Thankfully the rains have arrived in North East Brazil; though too late for farmers to catch up with the usual planting protocols and too late to avoid the grinding poverty that will follow.
But help and support is at hand in the form of a BR$9 billion package for the North East announced by the government as new action against the drought. Surely an indication that the government is doing something to help and heartening to think that those who control the purse strings were showing that they appreciate the problems and care about the people. A welcome contradiction to the cynical claims that the people of the North East are largely ignored because on the ground cost benefit studies shows insufficient voter leverage to make it worth the while of investment.
Stop the hurrahs because on closer reading, the spirits sank as I discovered that a third of the money covers the cost of deferring debt repayments, a chunk is to cover a scheme announced in 2012 ( much of which has already been spent) and a further chunk is to extend social payments. Not the capital investment potential it suggests!
And guess what ? One of the governors in the region is a possible election rival in 2014. Home from home.
In 2014 the beautiful game returns to its spiritual home: Brazil. Brazil will host teams of street children from up to 20 countries, drawing from a network of outstanding projects all campaigning for the rights of street children. This will ensure that street children’s voices are heard and that they will have the chance to play in the festival of football. streetchildworldcup.org
This YouTube video tells a very interesting story of how the World Cup 2014 and the Olympics are being used by big business, politicians and the police (all intimately connected) to remove the poor from their homes to provide business opportunities for the wealthy.
Annoyed by the lack of progress on issues that matter to you? Well, as reported by the FT, you could follow the Brazilian lead and organise a mass BBQ protest. All you have to do is broadcast a time and location on Facebook (or some other suitable social media site) and wait for the party to begin.
Naturally, if you can bring your own portable BBQ and suitable BOOM BOX it will all add to the festival atmosphere!
What really surprised me was to find out that my students at the Agricultural College are motivated to learn English. Maybe you ask, what is so surprising about that? Everybody needs English nowadays! But you have to imagine a different reality. We are in the northeast rural Brazil, far away from the industrial south and the big multinational companies and where it is very rare to meet a tourist or a foreigner.
During the first lesson the students had to answer three questions – if they like English, if they find it useful for their life and finally if they want to learn and understand English. Just to help them to be as honest as possible, I didn’t ask them to write their names. I was expecting anything but the final result was a surprise. All of them (except one) want to learn English and they understand the importance of a new language, to improve better job opportunities, to travel out of Brazil (they mentioned Slovakia a couple of times; flattering and at the same time make me smile as not everybody in Slovakia speaks English). Or to marry an American woman – why not – it is said that love is the best motivation.
Indeed, I was surprised and happy about the honest answers those teenagers gave and I think this ‘revelation’ will keep me going for a long time!
Distasteful and disconcerting mildly describes my response to the above header which appeared in the on-line Rio Times earlier this week. It went on to report that the Federal and State Government have agreed to work together to promote tourism in the favelas. A strategy that they hope will help to revitalise the communities.
More disconcertion followed, as I learned that the research data underpinning the decision shows that 46 % of foreign tourists and 47% of home tourists cite visiting a favela as part of their visit to Rio. Why I ask ? This phenomenon known as Poverty Tourism is neither new nor confined to Brazil. Other mega cities in Mexico, South Africa and India have their own unique poverty tourism with the townships in South Africa and the slums in India. In the UK, we have the term ‘to go slumming’, which began in the late 19th century, with trips to an area of social deprivation in London called Whitechapel.
In their defence the tourist operators claim that there are benefits to the receiving communities, such as an increase in employment, the stimulation of infrastructure projects, the boost to the local economy from tourist spending, and the supposition that the visits raise awareness of the plight of people. There is an interesting discussion around the credence of these claims over at tourismconcern.
For me, of the many well intentioned schemes implemented to improve life in the favelas, this seems to be the least plausible. When asked by Janice Perlman, during her forty year study of Favela life, what the residents themselves saw as the barriers to social mobility, almost top of the list is the discrimination by employers against those who live in a favela.
The tour operators claim that the activity brings benefits to the favela communities does not sit well with the notion that they have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. In fact, I would argue that they help to perpetuate it. I wonder if they find that distasteful and disconcerting?