Sunday, June 30, 2013



My next door neighbour and I had one of our occasional chats yesterday.The air was balmy and we sat  in the garden, listening to the music from the local Streetfest, four blocks away. We talked of books. That is, I offered her copies of Vargas Llosas THE DREAM OF THE CELT, which I reviewed, recently, on my book blog,Rich Texts and Edna O'Brien's  COUNTRY GIRL, which I am about to review. I told her Llosa's book is fictionalized account of the life of Roger Casement's an Irishman who documented human rights abuses in the Congo and in Peru, in the early Twentieth century.  He was knighted for his his work, but when he dared to compare the behavior of the British in Ireland to that of the Belgian oppressors of  Congolese rubber workers, all hell broke loose.  The British government acted swiftly to discredit him. It hired  perfidious Norwegian, Adler Christensen to seduce him and it  leaked the the Casement's  private diary, which detailed homosexual encounters,  to the press. Vilified for his sexual preferences, stripped of his knighthood, Casement was jailed and eventually hanged, ostensibly  for bringing weapons  from Germany to be used in the Easter Uprising of 1916.

2MNYHBU6NFRY I told my neighbor, who is a great reader, that  COUNTRY GIRL ties in with DREAM OF THE CELT in that Casement's brother is one of the people O'Brien mentions in her memoirs. Her chapter on The Troubles  echoes with the dream Casement had for a free and peaceful Ireland. For Brazilian readers such as I am,  I added, both books, I added, are particularly relevant at a time when a protest takes place every hour in 375 Brazilian cities. Were he alive today, Casement, who was once the British Council at Sao Paulo, would  probably be interested in  investigating human rights abuses in Brazil. He would probably question  government-sanctioned actions of the Brazilian Military Police against protesters and the press. He would want to bring to light the reasons why  why the police attacked so  many journalists--a total of 54 in two weeks. Many of these journalists were wounded   by troopswho have a propensity to aim for eye when they shoot rubber bullets. Besides shooting reporters, during   the Fortaleza protests, this past week,  police used helicopters to bombard the press with tear gas.

Such violence usually outrages well-educated middle class Americans who have the leisure to reflect on   civil liberties around the globe.Why did she think, I asked my neighbor, that events of vital importance to Brazilian elicited so little interest from most Americans? She grew thoughtful and said, "Maybe because Brazil seems so remote."  My question about the best way to reach Americans hung in the air. My neighbor is a very kind, thoughtful person, but she has little free time. She has  job and  two children  she and her husband parent commendably. It was almost dinner when we talked. The kids were hungry and she had to leave.I thought of her counterpart in Brazil and asked myself how she would respond if the protests were taking place in Washington, DC, Boonsboro, Maryland, Aurora Maine? How would she respond when her own time is equally taken up  by her work and parental responsibilities?

How does each of  respond to social movements in far away places? What do we do when our government sends troops to Iraq and Afghanistan? How do we respond to abuses from local officials, for that matter? What do we know about our police force and how it acts? Maybe we close our eyes and ears to  bad news its onslaught is so intense that  to watch television, listen to the radio and read the newspapers can be a form of torture. I don't mean, by this comparison,  to trivialize the kind of suffering endured by those who undergo, say, waterboarding. But clearly, reading the news about Syria, Egypt, Turkey can be very painful. It can also induce such a feeling of helplessness we try to disconnect, to push the bad news away, to distance ourselves from madness  over which we have no control. Or do we? If we have no control of the madness that leads Brazilian police to exhaust its tear gas supply in less than two weeks, as they did in Rio, recently, why is the press a  target in every Brazilian protest? Is that not an indication that whoever yanks the chain of the Military Police--state governor, in this case--does not want bad publicity to mar events such as World Cup games, the Pope's visit and the Olympics?
Given that  a real effort is being made to suppress news of police brutality--futile effort, judging from the massive documentation in available in print and digital media--it seems to me that remote as Brazil is, Americans, Asians,  Europeans, Middle Easterners, citizens everywhere have the ability to influence events taking place in 375 Brazilian cities. Exactly how that is done, I am not sure. This past week, Amnesty International Brazil mounted an e-mail campaign to let elected officials know that the whole world is watching and that police brutality is unacceptable. Writing an e-mail may seem too simple a gesture to make. But millions of e-mail messages can influence events. What do you say, can you e-mail the governor of Rio, for example? His name is Sergio Cabral and his e-mail address is Sergio Cabral, Governor of Rio


Saturday, June 29, 2013


Munduruku, Para, Brazil.

According to Brazilian media, fifty-five journalist have been attacked by the police since protests against government corruption,  lack of adequate social services, inequality,    high taxes, and the billions of dollars spent for next year's World Cup soccer tournament and the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, started in mid-June.

Protest plebiscite which could take place in September 2013 could cost up to 500 Reais.

Ceara parliamentarian Ely Aguiar, Ceara, had this to say  about Fortaleza protests, "It's at such times that I miss the dictatorship," adding that if he  were chief of police should  he would beat the living daylights out of protesters. AnistiaOline  #semviolencia

Public prosecutor in Fortaleza says that his office is investigating charges of protest movement infiltration of by gangs allegedly paid for by political parties.

 According to the Associated Press, President Dilma Roussef's approval  rating plummeted in the wake of protests, slipping  from 64 to 40 points.

It is unclear whether there will be a general strike in Brazil  tomorrow. AP reports that representatives of two of  Brazil's largest workers' unions claimed to know nothing about it.

The fate of four Eletrobras  biologists taken hostage last week, by Munduruku Indians in the state of Para, is unknown.

Friday, June 28, 2013


Pedro Rocha, from Fortaleza,  is the latest journalistpolice hit in the eye with a rubber bullet. 
                 Above two Sao Paulo journalists also injured by olice in June 2013 protests.

In case you have yet to understand why Brazilians are protesting, please note that ”In Fortaleza, more than 1,600 people suffering from kidney disease depend on dialysis in order to survive. But due to non-payment  dating back to December 2012,  clinics (under contract with public health system, SUS, Sistema Unico de Saude, might make  treatment to dialysis patients unavailable at any moment. ” Contrast that with the Bolsa Copa per diem of close to 600 Reais awarded by the government to parliamentarians and military officers who wish to attend World Cup games. Abuse of privilege, corruption, and a host of social problems are among the reasons Fortalezenses protested yesterday. Allegedly, yesterday was the first time police used  a sonic canon against the citizenry,  something police spokesperson denies though  some of the symptoms experienced by some of the demonstrators–vomiting, for example–could be attributed to acoustic trauma.According to Castelao stadium are residents they and their children suffered the effects of mass control weapons used by policemen who invaded their houses searching for protesters. Police also attacked members of the media with rubber bullets and tear gas. So far, 200 people have lodged complaints with the Ceara Public Defenders Office.

“Worried about the growing repression by the police against demonstrations and  the authorities’ inability to protect, adequately, the right to peaceful demonstrations,” Amnesty International Brazil,
  is appealing to the public to act against police violence” by contacting the following people,
- Governador do Estado do Rio de Janeiro
Sérgio Cabral
Palácio Guanabara
Rua Pinheiro Machado s/n – Laranjeiras
CEP: 22238-900 Rio de Janeiro – RJ
- Governador do Estado de Minas Gerais
Antônio Anastasia
Palácio Tiradentes – Rod. Prefeito Américo Gianetti – S/N
Belo Horizonte – MG
CEP 31630-901

- Governador do Distrito Federal
Agnello Queiroz
Palacio do Buriti – 1º andar, sala P60
Praça do Buriti
CEP 70075-900

- Governador do Estado da Bahia
Jaques Wagner
Predio da Governadoria
Salvador – BA
CEP 41745-005

- Governador do Estado de Goiás
Marconi Perillo
Palácio Pedro Ludovico Teixeira
RUA 82, 400
CEP 74015-980

- Governador do Estado de São Paulo
Geraldo Alckmin
Palácio dos Bandeirantes
Av. Morumbi, 4.500 – Portão 2 – Morumbi
São Paulo – SP
CEP 05650-905

- Governador do Estado do Ceará
Cid Gomes
Palácio da Abolição
Av. Barão de Studart, 505 – Meireles
Fortaleza – CE
CEP 60120-013

- Governador do Estado do Pará
Simão Jatene
Palácio de Despachos
Rodovia Augusto Montenegro, KM 9
CEP 66823-010

Th eorganization asks that participants in the writing campaign  mention @AnistiaOnline and the hashtag #semviolencia


Tuesday, June 25, 2013


Long ago, in another country, I studied journalism with a man, who introduced me to the poetry of  Fernando Pessoa. Though I did not know it at the time, Pessoa was a B'nei Anoussim, a decendant of forcibly baptized Iberian Jews who  continued to follow Judaic practices for hundreds of years. Had I known this, I would have read a different meaning into the poems where he exposed again and again, the essential loneliness of the outsider. My teacher was also an outsider, a Leftist at a time and place that punished dissent with prison, torture, extraordinary rendition and death. He knew all this and yet he kept dreaming that he could make a difference, that he and a few others like him could change the country, make   it self-reliant and just.  He had been to Russia and when he spoke of workers attending ballet performances his eyes would light up,  his smile would grow wider and he would add, "It can be done, you see. It can be done."
If my teacher knew of Stalin and gulags, he chose not to bring either into the conversation. He did talk about the evils of imperialism and that grasping monster, Uncle Sam. He carried in pocket, a little pamphlet that described the day of the average citizen in our country as a succession of bows to American imperialism--from the moment he shaved with a Gillette blade to the moment when put on his imported pajamas. His fervor was such one of my classmates, a blue-eyed girl from an upper middle class family, trembled and prayed for him.  When he was arrested, as Leftists tended to be back then, she visited and cosseted  him, always praying that he would stop being a godless Communist.  It did not happen. Eventually, she became a godless communist, married him and together they sought refuge in Paris where all good communists  go to refresh their souls.
As someone who believes in equal rights, it pains to say that the women Leftists I knew back then found their way to Marx through some man with whom  they were in love. No matter. All roads led to the kolkhoz. Most followed their men into exile and at least one died after being raped and torture by the military. Years and years later, the country found its way back to democracy, the exiles came home to expose the  horrors committed during the undemocratic period and to remake the country into a semblance of their cherished dreams. The tired, suffering people elected a Leftist government that thumbed its nose at evil Uncle Sam even if that meant cozying up to dictators of countries where they stone women and gays. This show of independence and national pride buoyed the hope that the huge economic gap between classes would close or in the every least  become narrower. A brief period of prosperity followed during which exports to China helped fill the national coffers. Leftist leaders announced spectacular successes in their fight against hunger and poverty. The economy continued to thrive and despite much demagoguery, few people seemed to questions the policies of such a brilliant president, such a dazzling presidential cabinet.
Alas, the bubble burst. Factors such as the Chinese tightening their purse strings, made it harder for spectacular successes to happen.  The infrastructure which had been spectacularly neglected, failed to meet the needs of a population that had grown exponentially--one of the tenets of the Left, way back then was that contraception was part of Uncle Sam's plot to depopulate the country thus making it easier to conquer.Go figure. The gap between rich and poor did not close. This seems is the root cause of the dissatisfaction that erupted into protests, recently. News of the unrest  in the global media reflected a dismal ignorance of the culture  of the country in question. There were linguistic obstacles and that is where I thought I could do a tiny, bit to help get the world out.
Little did I know that as it stumbled toward a participatory democracy, the country in question was fraught with paranoia. Leftists suspected that  Uncle Sam hid under every bed, ready to rape and ravage--"...egorger ses filles et sem compagnes...". Everyone was suspect but those who spoke English and lived abroad, much more so. Just as Chico Buarque sang, long ago,  the country seethed with "lies and brute force." Machiavellian machinations, disinformation, agitprop  abounded.Rumors of a coup, baseless accusations  swirled like dirty water in a drain. I was unequipped for this sort of activity. I'd been through the lies and brute force and I'd escaped by skin of my teeth. I am old and I am too much of a realist to believe that the individual makes that much difference. So, I withdrew   from the fray. Solutions will come or not. It's their gig, not mine. But I feel very much like good old Fernando Nogueira de Seabra Pessoa,
"I am my own landscape,
I watch myself journey—
Various, mobile, and alone.
Here where I am I can't feel myself."
*Fernando Pessoa

Monday, June 24, 2013


Brazilians  continue to navigate the treacherous waters of political uncertainty. Last week, public indignation at corruption,  leading to protests against deficient education, health  and transportation systems,billions spent on World Cup facilities,   and a host of other problems. Over a million people took to the streets and the Brazilian police responded with disproportional force, firing rubber bullets, tear gas and flash-bang bombs  at protesters and members  of the media. Media  in Brazil and  abroad initially focused on vandalism committed by a small fraction of protesters, but as of this past weekend, news stories began to reflect   the complex reality of the protests. Clearly, this immense aggregation of families with children, students, senior citizens of all political stripes had goals other than to smash ATM and burn police police cars. The Leftist government  was quiet at first. Former president Lula da Silva, mentor president Dilma Roussef, took his sweet time endorsing the protest movement. Roussef, herself, conceded that peaceful protests were legitimate, but emphasized that   her government would not tolerate vandalism. Throughout this time, the police–including the mounted police Brazil continues to use as crowd control–was highly visible and often violent.Vandalism escalated, there were at  least half a dozen deaths, and number of allegedly arbitrary  arrests. Allegedly, a disproportionate number of members of the media was attacked by police  and illegally detained, prompting  the  The society of Protection for Journalists  to award Brazil the dubious honor of being named one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists.

Following the initial unrest, some state governments walked back the proposed hike on bus and boat fares and  part of Movement Passe Livre decided to withdraw from the fray. Stage two of  the protest movement began with militants  meeting in cities, such as Fortaleza, Ceara,  to clarify goals and  set an agenda for upcoming protests. At the same time, ABIN, Brazil intel services agency, started  monitoring social media, and the police announced that it will use triple strength weapons of crowd control in upcoming protests. A mysterious blogger calling himself Marco Caleb–Google search of his name yielded a picture an infant–started a   campaign of disinformation aimed at deligitimising the #changebrazil movement on the internet. The blogger/s hints at a dark conspiracy by English speakers who have suspiciously expensive gadgets with which they make videos pressuring  Brazil to submit. Just what Brazil is supposed to submit to is not clear, but the blogger also claims the the Brazilian Right is poised for a military coup, that is creating cells in closed pages of Facebook, and many other allegations that do not hold up to fact checking.In a theater of the absurd moment, the blogger’s hints of a foreign conspiracy made today’s edition of Jornal  do Brasil. The story is incredibly fuzzy-wuzzy and it seems to be an attempt to neutralize #changebrazil and to cast doubt on the loyalty of  English-speaking Brazilians living abroad.”Why  would #changebrazil make videos in English,” it asks   By the way, I am  an English-speaking independent e-journalist living in the United States.  I became an American citizen after a nasty encounter with DOPS, the  Brazilian Secret Police in the Sao Paulo airport in 1976. If this makes me suspect, keep in mind that they Brazilian foreign minister  speaks accentless English and he makes videos. My answer to the dubious questioner in the JB is, ” We speak English in order to reach the global media, stupid.” I mean,  who the hell speaks Portuguese outside Brazil and Portugal? Should we rely on Google translations to get the news out?

Questioning all segments of the protest movement  movement is  healthy. So is to doubt the press. Journalists, especially citizen journalists need to establish their creds. BUt there is a difference between questioning and lying by implication in order to gag the opposition. Brazilians are not children, The know that violence, agitprop. dubious rumors, divide an conquer moves are as old as dirt. They can ask the  big question, who is behind the JB story? Who finances the conspiracy theorists? Who gains from demonizing Brazilians who can read the  news in Portuguese and pass it on in English to the free press of the First World? You can agit, but you better be able to prop your accusation with facts, guys. Brazilians are smart. They can see through you.

Sunday, June 23, 2013


Journalist Wlado Herzog murdered by Brazilian military  during 1964-85 dictatorship.
Google the name of the author of the above author and this is what you find the  photo of an infant  a wee bit too young to blog. Puzzling.

Follow this link to read allegations that the Brazilian Right is using social media to create cells that will disrupt protests with vandalism violence. This article has links to Brazilian Armed Forces  sites and to movie clips by self-described patriots who favor a return to the 1964-85 military dictatorship. Allegedly, the right hides behind the Anonymous Avatar and Change Brazil hash  tags  to rally useful idiots. Is this a Machiavellian move  by the Right or by the Left? Be your own judge. Inform yourself. Journalists, please take note.

Saturday, June 22, 2013


  1. Center. You are going to need balance, cuca fria--cool head--as we say in Portuguese. Do whatever it takes to clear your mind--meditate, take a walk, listen to inspiring music. I like to go outdoors and reassure myself that the the trees are still there, the birds still sing, the turtles still hide under the berry bushes. Sounds simple, right? It is, simple, but when you are super stressed, when you are going from adrenaline highs to lows, the chemical flow does a job on your body and the state of your body affects your mind. Breathe in, breath out, like babies do. Simplest thing to do, but have you tried it when your are tense? So, center. 
  2. Remember that it is usually not about you.If society is going through convulsions, it is a collective convulsion. You are important, but you are not the  center of the universe. Gazillions of people all over the world are going through all manner of difficulties every day. How would you like to be a little girl trying to go to school in Pakistan? How would you like to be a Jewish woman who wants to pray at the Kotel? The old, old truths are very real--you are not alone. Whatever you experience might be new to you but you have the collective wisdom of many others who preceded you. Rely on it. 
  3.  Be kind. Do something for others. The smallest gesture I make is to put out slices of fruit for butterflies.  The hardest thing I do is to maintain a garden that grows consistently messier. It is however, of great importance for the local fauna--pollinators, birds, turtles, raccoons. It is important for the little children on my block because growing up in a green space with lots of birdsong and flowers makes them happy. I don't need to say that kids should be happy, do I? You can make them happy with other gestures--bake a healthy cake and share it with children and their parents. Offer to take a kid for a walk.Write a real letter to an older person living alone.  Surprise someone with produce from your garden. Offer tro do the shopping for a busy mom or a busy father. Do something you do not expected to be reciprocated. If is, why, that's a bonus.
  4. Be gentle with yourself. Last time I went to see my doctor I complained about this ache, lamented my lack of energy and the impact at had on my writing, my housekeeping and gardening. What she told me is so obvious we overlook it all the time, "We can only do so much."That is something I should make into my mantra whenever I demand the impossible from myself. 
  5. Have some fun. Read a funny cartoon. Watch the Muppets on Youtube. Talk to a baby. Dance with your cat. Dance by yourself. Wear something outrageous. Spritz on your best perfume. Have an ice cream cone.
  6. Simplify, simplify, simplify. I am saying this to myself but I have a brilliant friend with whom I commiserated just the other because we  both have scads of interest and we are both  driven to multitasking By all means do something creative--draw, paint, make a song, sew a dress, but refer to number 4 on this list. Yup, we can only do so much. Choose a task and stop fretting.
  7. Seek support. When the market crashes, the government does something stupid, the authorities exceed their brief, gather loving people around you. You don't have to ignore reality, you only have to remember that governments fall. Good friends remain.
  8. Be open to good suggestions. 
  9. Indulge yourself. Don't, for heavens sakes,  rush to buy a Maseratti. I'm talking little indulgences, guilt free indulgences. I happen to love good chocolate, Lapsong Souchong tea with fresh lemon, good books, flowers, fountain pens and all manner of very pleasing things that do not cost the earth.
  10. Have faith. Trust your strength, your resilience. Have faith in  people and their resilience. Imagine what humanity has gone through. We humans are still here, doing some good, making mistakes, correcting them, looking for answers, stating the obvious. Draw strength from that. 



The quality of news coverage of the protest movement in Brazil took a quantum leap this morning when author and National Public Radio icon Scott Simon, made it into one of the lead stories in his Saturday Edition. Simon is one the primary reason for an  audience of twenty six million to trust NPR as a reliable source of unbiased, in-depth news and commentary. That he knew the whys and when of Brazilians' discontent is a credit to the press and a victory for Brazilians. That The Washington Post and The New York Times also distanced themselves from the pre-packaged stories about riots, vandalism and looting to focus on the real issues that trouble Brazilian society, is another victory. Corny as this sounds, democracy needs a trustworthy press staffed  courageous journalists who care to learn about the places where great social sea changes are in progress. Today, I am proud of having been part, in a very modest way_I worked for several as a freelance reporter and columnist-- of a press that responds to more than the wishes of advertisers.

Normally, mine is a country mouse's life, a life of which a character in Voltaire's Candide would approve. I cultivate my garden. I do it badly now that I am a senior citizen with the physical limitations of my age. I persist  because I love the mysterious process of sinking a microscopic seed into to the earth to see it evolve into a plant that produces flowers and fruit, that feeds birds, box turtles and the diverse fauna of my little corner of  West Virginia. I bake bread, which is also a mysterious process for me. I make my own sourdough starter with potato broth, pure maple syrup and good, heavy  unbleached flour. I am fairly  illiterate in chemistry and I don't know exactly how yeast reacts to sugar, how butter and oil change bread worse for the better at times and how it turns it into a heavy lump of unedible guck at other times. I bake bread the way I drive a car which is to say, I stick the key into the ignition without a clue of how the motor works. I go on trust.

Many  of us lead equally unexamined lives. We take the press, the government, the weather on trust. We plant seeds and expect them to germinate even though experience teaches us that a certain percentage of them fails to come to life. Others come to only only to succumb to dread molds, too much or too little water, too intense or too weak light.  We trust the rain to come and the sun to shine in the right proportions so that we can harvest a sufficiency of flowers, fruit and vegetables.although  we know that elemental forces are not always balanced. Last year, for example,it rained so much  in Tater Hollow that if I had been planning to make a living as a vegetable gardener, I would have had to rely on  government subsidies.
What I am trying to say is that Brazilians  have been going on trust and hope for many years. They work, they vote, they cultivate their gardens and they trust their elected representatives to do their the best for the country. In that they are no different from Americans,  Egyptians, Laotians, Turks.What is different in the present situation is that Brazilians have finally realized that democracy is not a spectator sport. They know, as we Americans do, that the quality of life does not improve unassisted any more than an untended garden produces optimum crops or flout turns into bread all by itself. They are ready to take to streets to let the government know what needs to be done to make Brazil into the socially just and economically effective country it deserves to be.

The current protest movement did more than awake Brazilians to their proper role as citizens. It  yanked me away from my complacency. It displaced gardening, baking, doing book reviews, reading leisurely, writing fiction, as the constants in my life. It made me face fears I had tucked away in distant recesses of my mind.I stayed glued to the news and the phoned. I messaged journalist, young protesters,phone and e-mailed  members of my Brazilian family.  Every time I saw the image of a policemen beating a protester I went into the fight or flight mode. I knew that the flood of adrenaline and subsequent low was  an exhausting thing at any age. Now I know that post sixty it is a major bummer. My gut reaction reaction is due to trauma, says my sister, who shares my feelings as if we were twins. A continent away,  she knows exactly how I feel. The trauma of which she speaks is that which every Brazilian my age experienced--that of having had our civil right removed by a military junta.But there have other traumas whose memory  lingers almost is as if theywere part of out genetic code. My sister and I come from a family of B'nei Anoussim, Iberian Jews who were forcibly baptised and who fled to Protestant France, the Azores, Holland and eventually, Brazil to escape the Inquisition. Many of our Brazilian ancestors were burnt at the stake in Portugal for practicing Judaism. We learnt to choose carefully  those we trust. We almost, but not quite, learnt silence. Due to our religious history, we have always known the cost of being a dissident. That is why we don't take up causes and banner without a certain amount of reflection. But the flag of a participatory  democracy is one we embrace without reservations. Gardening and bread baking can wait. Freedom and justice  cannot.

Friday, June 21, 2013


Brazilian journalist shot in the eye by police during June protests in Sao Paulo.Since then several other journalists have  also been targeted by the police.

A journalist's ability to shape public opinion is a fearsome thing. This came home to me with particular force when I asked a friend in the south of the United States if she had heard about the political situation in Brazil
        "O, the riots," she said.
My friend is a highly intelligent, well read, well informed person. That she failed to question how the global media has chosen to represent Brazilian protesters is, in my opinion, typical of the trust we place in the media. True, we liberals might  question Fox News and extreme Rightists ascribe all sorts of evil motives to the so-called liberal press. Bottom line, a huge number of Americans trust the press to tell them the truth. The problem with the coverage of events in Brazil  the disconnect between the First World and a country that does not yet command sufficient respect in the global arena. I mean, would American journalists characterise the events in Tianmen Squareas a riot? I seriously doubt it.But Brazil is a country the global press fails to take seriously. It is a country  burdened with an image shaped  long ago by the American press. It is the image of dolce far niente,  of  people who do little more than play samba, wear tiny bikinis and play soccer. While a  portion of Brazilian reality might correspond to this depiction, it is a tiny fraction of  a greater painful reality. That  reality includes powerful social upheavals--states of siege, banditry, revolutions,  a brutal military dictatorship that lasted from 1964 to 198. It is a reality that encompasses  political corruption, an infrastructure that failed to keep pace with population growth, an atmosphere of police brutality, a vast gap between the haves and have-nots.

Throughout  history, Brazilians have shouldered heavy burdens, one of which is the weight of American influence on the political life of the average citizen. Nearly every Brazilian knows who trained the torturers of the military regime. Every Brazilian suspects that some American corporations would find it easier to do business in a country  ruled by an oppressive dictatorship than in a democracy where people are free to participate in decision making. One would think that being aware of the somber role their government plays,  Americans journalists would feel more inclined to use some objectivity when they write about current protests in approximately 80 Brazilian cities.
The current movement in Brazil is a national movement. It is a legitimate expression of dissatisfaction with a status quo. It is an attempt to change a system no American would tolerate for long. Journalists have a huge responsibility. They  can make an intelligent woman in North Carolina assume that what is going on in Brazil is nothing but rioting by a bunch of hooligans.Brazilians begged for understanding during the dictatorship. It did not come from abroad. Today, Brazilians are not begging, they are demanding accountability, transparency, a participatory democracy, a free press, freedom of expression and a better quality of life. To fail to show the world what is really happening, to rely on second hand news from newspapers that answer to advertisers is to betray the trust that comes with the obligation to report the truth.Brazilians want to know who bene

fits from the World Cup. They want to know why billions were spent on stadiums when the country needs schools, hospitals and adequate public transportation. These are legitimate questions. Those asking them have the constitutional right to assemble, to protest, to make their voices heard. It is the media's responsibility to listen and to get the word out.

Thursday, June 20, 2013


Are these thefaces of vandals? These Brazilian  kids are going to protest on Sunday, 23 June 2013.The poster says, "We hate rubber bullets."

Chico Alencar reports from the from the barricades in Fortaleza, Brazil,
"1-Movimento pacifico, lindo e emocionante, tudo tranquilo, muita gente subindo a barão, tudo tranquilo, sem vandalismo, e nenhuma tv pra mostrar Peaceful demonstration, beautiful and moving, everything cool, no vandalism no tv crews to show what was going on..
2 - Todos cantando, dançando e gritando palavras de ordem no palácio, enquanto se tentava negociar uma entrada pacifica.Everyone singing, dancing, shouting watchwords (slogans) at the Palace while other tried to gain access peacefully.
3 - Policiais com go pro amarrada na farda, filmando de dentro do palácio.3. Policemen in the palace had Go Pro strapped to their uniforms. They filmed the demonstrators.
4 - Surge das ruas do entorno do palácio um monte de cara encapuzado, empurrando todo mundo. A group of masked people shows up from the streets around the palace.A bunch of masked people shows up suddenly from the streets around the mansion (palace). They push everyone around.
5 - esses vândalos começam a jogar pedras nos pms e a derrubar as barricadas. These vandals start to throw rocks at the police and to demolish barricades.
6 - os manifestantes tentam conter os vândalos e tentam colocar as coisas no lugar, mas são agredidas pelos vândalos que surgiram do nada.Demonstrators try to stop the vandals, try to replace the (barricades, but the vandals, who appeared from nowhere, attack them.
7 - os pms não reagem e vão pra parte de trás do monumento e ficam conversando, escorados na barricada que ainda estava de pé. Policemen do not react to the vandals. They keep talking, leaning on barricades that were still up.
8 - as pessoas do movimento contem os vândalos que tentam quebrar a agencia da caixa e o hospital que fica la em frente, mas acaba desistindo e saindo de la, e recuando pro outro lado da rua Tenente Benévolo.People from the movement try to stop the vandals when those attempedt to smash a savings and loans and the hospital that faces it, but give up and leave, moving back to Tenente Benevolo Street

9 - os caras ficam meia hora jogando pedra no vento pq n tinha mais ninguém pra impedir a entrada, mas não invadiam. These guys did not invade (the palace, buildings.). They spent half an hour throwing rocks because there was no one to deny them access (to the demonstration.)
10 - 30 minutos depois dessa babaquice soltaram algumas bombas de gás e acabaram com a brincadeira, saí de la, já não tinha mais quase ngm, só os vândalos.After thirty minutes of this nonsense the vandals detonated some (tear?) gas bombs and quit playing . I left. There was no one there anymore, just the vandals.
11 - exatamente na hora que isso tudo começa a acontecer logo a VERDES MARES, a mesma que tinha dito que n tinha mais protesto, aparece pra filmar...Exactly when this s was happening VERDES MARES--radio-tv--the same that announced the protests were over, showed up to film.

Tirem suas próprias conclusões.Draw your own conclusions.
assim que eu puder, eu posto os vídeos...I will post videos ASAP." Clara's Note: This is a rough translation. Governor' mansion is called palace in Portuguese. The Itaramaty, the Brasilia equivalent of the White House is called Palacio do Itamaraty.


Protests continue to gain impulse in Brazil. Sources in the Brazilian media  estimate that over a million people took part in demonstrations take took place in 80 Brazilian city. Although the government of some cities--Rio and Sao Paulo, for example--agreed to forego the increase in bus and boat fares, the gesture was too little too late, especially in view of many reasons  that prompted Brazilians to take  to the streets. Today, these reasons-- against corruption, excessive expenditures for World Cup facilities, police brutality, the proposed PEC37 law, high crime, an infrastructure that has not kept pace with population growth, coalesced into a single cause, quality of life.

As popular dissatisfaction with the status quo finds expression in marches that were initially pacific, police violence increases with shock troops of the Military Police firing rubber bullets, detonation tear gas canisters and flash-bang bombs at demonstrators and members of the press. There has been an increase in vandalism. According to police reports a high percentage of vandals had a prior criminal record. Today, a popular Brazilian cartoonist implied that the movement has been infiltrated by the political Right but so far there is no hard evidence to support his claim. As it is usually the case, the Left blames the Right and vice-versa. The Vinegar Revolution--a reference to the bottles of vinegar protesters carry to neutralise the effect of tear gas--is not a cohesive movement. It rejects a central leadership and participants  fear that it will be hijacked by the very  political parties that caused Brazil's problems in the first place.

Amid the uproar, President Dilma Rousseff cancelled her scheduled trip to Japan. Rousseff, a protegee of former President Lula da Silva, has yet to condemn police brutality though she has said that peaceful protests are part of the democratic process. Lula voiced a similar sentiment, but members of the presidential Cabinet insist that the demonstrations took them by surprise.That seems to indicate a major  disconnect between Brasilia and the masses. The same disconnect is evident in pronouncement by former World Cup stars Pele and Ronaldo. The former appealed to the public asking that it "forget this confusion. Let us think about the national soccer team as our country and our blood." The latter said, in response to comments about the billions of dollars spent on World Cup facilities when the entire country desperately needs more hospitals, "World Cups are not held in hospitals." This so enrage protesters they made a poster featuring photos of  both footballers under the caption, "Once they were heroes."
According to the latest news,  300 thousand people gathered in downtown Rio where protesters invaded the National Congress. Figures on gatherings across the country are not yet in. I will update as they become available. My take is this, things are going to get worse before they get better. The dollar is up--2,22 to the Real and the effect this will  have on inflation will not make life easier for Brazilians. It is possible that the Vinegar Revolution will fizzle as the Occupy movement in the USA did. It is a movement fueled by social media, it has no leaders to negotiate with the government--it does not wish to negotiate with the government--and it has no system in place to keep out infiltrators. Repression by the police will be a factor to consider. There are rumors that yesterday the government blocked cell phone signals in Fortaleza, in northeast Brazil. Cell phones and the internet are the life lines of the Vinegar Revolution. Armed with a cell phone and a laptop, the average citizen becomes an e-journalist and the last thing the Brazilian government wants right now is a global image tarnished by images and film clips of patients lying in the hallways of overcrowded hospitals, of multitudes of commuters awaiting broken down buses, and worse yet for a Leftist regime, the picture of police beating up members of  the citizenry and the press.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


This is account of what happened during today's protest in Fortaleza, Brazil. The author is Nathalia Catarina Forte, a young talented  artist and illustrator.

Amigos, cheguei dos protestos nos arredores do Makro e do castelão, estou em casa e bem, mesmo que esteja com o gostinho estranho do gás na boca (desculpe mamãe). Eu nunca havia ido há um protesto antes, e sempre me perguntei da eficácia deles. Sou filha de uma família de classe média que veio da pobreza, nós aprendemos na cartilha de que o silêncio nos mantém seguros. Quando a inquietação dos protestos chegou em mim, eu decidi ir. Há muita gente insatisfeita para ser vazio, e se o fosse, eu poderia pelo menos julgar pelo que vi e pelo que vivi, não pelo que me contaram. E é claro, que tomada a decisão eu tive medo. Medo de levar uma bala; de ser pisoteada; medo de todo tipo de coisa. Mas eu estava com um medo maior: medo da passividade. Então eu fui, acompanhando um amigo fotografo, uma outra fotografa (Manu) que conhecemos lá e infelizmente não sei onde ela foi parar depois da confusão, mais duas meninas, amigas do fotografo. Chegamos por volta das 10 e 30, tudo muito tranquilo, uma festa, uma lindeza de se ver. Cartazes e pessoas criativas, a população na calçada, os motoristas liberando parte das passagens e buzinando junto, fazendo V de vitória, famílias de todas as classes, senhoras e senhores, crianças com seus pais sendo abrigados do sol e recebendo água dos moradores, palavras de ordem, protestos coletivos, individuais, punks, branquinhos de all star, meninos de chinelo.... Fizemos várias fotos belíssimas, conhecemos muitas gentes e suas causas, como por exemplo, a da moça ainda muito jovem com o cartaz que dizia "meu pai morreu esperando atendimento num hospital público e você ainda está pensando em futebol?" as pessoas a fotografavam e depois a abraçavam enquanto ela chorava. (Eu sei que sou sentimentalóide e em alguns momentos é assim mesmo que meu relato vai soar, aceito de ante mão essa crítica, não me nego minha capacidade de me emocionar) Seguimos então a manifestação que caminhou por apenas DOIS QUARTEIRÕES até parar num triplo cerco policial preparado especialmente para ela.
subimos pelas laterais, fotografando e tentando entender o que estava acontecendo até chegar ha mais ou menos 3 pessoas da primeira fila de cabeças de capacete. Lá havia uma rua lateral e acreditamos ser uma boa possível rota de fuga. Ai notamos a tensão instaurada ali. Os manifestantes pediam passagem, a polícia negava, mesmo que a passeata só tenha andado dois quarteirões. Ou seja, a força policial não estava lá para "controlar" os manifestantes, ela estava para PROIBIR A MANIFESTAÇÃO DE ACONTECER. Vimos que havia uma construção, muitos fotografos, incluindo nosso amigo, subiram em um barranco que havia nela para fotografar. Vimos que alguns manifestantes na linha de frente sentavam no chão, e outros entravam no terreno da construção, tentando "fazer o balão"na força policial. A partir daí muitas coisas aconteceram ao mesmo tempo. Segundo um colega na linha de frente, a policia anunciou a eles que eles tinham 5 MINUTOS PARA DISPERSAR. E foi quando eles se sentaram. Vi algumas pessoas recolhendo pedras no chão, na eminencia do confronto, subimos a rua lateral, eu tirei a garrafinha de vinagre da mochila. Daí não deu tempo guardar, antes do meio da quadra chegou o gás e a confusão, eu tossia e meus olhos ardiam e lacrimejavam muito, o nariz escorre demais. Fizemos um cordão pela parede, nosso amigo segurou a minha mão e me puxou, eu não conseguia manter os olhos abertos muito tempo, só segurei a mão de uma das meninas e subimos a rua rente ao muro, passando a garrafinha de vinagre de uns pros outros, pros nossos amigos, pra quem pedisse. Gente passando mal, uns sendo carregados pelos amigos e tudo isso só em meio quarteirão. Nos recuperamos no fim da rua, ajudamos algumas pessoas, uns intoxicados com o gás (santo vinagre q não nos deixou vomitar, se for placebo funciona muito bem), uma senhora colocava a mangueira derrubando água pra fora da casa pra aliviar quem pudesse, outros chegavam feridos de bala de borracha, no peito, no rosto, na cabeça, e usamos nosso pequeno e muito modesto kit de assepsia pra ajudar. Quando parecia que estava tudo bem, a passeata começou a avançar ( acredito que aqui houve a sabotagem em questão e nós tentamos voltar pra via principal, mas novamente vieram os tiros e o gás e com eles MUITAAA revolta. Como é que eu posso dizer há um homem ferido no peito, que diz que o policial olhou pra ele que estava parado com um cartaz e atirou, que pensar em " tem que partir mesmo pra cima desses caras! Se ficar passífico eles vão matar a gente!" está errado? Eu não disse nada. Ouvi muitos reclamarem e incitarem a revanche. Decidimos voltar ao ponto de encontro pra descobrir se a manifestação tomaria outro rumo. Foi quando vimos no fim da rua uma viatura começar a ser apedrejada por rapazes com os rostos cobertos por camisetas. Um grupo pediu "sem violência! sem vandalismo!" e foi apedrejado de volta. Meu amigo tentou fotografar a cena e foi ameaçado " fotografa não que tu vai ficar queimado nas área!". Depois da ameaça, evidentemente saímos, e seguimos pro ponto de encontro, a tempo de ver um rapaz carregar uma das grades de contenção da polícia no ombro, uma espécie de suvenir. ( Uma outra situação a relatar é que antes mesmo do confronto com a polícia, no começo da manifestação, um menininho de uns seis anos veio de bicicleta e jogou uma bomba, tipo rasga-lata, daquelas maiores, nos manifestantes). Quando voltamos ao ponto de encontro, e estavam todos muito dispersos, uma de nossas amigas já apavorada pediu pra ir embora. Procurávamos uma saída quando vimos a fumaça da viatura, e os caras de rosto coberto fugindo correndo. Não sei se eles são infiltrados, acredito mais que sejam criminosos da própria comunidade aproveitando a oportunidade catártica - não tiro a culpa de ninguém, só observo que também são eles frutos da realidade que queremos mudar. Então surgiu o rapaz ensanguentado, camisa canarinho pintada de vermelho, um tiro de borracha na nuca, e do nada uma câmera de uma grande emissora de tv. Ele contou seu caso, exibiu sua relíquia de guerra, muitos se agregaram e gritaram suas palavras de ordem. Ele defendeu mais uma vez que a polícia veio primeiro. Seguimos para a BR, e vimos acontecer o que eu acreditava já devia ter acontecido: os manifestantes que conseguiam se aglomerar, fecharam a BR nos dois sentidos, em dois pontos distintos. No meio, alguns ônibus com adesivos oficiais da FIFA não podiam ir nem vir. do alto do viaduto o grito "DEITA NA BR!!!". As ambulâncias passavam e eram aplaudidas. Nós já não somos tão jovens, meus amigos queriam ir pra casa, postar fotos, se recuperar - do gás, da desidratação, da insolação, do cansaço das horas de pé e da longa caminhada. Eu queria ficar, enquanto o corpo está quente, beleza. Eu queria muito estar ali, testemunhar e fazer parte daquilo. Eu queria fazer isso pra vir aqui, e pra contar a todo mundo o que eu vi e ouvi, e ninguém me contou, EU ESTAVA LÁ E ATESTO TODOS OS FATOS QUE DECLARO. Voltei pra casa, ouvi os sermões preocupados da minha mãe, conferi se alguns colegas estão bem, e estou feliz de ter estado lá. Pretendo voltar as manifestações. Sim, elas são inseguras e tem todo tipo de gente, MAS TODO TIPO DE GENTE TEM NO MUNDO, E MAIS INSEGURA E INCERTA DO QUE NOSSA VIDA É HOJE? Prefiro me arriscar, há viver mais vinte anos com medo, de assalto, de morte, de recessão econômica, de falta de emprego e especialmente, medo da imobilidade, essa coisa terrível que nos impede de viver, a a impunidade, o "você não pode fazer nada, as coisas sempre foram assim. Prefiro ao medo de ver ótimos profissionais, artistas, politicos sérios, educadores de primeira qualidade e de primeira necessidade, batalharem e serem impedidos de viver e trabalhar por um sistema engessado, corrupto, todo errado. De ver pais e mães terem que trabalhar na maior parte do seu tempo, se ausentando da presença parental tão importante na formação da psiquê e do caráter das pessoas, para darem ao filho aquilo que ele devia ter fornecido pelo estado em troca do que já contribuimos todos os dias. Mudar a presidência não é mais uma esperança, é o sistema que está todo falido e tem que ser todo reformado, investigado, transparente, participativo. Se não se muda a massa do bolo, não adianta trocar a cereja. Esse é meu relato, eu estive lá, e estarei outras vezes. Se nada mudar, acho que eu me mudo, vou ser uma exilada politico-economico-social. #fortalezaapavorando #ProtestoCE #vemprarua #OGiganteAcordou

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


The face of Brazil

What do you know about Brazil? Perhaps you see through the lens of a media that persists in typecasting it as a country of samba soccer and teeny bikinis. Perhaps you associate it with Spanish speaking Latin America, Carmen Miranda, macho men, and bikini waxes. Perhaps you do not think of it at all when you get up in the morning and drink a glass of orange juice imported from Brazil, have a cup of coffee with soy milk made from soybeans grown in Brazil, put on a pair of shoes made in Brazil.  Brazilians understand. They  know that your economy has tanked, that you are struggling to keep a roof over your head, put food on the table, help the kid pay off student loans. They  are used to being ignored, caricatured and ridiculed. But they are running out of patience with a number of distorted perceptions. I  think that so  should you.
Here are a few facts about Brazil: It is a Portuguese speaking country that occupies approximately half of South America. It is the sixth growing economy in the world. You can get more facts and figures from, say, the Brazilian Embassy or the CIA websites, but the essential fact is that  Brazil is a democracy after having endured a brutally repressive military dictatorship that lasted from  1964 to 85. Here are some of the good things that happened in democratic Brazil: initially--that is, post-dictatorship-- poverty declined dramatically, programs such as Zero Hunger benefited millions of people,   laws banning hate speech,  permitting gay marriages and granting rights to workers came into effect.  Generally speaking,  a new perception of the rights of women began to take shape. Laws governing property rights, equal pay for equal work, were put in place, as well as a domestic violence code. According to some  studies, "Brazil is first in women’s participation in the knowledge economy and science, technology and innovation, as well as in women’s agency." In the northeast of Brazil, where my my family lives, there is more governmental support available  to writers and artists than in many states in the eastern United States where I live.
But it is not all roses for Brazilians, at the moment. Although  "During his presidency, Lula da Silva halved the Brazilian proportion of hungry people and also reduced the percentage of Brazilians living in extreme poverty, from 12 percent in 2003 to 4.8 percent in 2009."* the current government, headed president, former technocrat Dilma Rousseff , failed to meet the raised expectations of most Brazilians.  Worse yet, Brazil's infrastructure is broken. Education, health and transportation systems are woefully inadequate.Corruption is rampant and  lately,  the government chose to invest billions of reais--Brazil's currency--into enormous sports facilities where the World Cup and Summer Olympics, which are scheduled to take place in 2014 and 1916, respectively.Brazilians ask--and rightly so--who benefits from the World Cup and the Olympics. They ask why the billions of reais spent on stadium were not used to fund new schools, new hospitals, a better transportation system.
Last week, the increase in bus fares, approved by  when the municipal government of Sao Paulo became the spark that ignited massive demonstrations throughout the country.At first, the global media ignored what was happening in Brazil, prompting young Brazilians to make dozens of videos telling the world what the demonstrations were about. Subsequently, American news outlets picked up the story of police brutality against protesters, but it failed to make it clear that the police assaulted peaceful, unarmed protesters with tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets. Yiu can see the videos on Youtube and on Facebook pages such as #change brazil. Much of the traditional media is buying the Brazilian government's spin of the demonstrations.  CNN called the protests riots even the statistically, the percentage of vandalism was negligible. Speaking from Paris, the governor of Sao Paulo called the protesters vandals. Members of the Cabinet have said that they do not understand the protests. They also said that they will not allow anything to interfere with the World Cup and Olympics.Popular dissatisfaction is bound to grow and logically, protest will take place when the global media is present, such as in July when the Pope plans to visit Brazil.
Whether this matters to you or not depends on whether you understand the role the US played in propping up the generals under whose regimes thousands of Brazilians were tortured by people trained by CIA agents paid for tax dollar. I don't have the figures on  murders and extraordinary rendition, but you might want to look them up. It is possible that you you have enough on plate and you don't care about the Third World. If so, I  urge to rethink your position.  You might believe that democracy is a privilege of First World citizens. It all depends on whether or not you have a social conscience.Brazil will go on regardless of how you think and how you act. But if your children and mine are to live in world that is more just, safer, and more  democratic world depends on each one of us.