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22 janvier 2010 5 22 /01 /janvier /2010 09:14


The World Cup, the Olympics and the Occupation

The Brazilian authorities in Rio de Janeiro intend to use Israeli surveillance and patrol equipment to police the city’s favelas prior to and during the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games.

The Brazilian authorities in Rio de Janeiro intend to use Israeli surveillance and patrol equipment to police the city’s favelas prior to and during the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games.

A New York City-based organization, Adalah-NY, recently led an effort to get the New York Mets and Major League Baseball to cancel a fundraising event at Shea Stadium for the pro-settler Hebron Fund. The world of athletics regularly crosses paths with the occupation in public protests supporting the BDS movement, attacks and restrictions on the Palestinian athletic infrastructure, and soon, in Rio de Janeiro with the use of Israeli surveillance and patrol equipment to police the city’s favelas prior to and during the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games. “The Brazilian government and Rio de Janeiro authorities are running against time to ensure” that Rio “can be cleaned from organized crime and the drug cartels.” [1] Brazil recently purchased the Heron unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) from Israel Aerospace Industries, the model’s first use by a city police force, to help achieve this end. [2]
The Center on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) released a report in 2007 detailing severe violations of housing and human rights that accompany international “mega-events” like the World Cup and Olympic Games. “The desire to show off a city and make it an attractive tourist destination is often accompanied by [...] clean-ups of public areas facilitated by criminalization of homelessness and increases in police powers.” [3] These efforts are intended to make the host city “more attractive for the local, national and international elites (middle and high income earners), and as a result, less livable for those who fall outside these categories.” [4] The latter certainly refers to the slum dwellers, 36.6% of Brazil’s urban population, in the favelas where, according to Amnesty International, the residents “live in a state of permanent tension.” [5, 6] Describing how this extends beyond the drug gangs to the slums dwellers generally, Amnesty continues, “Drug gangs have rushed in to fill the vacuum left by the state, organizing themselves into the rival factions that now dominate the city. The government’s response has been a series of ever more confrontational crack-downs, involving large-scale police operations which target not just criminal gangs, but entire favela communities.” [7] The conflict dates back to the 1970’s when the military, invoking the threat of Marxist guerrillas instead of drug gangs, razed 80 favelas, displacing 140,000 persons. This “ignited conflicts between bourgeois neighborhoods and the favelas, and between the police and slum youth, which continue to rage three decades later.” [8] This is the symptomatic backdrop for the coming pageantry of the World Cup and Olympic Games. The broader structural illnesses are those that form the relationships between Global North countries and those of the South and the relationship between the wealthy and poor inside of nations.
Brazil’s almost unsurpassed inequality escalated with the imposition of market liberalization after the 1964 military coup against President João Goulart. The coup was organized by the local business elite who opposed various pro-poor programs supported by Goulart, whom they perceived as posing “severe threats to their investments” and who moved for the “exclusion of business from decision making.” [9] The coup was actively supported by the United States, who already had cut off aid to the Goulart government, and the local coup organizers “managed subsidiaries of United States firms, received technical assistance or investment capital from United States corporations, sat on the boards of United States corporations, or belonged to the American Chamber of Commerce.” [10] This exertion of influence by industrialists in the U.S. and Brazil can be seen as a proto-transnational corporatism, much more common today with influence exerted through free trade treaties and the World Trade Organization more often then through coups.
The coup kicked off a spree of market liberalization that has, by and large, continued through today. [11] A major consequence has been the gap between the top and bottom quintile of Brazilians having grown larger, despite periods of significant economic growth. While the wealthiest 10% in Brazil hold approximately half the nation’s income, the bottom 20%, controlling only 2.6% of the national wealth in 1980, control only 2.2% in recent years. The Lula government is guiding some changes to this and Brazil, almost unique amongst countries with large slum populations, has seen a miniscule amount of economic growth in the favelas so that some of the poorest residents have ascended to the working class and even the middle class, this while the favelas continue to grow. This poverty is both rural and urban and includes much of the populaces warehoused in the slums of Rio, São Paulo and other Brazilians metropolises. [12, 13] This relatively small change in the poverty level amidst significant economic gains for the Brazilian elite  and middle class during the nation’s consistent (until this recession) growth this decade makes Brazil a modern success story as the trend, in North and South, is for far greater divergence between the wealthy and poor. The broader global trend of increasing inequality has gone on since the height of classical imperialism. At the dawn of the 20th century, shortly after the U.S. first sent its navy to the coast of Brazil to protect U.S. interests during regional unrest, “the gap between the GDP per capita of the poorest and richest nation was in the ratio of just 22 to 1. By 1970 this had widened to 88 to 1.” By 2000 it had reached 267 to 1. [14]
Large parts of this inequality are produced by the debt regimes by which the North, primarily through the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, influences the economic and social policies of the South. Brazil’s debt rose from $3 billion in 1964, to $103 billion in 1985, to $232 billion in 1998, and for several years now having leveled out around $198 billion. [15, 16, 17] Debt is used as a mechanism of leverage, with varying degrees of success, by the North. In the same way the armies of the North were so commonly used prior to World War II, the United States’ $30 billion dollar bailout to Brazil in 2002 was defended by the Bush administration in part to protect the investments of Chase, General Motors and others, and to reward the country for having “moved courageously to open its markets, fight inflation and put its fiscal house in order.” [18] Each debt crisis cycle is accompanied by government austerity measures, less services for the citizenry, leading to increased inequality of an “already drastically unequal social structure” thus furthering slum growth and impoverishment. [19] A study of the long-term trends in Brazil concluded that “the increased internationalization of the productive structure and of the financial system, as well as the increased external borrowing requirements to meet commitments in the balance of payments gave rise to dependence without development capable of integrating the poor.” [20]
The Brazilian rural peasantry and civil service initially bore the brunt of the neoliberal policies, both structural adjustment programs and their predecessors, which called for reductions in the government workforce and the integration of the agricultural sector into global markets. [21] Filipino parliamentarian and activist Walden Bello writes, “The Brazilian model and structural adjustment went hand in hand. Both were central elements of a capitalist transformation of agriculture that was intended to integrate local food systems, via trade liberalization, into a global system.” [22] The consolidation of the agricultural sector and the dominance of an export-oriented market, however, provide a good example of how structured inequality is produced and managed between the nations of North and South. João Pedro Stedile of Via Campesina analyzed in depth the effects of the agricultural industry and where it intersects with the current financial crises. He writes, “the entire production of raw materials for fertilizers is controlled by just three transnational corporations: Bunge, Mosaic, and Yara. Only two corporations, Monsanto and Nortox, produce glyphosate, a raw material for agricultural pesticides. AGCO, Fiat, New Holland, etc. oligopolize the agricultural machinery sector.” [23] The failing of smaller firms, and the dispersal of the people working in them, he notes, is driving the further consolidation of market share by larger ones. CNN reports that the agricultural sector is “one of the main targets for international firms” due to the increased consumption of biofuels by European and North American countries, the farming of feed for livestock,  as well as the “meatification” of the growing Chinese upper and middle class diet. [24, 25] Those made surplus by the local dumping of cheap foreign agricultural products, the market enclosure of land, speculation in agricultural land and the eviction of subsistence and local market producers to increase agriculture for export often relocate to the urban periphery, the slums. Thus “the peasant surplus eventually came to support not just industrialization but also the expanding populations of cities.” [26]
There are other reasons, beyond rural displacement, for Brazilian slum growth. The industrialization of the cities of southern Brazil brought great numbers of migrants from the interior and northeast looking for jobs and economic advancement, the social advancement that came with civil service positions and the better educational opportunities in the large cities also drew migrants. The consequences of climate change and El Niño events, such as drought, also trigger urban migration despite the likelihood of landing in the favelas. One local saying goes “In Sertão one stays and dies or leaves and suffers.” [27] 
Despite the lack of significant advancement for Brazil’s slum dwellers, the nation’s economic growth has produced a larger middle class. This same change in China, along with the increased meat consumption and thus demand for livestock feed, is proceeding accompanied by the same neoliberal trade policies that have devastated the Brazilian peasant economy. As China integrates more WTO policies and furthers its market liberalization, some six million Chinese will leave their farm jobs, a great number of which will join the masses floating citizenry already in the slums of China’s great metropolises, which brings us back to the Olympics. [28]
COHRE’Sreport states, “Everytime big events like the World Cup, the Olympic Games, etc. come it is the grassroots, the poor people, who are the worst damaged and worst affected.” [29] The report continues, “Displacements and forced evictions prompted by gentrification [...] have been accelerated by the Olympic Games. Some 720,000 people were forcibly evicted in Seoul and Inchon prior to the 1988 Olympic Games, while conservative estimates show at least 1.25 million people have already been evicted in Beijing in the lead up to the 2008 Summer Olympic Games... Furthermore, thousands of people were evicted or relocated in Barcelona (1992), Atlanta (1996) and Sydney (2000) and Roma were evicted from their settlements [in] Athens in relation to the 2004 Olympic Games [...]. In Atlanta, it is estimated that 30,000 people were affected by displacement due to Olympics-related gentrification and the associated escalation in housing costs, with specific examples of over 4,000 people being displaced from just one housing community.” [30] Atlanta too, saw 9,000 arrests for the “crime” of homelessness under special laws enacted for the event. [31] In Beijing the neoliberal agenda was on display as Qianmen’s main shopping street, a centuries-old part of Old Beijing, was remade into an upscale pedestrian mall with “Rolex, Prada, Starbucks, Nike, Adidas and Apple computer” among the brands to open shop. [32]
There are no immutable laws of nature that insist upon the mass violation of human and housing rights during international mega-events and it could be that the Brazilian experience under Lula, hopefully will be different, but there has been no Olympic Games recently that provide an alternative example. Further, an Amnesty International statement from November 3rd decries a recent spike in violence and demands concern about pre-event violence between the police and Rio’s favelas. A conflict between rival gangs began on October 17th and is ongoing. Several citizens have been killed, seven in just one week from stray bullets, along with gang members and at least three police officers, killed when a gang shot down their helicopter. [33] Barring drastic changes to the situation from the government, this conflict will likely lead to worse violations of rights, by both the gangs and police, in the lead-up to the World Cup and Olympics.
The police actions are the only significant government presence seen in the favelas. Brazil has, in effect if not always explicitly, largely written off its slum dwellers as surplus humanity, former Prime Minister Cardoso calling them the “unemployable.” Where the government, national or international agencies have undertaken projects they are most often under the prevailing urban development theories of “slum upgrading,” the hollowness of which—essentially, the right to permanent residence in slums—was disturbingly illuminated in Gita Dewan Verma’s excellent book Slumming India. It’s the same status given to Beijing slum dwellers and rag pickers. And it’s the same status given to Palestinians who live under Israel’s control but apart from its citizenry and outside the national plans. For this reason the Israeli training and equipment, developed through 42 years of experience in Palestinian urban areas, has proven attractive to the authorities in Brazil, China and elsewhere. Just as the Beijing police received training in crowd control, civil disturbance and counterterrorism in Haifa prior to the 2008 Olympic Games, so are the Rio police using Plasan Sasa’s Sandcat, an armored police vehicle, to enter and leave the favelas. [34] Sectors of the Rio police, who annually kill over 1,000 “suspected criminals,” have received advanced firearms training from their Israeli colleagues. [35, 36] Added to the Rio police’s recent purchase of the Heron UAV and the image developing is one of the piecemeal transfer of Israel’s tools and techniques of pacification to be deployed against the surplus humanity living on the sloped periphery of Brazilian cities.
Israel had nothing to do with the North’s structural adjustment programs imposed on Brazil or with China’s “willing” adoption of them. It also has nothing to do with Brazil’s problems of race, class, urban planning, and slum policy nor with the brutal behavior of the favela gangs. Nor does the disenfranchisement of the Palestinian people share significant structural similarity to the warehousing of the slum dwellers of Rio and Beijing. But this is exactly the point. Israel’s occupation has produced, and will continue to produce, tools, techniques and training that other structures of inequality will find useful. Here the occupation’s exports serve both the domestic and international elites with the same transactions serving the two different power relationships. The UAVs, APCs and the sniper training for the Rio special forces is an attempt to pacify the favelas, in COHRE’s term, those who “fall outside,” and continue Brazil’s “slum management” policies which favor the local elite, including “cleaning” up the areas to make the city more attractive to tourists for the upcoming Olympics and World Cup. At the same time, these exchanges help to support the Global North neoliberal policies of clearing land used for subsistence farming in to plant crops for export while allowing cheap agricultural imports which displace local producers, leading to urban migration thus necessitating Brazilian slum policy, etc. The occupation is helping to pacify the results of both Brazilian slum and Global North trade policies, policies that feed each other. And the very fact that the pacification industry has a market in Lula’s Brazil where there have been real gains, small though they may be, made to integrate the nation’s warehoused population indicates that the tools and techniques of inequality management can find use pretty much anywhere. It’s the pacification of Palestinians gone global, and it’s part of the Olympics.

Jimmy Johnson is a supermarket employee based in southeast Michigan. He can be reached at johnson [dot] jimmy [at] gmail [dot] com
[1] Merco Press (November 17, 2009). “Brazil begins “spy” aircraft surveillance against organized crime in favelas.” Retrieved 20 November 2009 via http://en.mercopress.com/2009/11/17/brazil-begins-spy-aircraft-surveillance-against-organized-crime-in-favelas
[2] Yossi Melman (13 November 2009). “Brazil to buy $350m worth of drones from Israel.” Ha’aretz. Retrieved November, 13 2009 via http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1127658.html
[3] Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) (2007). Fair Play for Housing Rights: Mega-Events, Olympic Games and Housing Rights. 200
[4] ibid.
[5] Amnesty International (2006). “We have come to take your souls”: The Caveirão and Policing in Rio de Janeiro. 3
[6] Mike Davis (2006). Planet of Slums. Verso. 24
[7] Amnesty, 2006. 3
[8] Davis, 2006. 108
[9] Leigh A. Payne (1994). Brazilian Industrialists and Democratic Change. John Hopkins University Press. 14, 16.
[10] ibid. 24
[11] Naomi Klein (2007). The Shock Doctrine. Picador. 81
[12] Werner Baer and Antonio Fialho Galvão, Jr., (2005) “Tax Burden, Government Expenditures and Income Distribution in Brazil.” 2005. 6. http://www.business.uiuc.edu/Working_Papers/papers/05-0129.pdf
[13] Bill Robinson (2004). “The Crisis of Global Capitalism: How it Looks from Latin America” in The Politics of Empire: Globalisation in Crisis edited by Alan Freeman & Boris Kagarlitsky. Pluto Press. 167
[14] Alan Freeman and Boris Kagarlitsky (2004). The Politics of Empire: Globalisation in Crisis. Pluto Press. 9
[15] Klein, 2007. 198
[16] Robinson, 2004. 167
[17] Stratfor.com (6 June 2009). “The Recession in Brazil.” Retreived November 26, 2009 via http://www.stratfor.com/analysis/20090605_recession_brazil
[18] Edmund Andrews (9 August 2002). “I.M.F. Loan to Brazil Also Shields U.S. Interests” New York Times. Retrieved November 27, 2009 via http://www.nytimes.com/2002/08/09/business/imf-loan-to-brazil-also-shields-us-interests.html?pagewanted=1
[19] Paulo Du Pin Calmon, Pedro Concerição, James K. Galbraith, Vidal Garza Cantu and Abel Hibert (8 May 1998). “The Evolution of Industrial Earnings Inequality in Mexico and Brazil.” UTIP Working Paper 5. 23-24. http://utip.gov.utexas.edu/papers/utip_05enc.pdf
[20] Marcos Antonio Macedo Cintra (2000). “Brazilian Structural Adjustment in the Nineties: Dependence without development” Vierteljahrshefte zur Wirtschaftsforschung, Vol. 69. 65
[21] Klein, 2007. 205
[22] Walden Bello (2009). The Food Wars. Verso. 11
[23] João Pedro Stedile (8 December 2008). “International Capital Dominates Brazilian Agriculture” MonthlyReview.org. Retrieved 26 September 2009 via http://www.monthlyreview.org/mrzine/stedile120808.html
[24] CNN.com (February 13, 2006). “Brazil readies for commercial carnival.” Retrieved November, 19 2009 via http://www.cnn.com/2006/TRAVEL/02/13/brazil.trade/index.html
[25] Bello,  2009. 32
[26] Bello, 2009. 70
[27] Joel Kotkin (2006). The City: A Global History. Modern Library. 133
[28] Bello, 2009. 86
[29] COHRE, p. 2007. 200
[30] COHRE, p. 2007. 197
[31] COHRE, 2007. 198
[32] Henry Sanderson (June 16, 2008). “Despite promises, old Beijing neighborhoods fall.” Foxnews.com. Retrieved November 20, 2009 via http://www.foxnews.com/wires/2008Jun16/0,4670,ChinaOldBeijing,00.html
[33] Amnesty International (November 3, 2009). “Violence in Rio de Janeiro - A Challenge for Change.” Retrieved November 25, 2009 via http://amnesty.org/en/library/asset/AMR19/019/2009/en/9b9d254b-dc09-4525-b7da-bae0e4ef8104/amr190192009en.html
[34] Fernando Torres (April 15, 2009). “Polícia do Rio de Janeiro terá armas do exército de Israel” Globo.com.br. Retrieved November 16, 2009 via http://extra.globo.com/geral/casodepolicia/materias/2009/04/14/policia-do-rio-de-janeiro-tera-armas-do-exercito-de-israel-755278939.asp
[35] Pedro Fonseca (October 21, 2009). “Rio police kill 7; total of 33 dead in drug war.” Reuters.com. Retrieved November, 16 2009 via http://www.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idUSTRE59K5JE20091021
[36] Cinform (January 31, 2009). “Policiais militares recebem treinamento tático sobre tiro.” Cinform.com.br. Retrieved 16 November 2009 via


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