Festive Left Friday Blogging: Rrrrrrowr.

Yes, I know…it’s been a while since I’ve felt festive on a leftist Friday. What can I say, the garden keeps me busy. Busier than usual this year, since the only thing growing great out there right now is weeds. Oh well…

Anyway. El Ecuadorable was in Brazil this week, visiting with his old pal Lula, doing the chit-chat and the grip-‘n’-grin. But since the pix from that are all kind of boring, please enjoy this one instead. I posted it because it’s a great shot…

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…and I love it.

World Cup corrupto flees Brazilian justice

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Once more, a big black eye on the World Cup, and a big facepalm for Brazil…and a headache for Interpol:

Raymond Whelan, director of the official ticket distribution site of the 2014 World Cup, Match Services/Match Hospitality, and accused of heading an illegal ticket-resales ring, is a fugitive from justice, according to the Civil Police of Rio de Janeiro.

“Teams from the 18th Police Precinct, co-ordinated by commissioner Fabio Barucke, were in the Copacabana Palace Hotel late this afternoon to carry out a judicial order to take Whelan into preventive custody. According to the commissioner, the Englishman fled the hotel and is considered a fugitive,” says a statement from the commissioner’s office.

Whelan was arrested on Monday, July 7, along with other suspects, but was released a day later on bail. Whelan was beneficiary of a writ of habeas corpus and, after paying a fine and handing over his passport to the authorities as a promise that he would not leave the country, he left the station without setting a date to make a new statement.

On the afternoon of Friday the 11th, the Rio de Janeiro judiciary received a denunciation from the prosecutor’s office and decreed prison time for 11 accused individuals who had participated in the ticket-sales ring, Whelan among them.

For that reason, they went looking for Whelan…but he had already left the hotel.

The authorities indicated that the Briton had also left his suitcases behind and exited through a door exclusively for employees, according to images captured on closed-circuit TV.

“He is considered a fugitive,” said commissioner Fabio Barucke, who confirmed that Whelan’s name is on the list of persons being sought by Interpol.

In a press release, the Briton’s attorney, Fernando Fernandes, stated that the defence had reviewed the judge’s decision to hand down a new prison sentence, and claimed that Whelan had done his part and would promise to collaborate with the investigations, but did not mention his whereabouts.

Match Hospitality is the company selected by FIFA to sell World Cup tickets in packets reserved for businesses and to provide hotel reservations for the soccer players of the different teams and the directors of the soccer organization.
The municipality closed 20 streets from midnight Saturday and reserved 1,650 agents to direct traffic; as is customary, the fans could only reach Maracaná Stadium by public transit.

According to the prosecutor general’s office, the 11 accused will answer for offences of associating to commit crimes, illegal resale, active money laundering and corruption, and fiscal evasion.

On Wednesday the 9th, Match Services rebuffed, with harsh words for the Brazilian police, all the accusations, and assured in the form of a press release that Whelan’s arrest was “arbitrary and illegal”.

Match also deemed illegal the “leaking to the media of recorded fragments of private conversations”, in which appears that they are negotiating exclusive ticket sales in the Copacabana Palace, the hotel in which FIFA maintained its “headquarters” during the World Cup.

The clandestine purchase of tickets for the final match, whose prices reached up to 12,000 euros, has become a matter of great importance in Rio; a significant portion of Argentine fans arrived in Brazil without tickets to the match.

Police operations against illegal ticket-sellers (Argentine citizens among them) during the tournament have made life difficult for resellers, who are now more vigilant against becoming entangled in “Operation Jules Rimet”, in which the police have already analyzed half of the 50,000 telephone conversations recorded with judicial authorization, between Whelan and the suspected #2 man in the plot, the Algerian businessman Lamine Fofana, who operated a network of some 30 persons.

5,000 heavily armed military police worked on the eve of the match, attentive to what might happen after the Brazil-Netherlands match in the zones most populated by Argentine fans.

One off the police’s concerns are the “barrabravas” (Argentine soccer hooligans), 53 of whom have been taken into custody and deported back to Argentina by Brazilian police. The great majority of them belonged to a list of 2,100 violent fans who were barred from entering the stadiums in their country, and which the Argentine government handed over to their Brazilian counterpart before the World Cup began, as part of a co-operation agreement for the security of the event.

Translation mine.

Riddle me this: How does a man who surrendered his passport to Brazilian police still manage to slip out of the country? Were the police really that incompetent, given the high security in general — and the value of this prisoner in particular? My guess is that Ray Whelan was prepared in advance for just such an eventuality, and had a backup — possibly fake — set of documents prepared for the occasion. Either that, or someone was bribed to look the other way. If the Brazilian police could detain and deport a record number of Argentine soccer hooligans, there’s no reason they couldn’t keep him in custody without bail, along with the other 10 accused corruptos they had. His high rank should be no excuse.

Meanwhile, we’ll just have to wait for his oily little head to pop up again somewhere. Now taking bets on where and when that will be…

Sad meme of the day

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Sadly, I was doing this, too…and I’m German! I only caught the tail end of the match, which I half-watched on the little kitchen TV while I prepared some snow peas from my garden for the freezer. I did NOT feel like celebrating when I saw the final score, either. I was really, sincerely embarrassed by what reeked of overkill. And my heart ached for the Brazilian fans, too. They were too sad to riot, and I honestly think the police could have done without all the light-flashing paddywagons outside the stadium. (Really. Do they think their own people are uncivilized? Ugh. Arrest some foreign hooligans already, you guys.)

But you know what else embarrasses me as a German? THIS.

Ray Whelan, confidant of Sepp Blatter and director of the company with the exclusive right to sell packages of World Cup tickets, spent last night in a police station, accused of heading an illegal ticket sales ring.

The director of Match Hospitality was arrested at the Copacabana Palace hotel in Rio de Janeiro, the same where all the FIFA heads are staying. This as part of a police investigation in which 11 other persons have already been detained. After paying a fine and surrendering his passport, he was let go.

Whelan, who is not an employee of FIFA, acted as the visible head of Match, a company based in Switzerland and controlled by the Mexican brothers, Jaime and Enrique Byrom. In 2007, Match paid 240 million euros to FIFA for the exclusive right to sell World Cup tickets and travel packages for the 2010 and 2014 tournaments, many of them for VIP clients.

According to police spokesman Fabio Barucke, the investigation took place without the recognition or the co-operation of FIFA. Days ago, also as part of Operation Jules Rimet, Mohamadou Lamine Fofana, executive director of Atlanta Sportif, a business which had signed an agreement with Match for the World Cup, was arrested. It appears that the Algerian businessman is one of the key players in this illegal trafficking network.

It bears recalling that in 2012, Match admitted that the sale of local concessions had already permitted it to recoup its 240 million euro investment, and that from then on, a profit margin was guaranteed. A few weeks later, FIFA renewed its contract with the Byrom brothers, who will also administrate the tickets sales for Russia in 2018 and Qatar in 2022.

The ties between FIFA and the Byroms date back to the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, even though it was not until eight years later that they began to collaborate as an official agency. One of the principal investors of Match Hospitality is Infront Sports and MEdia, whose executive director is Philippe Blatter, nephew of the FIFA president.

FIFA spokesperson Delia Fischer lamented what had happened, and assured that “anyone who commits a crime will be sanctioned, no matter who it may be.”

Her declaration came at a time when it became known that Philippe Blatter is owner of a business with a minority stake in Match Hospitality.

Several days ago, the Rio de Janeiro police arrested 39 people for illegal buying and selling of tickets around Maracaná stadium during the the quarter-final match between France and Germany.

Translation mine.

Sepp Blatter, of course, is German, as is his nephew. FIFA’s corruption is much talked about in general, and his blunders in particular. And this latest disgrace, though unrelated to today’s bloodletting on the pitch, is just terribly painful. It’s things like this that make me ashamed of even that tiny common thread I hold. The lovely, warm-hearted Brazilians deserve better than this from FIFA, after all the millions and billions of dollars that they themselves invested in the hosting of the event…and all the blood they’ve shed in making it happen.

It was 87 years ago today…

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Paulina Luisi, Uruguay’s first woman doctor, and prominent campaigner for women’s rights — especially the right to vote.

I don’t usually do “This Day in History” pieces, but I’ll make an exception for this one just because it’s so interesting:

The first time a woman was able to vote in Latin America was 87 years ago in Uruguay, according to the Secretariat of Human Rights of the Presidency of the Republic.

The historic event took place on July 3, 1927, in the central locality of Cerro Chato, whose administration is shared by three Uruguayan departments: Durazno, Florida, and Treinta y Tres.

On that occasion, a plebiscite was held to define which department the locality belonged to, and it was then that the first female vote was cast, by a Brazilian named Rita Ribera, 90 years of age.

The event took place several years before women were first able to vote in the national elections of Uruguay, in 1938.

This year, the Secretariat of Human Rights will commemorate the event on the International Day of Human Rights, on December 10, in Cerro Chato, which currently has a population of 3,700.

The Secretariat, which considers that vote to be a fundamental event for women’s rights, also honors the women teachers who supported school reforms in 1875, describing them as pioneers in the defence of women’s rights in Uruguay.

It was also announced that schoolteacher María Abella founded the Uruguayan sector of the Pan-American Women’s Federation in Montevideo in 1911, and that the first National Women’s Council was founded by teacher and physician Paulina Luisi, in 1916.

Translation mine.

So, the first woman to vote in Uruguay was a 90-year-old Brazilian, of all people. And this more than a decade before the female vote became official for Uruguay in 1938! One wonders how she managed to pull it off. I’m guessing that legal enforcement of institutional sexism in such a small locality wasn’t very strict. Or maybe no one had the heart to bar a little old lady of 90, so they just waved her on through. Or maybe they figured that since there was nothing about women voting on the local books, there must be no reason to forbid it, either. There is so much about this historic vote that I would love to learn. I hope it hasn’t all been lost to the ravages of time!

Posted in Brazil is the Bomb!, Paraguay, Uruguay, Uppity Wimmin. Comments Off »

Right-wing Mexican politicians arrested for sexual assault in Brazil

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Well, well, well. What have we here? A couple of hooligans, natch. But these are not just any soccer-stadium creeps. These guys have some pretty high connections in Mexican government:

Four Mexican soccer fans face a sentence of up to eight years in Brazilian prison for aggressively touching the private parts of a Fortaleza lawyer’s wife, and later assaulting her companion, who tried to defend her, according to the Military Police of Ceará state.

Among the detainees are Sergio Israel Eguren Cornejo and Rafael Miguel Medina Pederzini, former assembly members of the PAN party, as well as Angel Rimak Eguren Cornejo and Mateo Codinas Velten.

Sergio Eguren Cornejo and Rafael Medina are currently members of the Directive Council of the PAN in the Federal District. Medina is also a member of the Benito Juárez delegation.

The incident occurred on Monsenhor Tabosa Avenue, close to the Fan Fest located near Iracema Beach, around the time the Mexican team was eliminated by the Dutch following a controversial decision.

According to a press bulletin from the state of Ceará, Pederzini and Eguren tried to escape after the fact. The aggressors did not get away, as they were detained by citizens and soldiers.

According to Brazilian law, the Mexican assailants must face justice in Brazil. If they are sentenced, diplomatic channels could be opened for them to serve their time in Mexican prisons.

Translation mine.

The PAN is Mexico’s mainline right-wing party. So this is a big embarrassment for Enrique Peña Nieto and his government, of course. It’s also a big black eye for diplomatic relations between Mexico and Brazil.

More than that, though, it’s emblematic of the way men in power treat women in general, and women from outside their national and social milieu in particular. Conservative men, in particular, are real perverts that way. They, more than anyone, see themselves as above the law and entitled to any woman they can buy or just lay hands on. And Brazilian women, as I posted the other day, have a huge sexist stereotype working against them, so they are especially vulnerable right now.

In this case, at least, the woman’s social status will help her somewhat. She’s a lawyer’s wife, meaning she’s surely a lot better off than most of the Brazilian women and girls who are being sexually attacked by locals and foreigners while the World Cup is on and aggressions run high. Poverty and low social status mean that most of the rapes and sexual assaults occurring during the tourney will go unreported and unremarked, especially among the prostituted (most of whom are extremely poor). Access to legal aid is difficult, if not impossible, for them. After all, you can’t expect much justice if you don’t have the money to hire a lawyer…or better still, a lawyer for your spouse.

Brazilian women: beyond the media icons

Video in Portuguese (with Spanish subtitles — no English, sorry).

And if the first thing that came into your head when you read “Brazilian women” was a blond supermodel, or a pair of muscular buttocks wiggling in a teeny bikini, congratulations: You’ve been sucked in by a media bullshit campaign. Brazil’s TV stations are owned by just six families, and heavily invested in promoting (or rather, pimping) just ONE picture of Brazilian women: white, rich, with straight blond hair, tall and slim, heterosexual, usually surgically enhanced…and a constant, parsley-like sexual accessory to the menfolks. (In one scene, a businessman is seen talking away to another man at his desk while his bare foot is fondling the rump of a bikini-clad model lying on a lounge-chair next to him. Yes, really!)

But the “icon” of Brazilian womanhood is being challenged…by Brazilian women themselves. Black, brown, Asian and white, they’ve taken up the fight against this media campaign. The Slutwalk movement, which began here in Canada as a response to a Toronto cop who stupidly told women not to “dress like sluts” in order to avoid rape, has caught on big-time in South America, where women — over-sexualized in the media for decades, and in the minds of church and state for centuries — are now marching and chanting slogans like: “Beware, beware, beware, machista! Latin America is turning feminista!” Women are challenging not only their false image in the media, but capitalism itself…for, after all, that phoney image is there to sell things, by presenting an “aspirational” world that ignores reality, and poverty, completely. And when the media in one country — a land with a population in the hundred-millions — are owned by just six wealthy families, it’s glaringly obvious what the real problem is. And so is why women everywhere — in Canada as well as Brazil — are sick and tired of it.

“The Price of the World Cup” — dead children?

A Danish journalist has uncovered some shocking allegations about how the Brazilian cities where the World Cup matches are currently underway have chosen to “clean” their streets of homeless people, especially street kids. It forms part of an overall critical look at how the neo-corporatist World Cup agenda has run roughshod over the locals in those cities. Everything from cablecars being built over favelas where people have lived for decades, to insufferable gentrification, to allegations of death squads roaming the streets, gets an airing here. It really puts the lie to the common canard that Brazil is a “racial democracy”, since most of the suffering has been borne by the poor and non-white people of the land.

And the allegations of state-sanctioned murder squads, if true, signify a shocking holdover from the days of the US-backed military fascist dictatorship that seized power in a not-so-bloodless coup in 1964 and later murdered the legitimately elected president, João Goulart. The same that also kidnapped and tortured the current president, Dilma Rousseff, when she was a young Marxist guerrilla. Those kidnappers, torturers and murderers cut their teeth on homeless people even before the coup that unseated Goulart, receiving instruction in their ugly craft from US police and military officers and spies. And their methods clearly live on in the municipal police and armed forces of present-day Brazil. Remember this?

Dan Mitrione, the police torture instructor discussed in this short clip, was fictionalized slightly (as “Philip Michael Santore”) for the movie State of Siege. Before his posting to Uruguay, where he was captured and eventually executed by the Tupamaro guerrillas, Mitrione spent time in Brazil…and there is a memorably horrifying scene in that same movie showing naked men — beggars yanked off the streets — being tortured and electrocuted on stage in a massive lecture hall filled with military and police officers. Those same officers have not been cleansed out of the Brazilian police and armed forces; on the contrary, their methods have survived and flourished with complete impunity. In other words: In Brazil, Dan Mitrione still lives.

Every Brazilian who’s been asked about how they feel about the World Cup seems to say the same thing, whether it’s expats interviewed by the Deutsche Welle in Germany, or my Brazilian friends here on the other side of the pond. They love soccer, but they hate the World Cup and all the upheaval it brings, from gentrification to an uptick in child prostitution on the streets…and of course, death squads. All agree that the money spent on building and renovating big stadiums was a waste, and that it should have gone to social programs. Healthcare, education, social housing. And that street people and favela dwellers should not have been expelled and killed, as they apparently have been. But it would appear that local mayors — or perhaps we should say, local death-squad capos — disagree. Bullets are so much cheaper than giving some “worthless” street kid an education, food, a home, and a good job. Somehow, human beings just don’t merit that kind of consideration when there are big bucks at play on the soccer field.

It is shocking that a president who was once a victim of this same insanity could turn a blind eye to its continuation four decades later. Let’s hope that Dilma finally does something about this. Just don’t look for anything to start happening while the World Cup is still on.

Music for a Sunday: Forget that World Cup bollocks, here’s Caetano!

To hell with bland homogenized global “Latin” pop. Let a real Brazilian rocker show you how great music is done:

And yep, that IS an allusion to the military dictatorship in there: “Ladies and gents, it turns its big eyes onto me…” The fascist-putschist, US-backed ditadura was four years old in 1968, when Caetano wrote this song, and he was sent into exile (in London) for it. Seems that they could only take so much criticism of their bread-and-circuses approach to quashing demands for democracy…

Music for a Sunday: Here, have my Brazilian earworm

You’ll have to crank this, as João doesn’t sing very loud — ever. And you’ll have to sit through two minutes or so of him talking about what a long trip he’s had, he’s tired, hey there’s Vinicius (de Morães, the elder statesman of poetry and bossa nova, and a frequent lyrical collaborator), etc. But then he plays this catchy little samba tune…

“I come from Bahia, and one day I’ll go back there!”

Posted in Brazil is the Bomb!, Music for a Sunday. Comments Off »

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Presidential selfies, LatAm style

Call them the anti-Kardashians. These are the people whose selfies we actually WANT to see, precisely because they’re not vapid and self-absorbed, seeking all the eyeballs all the time. They’re too busy doing great things for their countries. Like this guy here:

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Yup, that cool dude is none other than Pepe Mujica, the president of Uruguay, playing a cameo role in a selfie by Ramón Farías, a Chilean parliamentary deputy, at the inauguration of Michelle Bachelet. Wrote Farías on his tweeter: “How are we with this little photo. With President Mujica. My idol.”

Here he is with Evo, “the president who didn’t want to be absent”:

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Jeebus. Even those crappy little cellphone cameras can’t make Evo look bad. Nothing can.

And here’s another president who always looks amazing:

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Rafael Correa…demonstrating how he came to be known here as El Ecuadorable.

And here’s Dilma:

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Meanwhile, in Venezuela, another head of state was also getting in on the trend:

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Yup, that’s Madurito, getting into it with Sean Penn…and the prime minister of Haiti, Laurent Lamothe. Glad to see him having fun, it’s been a rough month for him.

(Thanks to Anthony for alerting me to the Farías selfies. PS: Give Ramón Farías a follow on the tweeter, he follows back!)