoyed by the “stable” outlook and probably the fact the previously touted downgrade had finally happened. The benchmark index jumped in early trading and ended the day up 0.39%.

However, there is concern that the downgrading could hamper international investment, particularly if fellow agencies Moody’s Investors Service and Fitch Rating follow suit. As well as higher costs, the lower ratings are indicative of higher risk, meaning the country might have more limited access to credit.

S&P’s Sovereign Ratings Director Sebastian Briozzo told reporters that the government’s policy inflexibility was not the only factor, and confirmed that the current situation with Brazil’s energy sector, which has suffered due to severe droughts, also weighed on the new rating.

Reforms ‘unpalatable’ in election year

Ratings agencies have said they want to see adjustments made to Brazilian fiscal policy, and S&P said it could raise its rating “following more consistent policy initiatives to strengthen the fiscal accounts or outline a more proactive reform agenda” to strengthen growth medium-term.

“Public spending is high, but it needs to be redirected into building Brazil’s productive capacity and ploughed into investments, particularly infrastructure, rather than wages and pensions,” Capital Economics’ emerging markets economist David Rees told the Anadolu Agency.

But diverting money away from wages and pensions and effecting policy reforms would be “politically unpalatable” for a government gearing up for this October’s general elections, in which President Dilma Rousseff will seek a second term at the helm, Rees said.

Economists say fiscal policy changes to shore up the economy by bringing in greater tax revenues will be required once the elections, which Rousseff is expected to win, have come and gone but given Rousseff’s track record on fiscal reforms and dwindling support in Congress, those reforms do not appear likely.

Written for Anadolu Agency

Fewer than half of Brazilians are positive about the upcoming FIFA World Cup, a new poll by Datafolha published on Monday has shown.

Some 2,091 Brazilians across the country were asked about their expectations towards the tournament which begins on 12 June in São Paulo: only 46% were positive about the event – 13% said ‘excellent’ and 33% responded ‘good’.

Brazil World Cup fans. Photo from travelblog.org

Brazilians are torn over their expectations for this year’s World Cup. Photo from travelblog.org

Thirty percent of those questioned in the survey had no strong feelings either way, and the remaining 24% concluded the World Cup would be ‘bad’ or ‘awful’ – 8% and 16%, respectively.

It allows [us] to say that 30% [of those surveyed] have some reservations over, and 24% totally reject, the hosting of the World Cup in Brazil,” Datafolha Director General Mauro Paulina was quoted by Folha de S.Paulo newspaper as saying.

A breakdown of the survey showed that most positive evaluations of the World Cup came from those who had only basic education and those in the lowest two income bands – the so-called ‘D’ and ‘E’ economic classes.

The results for this latest survey are a far cry from a similar survey in November 2008, in which 79 percent of respondents said they were positive about the World Cup.

The survey also asked whether the respondents were interested in football and the World Cup: 76% said they were interested in football, and 81% said they had an interest in the tournament itself.

Some 82% of people said they planned on watching World Cup fixtures – which increased to nine-in-ten if only male respondents are counted.

Beset by problems

Although the survey clearly shows that Brazilians have an interest in both the sport and the tournament, it does appear to show only lukewarm confidence in the country’s ability to host the event.

This latest survey has highlighted the difficulty that both FIFA and the Brazilian government have faced in garnering support for the event, with a build-up beset by problems: from major delays with stadiums and the very unpopular overall R$33 billion (US$14 billion) price tag to a number of construction site deaths and the downsizing or scrapping of a number of associated infrastructure projects.

13 March 2014 - World Cup Protest in São Paulo, Brazil - Photo by Ben Tavener

Protests against the World Cup, although smaller than in 2013, have continued in São Paulo. Photo by Ben Tavener.

Discontent over the preparation phase of the World Cup led to over a million Brazilians taking to the streets last June, in a show of anger against the government’s – and now, increasingly, FIFA’s – handling of the event.

Indeed, although mass protests against the World Cup have petered out, for now at least, a fourth round of protests against the World Cup – under the banner of “Não Vai Ter Copa” (“There Will Be No World Cup”) – is scheduled for Thursday in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and at least two other major cities in Brazil.

The survey comes as FIFA General Secretary Jérôme Valcke arrives in Rio for a week of meetings concerning the tournament’s final preparations.

Despite the negativity and many concerns by FIFA over the event’s preparations, President Dilma Rousseff has repeatedly promised a “Cup of Cups” and correspondents say that the World Cup will likely ultimately be saved by the country’s residual love for the game.

However, the Olympics, which are due to be held in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, may not fare as easily, as many of the sports are alien and not available to ordinary Brazilians.

Extended version written for Anadolu Agency